The DOs and DON’Ts of Oil Filtration

The primary purpose of oil filters is to prevent contaminant particles like dirt from causing damage to equipment components by capturing them quickly. Having the correct full-flow filters and knowing how to use them can reduce contaminant buildup, enhance component service life, and trim maintenance costs.

Your equipment should also have a recommended cleanliness target set by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Regularly meeting and even surpassing these targets can increase machinery lifespans. When choosing filters, it is crucial to consider the machine specifications set by the OEM — specifically the specifications set for bypass valve cracking pressure, flow rates, absolute micron rating, and pressure drop. You will also want to consider the filter’s beta ratio.

You can implement periodic oil analysis to monitor soot levels and hydraulic oil contamination levels. These measurements will show if the filters are working correctly and alert you if they need to be changed. Replace these full-flow filters at the recommended change interval or based on in-service condition. You can also replace filters before the recommended interval, especially if the machine is operating in extremely dusty or dirty conditions.

To control combustion soot, hydraulic system silt and water contamination in engines and hydraulic systems, install fine depth-type filters on a parallel circuit or side stream. Upon initially installing fine depth filters in a parallel circuit, you can expect a shorter filter life; this is common but only temporary and is caused by the new filter cleaning up contamination left behind by the older, coarser filter.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • Don’t attempt to obtain longer filter life by using coarse filters. This leads to contamination problems and can decrease lubricant performance while increasing wear on machine components.
  • Do install larger filters of the same quality. Larger filters have a larger filter surface, which increases dirt holding capacity — this is especially useful in particularly dirty environments and can extend the amount of time between filter changes.
  • Don’t drain oil without replacing the oil filter element.
  • Do replace the filters every time you drain oil. If you are forced to choose between draining the oil and replacing the filter, replace the filter.  
  • Don’t use adsorbent depth-type filters. These filters contain elements like charcoal or fuller’s earth, which does remove contamination; however, these elements can also cause chemical reactions that remove oil additives.
  • Do use full-flow oil filters that meet the OEM’s specifications. Filters with microglass media are especially effective at eliminating contamination.
  • Don’t purchase replacement filters based on price alone.
  • Do purchase high-quality filters based on your specific needs. The phrase “you get what you paid for” is especially true when buying oil filters — using quality filters can prevent significant expenses down the road.

Looking for quality filters for your contamination control program?

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