Canister vs. Cartridge


You’ve heard the adage, “Excuses are like butts, everybody has one.” Well, excuses and butts aren’t the only thing everyone has. Everyone has an opinion, too. Old school versus new school; the best versus the worst; the New England Patriots versus the rest of the NFL; the back and forth dynamic of differing opinions isn’t a new thing, and the quick lube industry is no different. If you’ve been in the quick lube industry for any length of time, you’ve most likely had your fair share of these situations and you know the best way to find your opinion is to educate yourself on the topic.

Canister versus cartridge oil filters have been at the center of industry discussion lately, and at the 2015 iFLEX convention, president and COO of Oil Changers, Eric Frankenberger shared his thoughts on the subject.

The spin-on filter has been the most common type of filter over the years. It’s probably the one you’re most familiar with, a steel container — about the same size as a coffee mug — with a filter element inside. It’s a tried and true design that became popular in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It’s continued to reign, probably because it’s easy to use and doesn’t pose as many potential issues as cartridge filters do.

“When the fast lube industry was in its biggest period of growth in the mid-1980s, the vehicles we worked on had become easier and quicker to service than their predecessors,” Frankenberger said. “In my early oil changing days, all that was required was five quarts of oil, a drain plug gasket, spin-on oil filter and 10 minutes to check other vital fluids, lubricate the chassis and top off items as needed. The spin-on oil filter took about a minute to install, with a thin layer of fresh oil on the gasket and an extra rotation once the filter gasket hit the base plate.”

Engine oil filters now find themselves at the center of a debate. Due to environmental concerns, the constant challenge of lowering emissions and raising mpg, OEMs are constantly searching for new ways to adapt the way new vehicles are made. One way they are doing this is with metal-free cartridge-style oil filters. However, these “replace the cartridge and go” style filters present a few more potential hazards and liabilities to drivers and service professionals.

 “Over the past couple of years [OEMs] have been moving toward all-plastic housings on new car designs for canister filters,” Frankenberger said.

New canister filter designs pose more problems than what first meets the eye. It’s important to be aware of them so you can save your customers — and yourself — from a headache later on.

 “These filters require additional tools, parts and training for your technicians, as well as open the door for more liabilities,” Frankenberger said. “Service centers only replacing the cartridge will have to worry about more pieces that can fail or become damaged over time. When you replace the housing with the filter every time, you relieve the issues that come with time, age and fatigue. When you don’t replace all the parts every time, there is a higher chance they could fail. Anyone providing oil changes on the canister oil filters needs to make sure they have a good program in place to minimize risks.”

Every process in this industry can be made better with the right training, but some services are more easily prone to issues just by the nature of their design. You can’t out train bad design.

“Common technician errors are, the gasket either being installed in the wrong spot or not being lubricated, tightening the filter housing too much or too little and installing the wrong filter altogether,” Frankenberger said.

The best way to avoid errors like these are to make certain your entire team is adequately trained to install, service and predict potential problems. This will save you from major and potentially expensive headaches and keep your customers coming back.

Here are Frankenberger’s five steps to avoid canister filter issues:

1.      Note the correct area that the gasket should be seated in. Both the hood tech and pit tech need to get visual confirmation of the correct location before reinstallation.

2.      Use a generous amount of new oil on the gasket(s) prior to and after installing the canister.

3.      Use a generous amount of new oil on the canister housing at the point of gasket contact. It’s a good idea to wipe out the housing with a rag, but you must reapply oil prior to installing the canister.

4.      Don’t remove any drains on filters or use any inside housing bolts to tighten down canisters. Use the approved caps for removing canisters. Tighten down canister filter caps to approved manufacturer torque specifications.

5.      During the pressure check, the hood tech should have the vehicle’s engine brought to 3,000 RPMs for approximately 10 seconds. The hood tech/pit tech must get a visual inspection of the filter. They should look for leaks and/or protruding gasket(s). While at the shop, the vehicle should run for a minimum of 45 seconds.

Their aren’t many guarantees in life, but you can always expect different opinions. Plan on changes and new technologies industry wide in years to come. While it may be easier to keep doing things the way you have always done them, educating yourself and your team on new technology will ensure your continued success. Staying relevant to all drivers, no matter their vehicle’s oil filter could pay off big time in years to come if you know how to service cartridge style filters correctly.  S

A Greener Oil Filter

California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery reported if all of the spin-on filters sold annually in California were recycled, there’d be enough steel to build three large sports stadiums.

“California alone generates 67 million used automotive filters per year,” said Bill McKnight training team leader for MAHLE. “That’s a substantial amount of waste.”

To get the most from used oil filters, some propose a better way to dispose of them is to separate the steel from the rubber and paper components before grinding them up instead of crushing the entire filter. This would reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. Quick lubes and other automotive service facilities could benefit from recycling the entire filter not just the used oil.

“Vehicle manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) know this. We’ve collaborated and created a filter application containing no steel called the Eco-Filter,” McKnight said. “An oil filter without metal, only paper, plastic and rubber can be crushed just like conventional spin-on filters, but instead of going to a landfill after, they can be incinerated and used as a fuel source in commercial generators.”

Get the latest industry news to your inbox!

* indicates required