Can I loosen oil filter?

Yes, you can loosen an oil filter when performing an oil change on your vehicle. There are a few methods you can use to help loosen a stubborn oil filter.

Use an Oil Filter Wrench

The best tool to use is an oil filter wrench that grips around the outside of the filter. Oil filter wrenches come in different styles such as band, cup, or chain types. Select the style that will work best for accessing the oil filter on your vehicle. Here are some tips for using an oil filter wrench:

  • Locate the oil filter under your vehicle’s hood. It is usually located along the bottom of the engine near the front.
  • Clean around the oil filter to remove any dirt or debris. This allows the wrench to grip properly.
  • Fit the oil filter wrench around the filter and tighten it securely.
  • Turn the wrench counterclockwise to loosen the filter. It may take some strength and effort to break the seal.
  • Once loosened, you can unscrew the oil filter by hand.

The oil filter wrench provides much needed leverage and grip to loosen even the tightest filters. Be sure to select a sturdy wrench that is up to the task.

Use a Filter Cup Remover Tool

Another specialty tool you can use is an oil filter cup remover. This tool has a socket that fits around the bottom of the oil filter housing. When you turn the tool, it grips the base of the filter and unscrews the entire housing off. Here is how to use this tool:

  1. Position the filter cup remover under the oil filter and turn the handle to expand the socket.
  2. Tighten the handle so that the socket fits snugly against the base of the filter.
  3. Turn the remover counterclockwise while holding the tool handle firmly. The filter housing should unscrew.
  4. With the housing removed, you can easily access and replace the filter element.
  5. Reinstall the filter cup once the new filter is in place.

This style of remover works well for canister filters that are difficult to reach with a traditional wrench. The cup remover allows you to unscrew the entire housing at once.

Use a Strap Wrench

A strap wrench is another option that uses friction to turn the filter. Here is how to use one on an oil filter:

  • Loop the strap around the sides of the oil filter.
  • Tighten the strap by pulling the handle so that it grips the filter snugly.
  • Place one hand on the wrench body for leverage.
  • Pull the handle using your other hand to turn the strap and filter counterclockwise.
  • Keep tension on the strap as you loosen the filter.

The advantage of a strap wrench is that it works on filters of all shapes and sizes. It provides a solid grip without marring the filter surface.

Use an Oil Filter Pliers

Oil filter pliers work similarly to a strap wrench. The rubber lined jaws grip the sides of the filter so it can be turned. Here are some tips for using oil filter pliers:

  • Position the pliers’ jaws evenly around the top of the filter.
  • Squeeze the handles together to secure the grip.
  • Lock the pliers’ handles if possible.
  • Turn the handle counterclockwise, using your body weight for leverage.
  • The rubber jaws help prevent slippage and damage to the filter.

Make sure to apply even pressure with the pliers to avoid crushing the filter can. The added grip makes it easier to break the seal.

Use an Oil Filter Socket

For very tight filters, an oil filter socket used with a ratchet or breaker bar can supply ample torque. Here is how to use an oil filter socket:

  1. Select the correct oil filter socket size to fit your filter.
  2. Attach the socket to a 1/2 inch drive ratchet or breaker bar.
  3. Fit the socket over the oil filter and turn the handle counterclockwise to loosen.
  4. The ratchet or breaker bar provides great leverage for stubborn filters.
  5. Take care not to over tighten or crush the filter during removal.

The increased torque of the socket method makes quick work of seized on or overtightened oil filters. Use caution when applying force and grip the ratchet firmly.

Puncture the Filter

If you are unable to loosen the filter using the above tools, a last resort method is to puncture or pierce holes around the base of the filter. This relieves the vacuum and allows you to unscrew the filter by hand. Use an automotive pick or screwdriver to pierce the filter can in several places around the circumference. Be careful not to damage any vehicle parts while puncturing. This method spills oil, so have absorbent materials ready to catch any leaks.


A tight oil filter can be a challenge to remove, but the right tools and techniques make the job much easier. Investing in an oil filter wrench, remover, or socket set specifically designed for auto work saves a lot of time and frustration. Remember to let the engine cool completely before attempting to remove the oil filter. With patience and care, you can successfully loosen and remove even the most stubborn oil filters.

Changing your own oil and filter allows you to stay on top of this critical maintenance task and ensure it is done properly. The small initial investment in tools pays off in the long run. Be sure to dispose of used oil at approved recycling centers and maintain proper records of your oil change intervals.

With the right preparation and method, you can loosen up that over-tightened oil filter. Just take your time, use the appropriate tools, and work the filter loose slowly and carefully. Your engine will be back up and running with fresh oil in no time. Don’t let an over-tightened filter deter you from handling this essential maintenance yourself.


What causes an oil filter to get stuck?

There are a few common causes of stuck oil filters:

  • Over-tightening – Oil filters that have been previously installed too tightly can become difficult to remove.
  • Dirt and debris – Buildup around the oil filter seals can cause it to stick.
  • Corrosion – Rust formation between the filter and mounting surface makes removal difficult.
  • Old oil – Oil that has thickened and sludged can glue the filter in place.
  • Incorrect filter – An improperly matched filter may not seat correctly.

What if the filter won’t budge at all?

Here are some tips if the oil filter absolutely will not come loose:

  • Apply penetrating oil around the filter seal and let it soak for 10-15 minutes.
  • Use a breaker bar or pipe wrench for increased leverage.
  • Double check the filter is turning counter-clockwise for removal.
  • Have a helper hold the vehicle securely if needed.
  • As a last resort, hammer a screwdriver through the filter to unstick it.

How often should you replace your oil filter?

Most mechanics recommend changing your oil filter with every oil change. The general rule is to replace your filter every 3,000-5,000 miles. Refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended interval for your vehicle. If you drive frequently in dusty conditions or run your engine hard, you may need to replace the filter more often.

Can I damage my engine if the filter won’t come off?

Forcing and fighting with an extremely tight oil filter may cause damage. The filter and seal are made of metal that can shred and fall into the engine if they break apart. Your efforts are better focused on tapping the filter or using penetrating oil to loosen it gradually. Damaging the filter is riskier than waiting and finding a better solution.

How do I prevent oil filters from getting stuck in the future?

You can prevent stuck filters by:

  • Cleaning the mounting surface before installing a new filter.
  • Only hand tightening filters to the recommended torque.
  • Lubricating the filter gasket with new oil.
  • Not overfilling the amount of oil.
  • Using high quality filters that fit your vehicle.

Can I loosen the oil filter when the engine is hot?

It is not recommended to attempt oil filter removal while the engine is still hot. Oil that is hot and pressurized can burn your skin and make removal messy. Always allow the engine to cool completely before attempting to loosen the oil filter.

The cooling period allows sludge to settle and the oil to drain down from the filter chamber. Attempting removal on a hot engine increases the risk of damage to the filter housing or mounting surface.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these steps to safely and effectively loosen an over-tightened oil filter:

  1. Raise your vehicle and support it securely on jack stands.
  2. Locate the oil filter, usually mounted vertically on the engine block.
  3. Clean the area around the oil filter using degreaser and a brush.
  4. Use an oil filter wrench, oil filter pliers, or oil filter socket to break the seal and turn counterclockwise.
  5. Check periodically to see if the filter is slowly loosening as you apply gradual pressure.
  6. Once loosened, unscrew the filter by hand and allow oil to drain.
  7. Clean any residual gasket material from the mounting surface.
  8. Lubricate the new filter gasket and hand tighten per instructions.
  9. Refill with fresh oil and check for any leaks before lowering vehicle.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never work underneath a vehicle without using proper jack stands.
  • Allow plenty of time for the engine and oil to cool completely before attempting filter removal.
  • Wear thick work gloves in case hot oil drips during filter removal.
  • Avoid using excessive force or puncturing the filter unless absolutely needed.
  • Be prepared to catch any oil that spills out when the filter loosens.
  • Check the condition of the old oil filter – excessive debris can indicate issues.
  • Make sure the new filter gasket contacts the mounting surface evenly.


Here are some helpful videos that demonstrate loosening an over-tightened oil filter:

Using an Oil Filter Wrench

Using an Oil Filter Pliers

Using a Filter Cup Remover


Removing a stubborn, over-tightened oil filter is a common DIY mechanical challenge. With some patience and the right tools, you can break the seal and loosen even the most difficult filters. Using specialty tools like an oil filter wrench or remover prevents damage to the filter housing and engine. Remember to only use reasonable hand force and stop if the filter does not seem to budge.

Allowing the engine ample time to cool, lubricating the gasket, and carefully tightening the new filter can prevent problems from occurring in the future. With the proper setup and procedure, you can remove that pesky stuck oil filter and be on your way to fresh oil and a healthy engine.