Market Topics

Need to Know


Imagine what it would be like if the big three automakers and other OEMs didnt share with the major oil companies, or anyone else for that matter, their specifications or requirements for engine oil. Instead, they said this information was proprietary. Further, imagine that when a consumer asks a new car dealer what engine oil to use in that expensive and cherished automobile they just bought, the dealer strongly recommended its own oil because its made to the OEMs exact specifications. Moreover, the dealer discouraged the consumer from using anything else by saying that they frequently have cars coming into their shops with oil lights on and other problems caused by engine oil purchased at retail and auto-parts stores.

Imagine this consumer – one of those rebels who like to challenge authority and buck the system – then calls one of the major oil companies to see if in fact the dealer is telling the truth. And the major, contrary to what the dealer says, answers that its engine oil absolutely can be used in that car. In fact, its engine oil is tested to meet, or exceed the warranty requirements of all vehicle and engine manufacturers. It knows this because, although the OEMs dont all make their performance requirements known, this major tested the OEMs product with standards established by the SAE to determine what those requirements are. To drive the point home, the major then challenges the consumer to ask the dealer to put it in writing if they say anything about the majors oil not meeting OEM requirements. The major adds, The dealer will not put it in writing because it knows it will be sued if it does.

Stop imagining. Add the word filter after oil in the above, and enter the real world of oil filters – a world that represents the second most important line of defense against the leading cause of engine wear (dirt).

Its a world unlike the engine oil business, where performance specifications are clearly defined and communicated to the consumer and OEMs, and majors work closely and cooperatively to assure the best products for the consumer and the environment. Instead, its a world where the automotive OEMs typically do not work cooperatively with the aftermarket manufacturers or share much information about their performance requirements or standards.

Yes, this world has standardized protocols to test filters (SAE J1858 and HS806), but there are no official benchmarks, letter designations, approval systems or other established measures available to consumers to compare performance test data. Moreover, there is no requirement for an oil filter marketer (including the OEMs as seen by some of their packaging) to make the SAE test data or any other measure of performance or quality known to the consumer.

As a result, the world of oil filters is a confusing one, plagued with inadequate information, misinformation and self-appointed experts. It is a world where good marketing can trump good filtering at any time.

Just take a look at the oil filters on the retail shelves. Live and breathe the life and decision-making process of a Do-It-Yourselfer for just one oil change. Do you pick the Fram High Mileage filter for vehicles with over 75,000 miles? Maybe. Although higher priced than some of the others, its package says its filter has a 96 percent single-pass efficiency and a time release technology additive gel that helps maintain viscosity, reduce corrosive engine wear, neutralize acids, keep engine components cleaner.

Then again, maybe the Purolator PureONE is better; it has a multi-pass efficiency rating of 98 percent and the package says its Top Ranked in SAE tests. In addition, it has an exclusive Micronic filtration.

But what about the K&N filter? It has a high flow rate and drilled safety wire holes for racing. The 90 percent efficiency on its box, however, is lower then the others.

Or maybe high price doesnt always mean high quality. WalMarts $2.00 SuperTech filter – which costs $8.00 less than one of the leading brands – is #1 in efficiency among the leading brands, its package claims. The box even says that whereas the leading brands have single-pass and multi-pass efficiencies of 96 percent and 94 percent, SuperTech has 98 and 99 percent, respectively. Thats better than any others, right?

And what about the DIYers who buy some of that new engine oil from Mobil that says it can drain at 15,000 miles? Do they need to change the filter at the interval written in their owners manual? Hard to tell. Mobil says its a myth that its new Extended Performance oil requires a special oil filter. While ExxonMobil recommends that you use a high-quality filter, the company advises, you can use the same type of oil filter that you would normally use with conventional oil. But which one is that and how does ExxonMobil know the quality of the filter the consumer normally uses? Meanwhile, Fram claims that its Extra-Guard oil filter now has 70 percent greater capacity than the leading competitors average and is the the very first premium oil filter to offer an amazing 7,000 miles-plus performance!

And beyond the DIYer, what about the filter underworld of Do-It-For-Me? The world of unseen arms that reach up from under the car and spin off and on millions of filters a year? Are these invisible arms using quality oil filters? Who really knows?

Does all of this describe a world that OEMs think best serves the consumer by optimizing the flow of clean oil in their engines and preventing dirt from prematurely wearing their high-priced steeds?

If not, who does this world of oil filters serve?

Related Topics

Market Topics