Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2013   by Tom Venetis, Editor

Extended Drain Intervals Pushing Filter Technology

High-quality synthetic oils, new engine designs push the need for using premium filters in service bays

It used to be the hard-and-fast rule that every 3,000 miles or nearly 5,000 kilometres, one needed to change the motor oil and filter. While not every driver ever followed that rule, it was something everyone knew about and could even recite, if pressed. Today, that rule is under challenge.

Vehicle makers are now rolling off the line makes and models that have much longer drain intervals, many extending well past the traditional rule. There are vehicles today that even sell themselves on having to change the oil and filter only once every 10,000 kilometres or every six months.

To meet this challenge the oil makers have also pushed the envelope. Many of today’s newest synthetic motor oils are blended to have superior heat and oxidation resistance, and are further engineered to have improved viscosity; and additives are introduced to better protect critical engine parts while providing superior cleaning and suspension of harmful contaminants that can damage critical engine components.

These changes now present new challenges for independent service operations. While many drivers are happy to not have to do as many oil and filter changes as before – sometimes reducing the number to only two a year from the traditional four – service bays are less happy to see a once profitable revenue stream taking a hit. How then to retain a healthy profit margin while providing a quality service to a vehicle owner?

It comes from pairing high-quality synthetic motor oils with new high-quality, premium filters made for today’s new extended drain intervals.

Ted Hughes, marketing manager with Mahle Clevite Inc. knows service operations and filter manufactures face a tough challenge educating a North American driving population that has grown used to the traditional oil and filter change intervals. “[Extended drain intervals] are changing the aftermarket as a whole,” he adds. “As a company that manufactures filters to exceed the minimum of 15,000 miles [with quality synthetic oil] between intervals, what we find is that the North American market does not want to buy into this yet. The 3,000 mile interval is so ingrained, drivers do not believe that they can really go five times that amount before the next oil and filter change.”

It also does not help that coming onto the market today are a growing number of off-shore manufactured oil filters trying to make headway in the North American market by being at a significantly lower price-point than today’s premium filters. Some drivers gravitate towards these cheaper alternatives as a means of saving a few dollars on an oil and filter change.

Hughes continues, “Cutting corners on design and materials is easy to do when the guts of the filter are hidden by a metal can. For quality [filter] manufacturers that supply original equipment car makers, getting this message out is challenging – especially to a motoring public that simply views filtration as a ‘sock in a can.’”

Because of extended drain intervals and the improved capacity for synthetic motor oils to capture and hold contaminants, filter media in today’s premium oil filters have moved away from the traditional paper-based media to more advanced synthetic-based media. Synthetic media have many advantages, such as high efficiency with low restriction, and an improved ability to trap and hold more dirt than traditional cellulose/synthetic blends.

Jay Buckley, technical training director with UCI-Fram Group, says filter makers have put greater research dollars and work in developing a range of new filter media that is suited for today’s extended drain intervals and new synthetic motor oils. Fram manufactures filters with a cellulose/synthetic glass media “that has the capacity for extended drain intervals … and are completely compatible with E85 fuels. Extended drain intervals and filter sizing are making an impact on filter designs. Both are advancing filter media design. The filter media must be able to trap more dirt per square inch of area due to filter canisters shrinking size, and the filter media must be able to trap and hold more dirt due to extended drain intervals.”

Many filter makers now use dual-layer synthetic media for added filtration and contaminant capture. For example, Denso’s First Time Fit Oil Filters use two levels of filtration to capture more harmful materials and to prevent the filter from clogging over the extended drain interval, says Mathew Souto, powertrain product management department with Denso Products and Services Americas Inc.

“For vehicles where the manufacturer recommends the use of synthetic oil and extended drain intervals, it is appropriate to use a filter that is specially designed for use with synthetic oils to avoid degradation of the filtering function and failure of one or more internal filter parts or valves,” says Kevin O’Dowd, NA director, brand/product marketing, automotive aftermarket, Mann+Hummel Purolator Filters. “The Purolator Synthetic oil filter is engineered to help motorists take advantage of the extended life offered by synthetic oils. Purolator Synthetic utilizes synthetic media with pleat support technology containing wire backing providing increased stability. This filter can capture and hold more contaminants over the longer life of synthetic oils – up to 27 grams, without getting clogged.”

“Filter manufacturers can no longer cut corners on the quality of their materials,” adds Mahle’s Hughes. “These engines are designed to run on very tight tolerances and the ability to do that takes for granted that the filter system is operating at peak performance. Using filters without quality filter media or a lacklustre design jeopardizes the health of the engine.”

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