Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2014   by Noelle Stapinsky

Filter Sales with Efficiency

Do your customers know that innovations in automotive filter technologies boost vehicle performance and cabin comfort levels?

The global automotive filter market is experiencing a serious upswing. Automotive production is up, the replacement market is growing and with increasing regulations on vehicle air emissions the demand for more premium filter solutions has never been greater.

Although filter makers have been challenged with the rise of extended drain intervals, a growing popularity of synthetic motor oils and tighter engine designs, today’s leading OE and aftermarket part manufacturers have answered the call with astounding leaps in innovative media solutions.

Today’s vehicle owners are aware of the importance of oil changes as a part of a regular maintenance practice, but most aren’t educated in the performance benefits and increased fuel economy of pairing high-quality synthetic motor oil with premium filters. And when it comes to cabin air filters, most consumers might not even know they exist or consider changing them as a needed service. Manufacturer recommendations may be keeping vehicles on the road longer between service visits, but for the well-versed service providers these are prime opportunities to maximize sales by educating the consumer on how premium filtration systems are specifically designed to work with high-quality oil and, of course, the health benefits of clean cabin air.

Premium Results

“Extended drain intervals do make the selection of filter media more difficult. Longer drain intervals combined with higher operating temperatures can make traditional cellulose filter media brittle, which can tear or let contaminants through to the engine, or worse, it can become dislodged and become a contaminant in the engine,” says Bruce Coffey, manager of light-duty product engineering for Affinia – Wix filtration products.

Synthetic media tolerates high temperatures well but lacks the strength of – and is more expensive than – cellulose. “By mixing cellulose filters with synthetic fibers one can achieve a media that has both good strength and temperature resistance,” says Coffey. “The use of this blended filter is now more prevalent in oil filters than when oil change intervals were shorter.”

Spin-on and cartridge-style oil filters are currently dominating as the biggest trends, but the challenge for filter makers is using media that can withstand the higher operating temperatures and flow rates of today’s engines – there are is also no set standard for end cap sizes, which ups tooling costs.

Filter makers are also tasked with increasing the filter capacity so that dirt can be trapped and held for the duration of the filter change, according to Jay Buckley, Fram technical training director. “It also requires filter makers to improve all rubber, such as O rings and anti-drainback valves by impregnating silicone or complete silicon construction for durability in an extended drain vehicle, as plain rubber valves will get stiff after 10,000 kilometers,” he says.

Fram uses synthetic and cellulose blended media in its Fram Extra Guard, Tough Guard and High Mileage filters. “We use two layers of full synthetic media in Fram Ultra filters, designed for synthetic oil changes,” says Buckley. “The synthetic media provides great efficiency and greater dirt holding capacity than plain cellulose media.” And Fram currently has a product line to cover every aspect of the filter change spectrum. For instance, the Extra Guard and High Mileage filters are made for conventional oil and 8,000 km changes, Tough Guard is designed for semi synthetic or full synthetic oils for up to 16,000 km changes, and its Ultra filter is for premium synthetic oil for up to 24,000 km intervals.

Bill McKnight, Mahle Aftermarket Inc.’s marketing team leader – trainer, says, “being a manufacturer of high quality oil filters, we are quite pleased with extended drain intervals and synthetic motor oils. Our filters are designed and manufactured to provide filtration for two and a half times the manufacturer’s recommended drain interval.” And while Mahle certainly doesn’t recommend exceeding the recommended interval, McKnight says, “It is comforting to know that we have you covered if you occasionally miss that deadline.”

Mahle filters use a combination of cellulose and synthetic media, resin impregnated designs and Fleece media – a synthetic introduced to the world by Mercedes Benz – for some high-end European vehicles.

Bosch’s DistancePlus oil filters are designed to keep oil clean longer and protect the vehicle’s engine. These filters have a 99.9 per cent dirt removal rating, a 300 per cent capacity to hold more dirt, and two times greater burst resistance strength than conventional oil filters. Its LongLife filters are built for over 16,000 km and work with synthetic and semi-synthetic motor oil, and its Premium line protects the engine and can trap 14 grams of dirt.

Another major trend in the filter world is a move towards ECO filters. “These environmental filters contain no metal or solvents and can be crushed to remove waste oil, then incinerated,” says Mahle’s McKnight. “Being a very large and involved OE supplier, we are well versed in manufacturing these filters and, of course, have many in our aftermarket product line. I must point out
that these are not something a consumer can retrofit to their vehicle. They require a redesign of the filter and housing at the OE level.”

Clearing the Air

What many vehicle owners might not consider is that there is an air filtration system integrated into the vehicle that protects them from breathing in environmental contaminants by stopping them from entering the heat and air vents, as well as preventing dirt and dust from entering the vehicle cabin. And over time, these filters do need to be replaced.

“We always recommend following the manufacturers’ recommendation, unless of course the vehicle is operated in a severe dusty environment,” says McKnight. “Off-road vehicles, and construction and farm vehicles will require more frequent filter changes. It is important to remember that a vehicle using 10 gallons of fuel has consumed 80,000 gallons of air.”

Mahle’s standard cabin filters are designed to keep dust, bugs, tire residue, pollen and spores outside the vehicle’s interior. And by adding charcoal activation, these filters remove odors, gaseous pollution and high ozone concentrations.

In fact, while many people keep their windows up to avoid breathing in harmful pollutants, if they’ve neglected their cabin air filter, they might be breathing in more toxic elements than they think – over time, the charcoal used in air filters can also start releasing some of the odors it absorbed.

Coffey agrees that following the owner’s manual is recommended for air filter intervals, but says, “I do believe many people are quite surprised when they change their cabin air filter and see how dirty the used one appears.”

And while Coffey admits that cabin air filter media has not changed much from previous years, engine air filters have. “The media continues to typically be cellulose, but it’s now designed to be flame and smolder resistant,” he says. The size and shape of these filters have also changed and they now feature shorter pleat heights in order to fit them into the tighter engine compartments of today’s vehicle. And making sure fuel filters are changed at the appropriate time will increase engine life and help avoid unnecessary breakdowns.

Today’s drivers are keeping their vehicles longer and most are tuned into regular maintenance practices such as oil changes. And even if they’re not, technology in newer vehicles tells them when an oil change is needed or if anything goes wrong with engine components. With the customers already rolling in the bay doors, service stations need to seize the opportunity by discussing the benefits of coupling quality oil with premium filters.

Besides, would a customer want to put old, bald tires on a new set of awesome rims?

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