Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2009   by David Halpert, Assistant Editor

Filters Update

The new filter technology out there on the market today

Replacement and preventative maintenance on filters has always been a significant portion of a garage’s routine business. For the independent service technician, the oil change remains one of the key services vital to the lifeblood of any service station, alongside the maintenance of other filters (engine air filters, cabin air filters, etc.). As filter technology improves the screening of contaminants, allowing for less frequent replacements as well as extended drain intervals, the challenge then becomes how to sell a service where replacement is not required as often.

Similarly, as consumers retain their vehicles longer, the need for a proper functioning filter is important in maintaining vehicle efficiency, performance and fuel economy; and knowing what new filter technologies and improvements are out there on the market today is crucial for an independent to maximize profit.

Improved filter media, improved vehicle performance

K&N Engineering recently added to its innovative Power Cube air filter line for the Dodge Ram 2500 & 3500 heavy-duty pickup (2007-2009 models) for the 5.9L L6 Diesel engine. The filter is designed to replace the OE flat panel with a 3D-type oversized air filter that fits directly into the factory air box. This fills the otherwise empty space with a larger four-sided air filter on specific applications.

“What happens is you get a higher air flow and a lot more dust holding capacity. In most cases our replacement elements get you about one to four more horsepower just by replacing the element,” says Renard Howard, business development manager for K&N Engineering. “Now, I’m not talking about the intake system responsible for horsepower. In this particular case, you get eight more horsepower just by replacing the element and you’re not even taking apart the air intake system. What we wanted to do was not just meet OE specifications, but in this case it is a classic example of exceeding OE specs.”

It’s no secret that the media inside an oil filter determines that oil filter’s efficiency, performance and usefulness during its life. Whether your filter uses the traditional “paper” media or the more recent “depth” type media its effectiveness is determined by several factors, including dirt-holding capacity, resistance to oil flow, and particle size retention (or filtration efficiency).

“In general, we use a cellulose/synthetic blend which allows us to optimize both the efficiency of the filter as well as the filter’s capacity for holding contaminants,” says Wayne Smith, product manager for Wix Filters. “Cellulose fibres are natural fibres and tend to have good strength and help improve capacity. Synthetic fibres are man-made and can be produced with a smaller thickness than cellulose fibres which helps improve efficiency.”

In the first quarter of 2009 alone, Wix Filters added 87 new product numbers across light duty, heavy duty and industrial applications. Filters for foreign nameplate applications topped the list, with more than 35 new air, oil, cabin air and fuel filter product numbers for such brands as Mazda, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Porsche, Audi, and Volkswagen, among others.

Rebranding classics, new improvements

But it’s not just the filter that determines the duration of an oil or air filter, or the need for an extended drain interval. Driving habits of the consumer also contribute to how manufacturers recommend maintenance intervals. Stop-and-go driving, frequent short trips, and towing are just some of the factors engine makers use when characterizing “normal” and “severe” engine use. This becomes important when dealing with extended drain intervals between changing the oil and filter.

“Two points bear mentioning on the subject of extended oil change intervals. First, while the additives in ‘extended life’ engine oils may, indeed, last longer, (but) they don’t alleviate the gradual build-up of water, raw gasoline, and other materials that can accumulate in a crankcase. So extending oil and filter changes, even with special oils, may not be a good idea,” says Ramon Nuez, director of filtration for Purolator.

If you were to look at an oil/air filter now compared to one manufactured several years ago you’d discover that from the outside not much has changed. However, improvements have been made within to accommodate advances in engine and vehicle design as well as more demanding operating environments. Nuez goes on to explain the more technical aspects of filters and what impact they have on new vehicle design.

“Today’s oil filters must have media, seals, and bonding agents that are fully compatible with all popular conventional and synthetic oils,” Nuez continues. “They must accommodate new oil chemistry that has seen levels of zinc (ZDDP) reduced and, in some cases, supplanted by other, more eco-friendly materials. Oil filters must also perform reliably with oil viscosities ranging from the traditional 10W-30 and 10W-40 to ultra-low-friction 0W-20 oils. As a result, the design, construction, and materials in oil filters have all seen enhancements over the last few years.”

In a new rebranding initiative, Purolator recently changed the name of its standard line of oil and air filters from Purolator PremiumPlus (sometimes referred to simply as ‘Purolator’) to Purolator ‘Classic’ in an effort to reflect the company’s long-standing reputation of quality and reliability when it comes to aftermarket filters.

This change in branding has been added to its packaging, sales and marketing brochures, Web site, as well as other Purolator promotional materials. But what does the change mean for technicians? In terms of the actual product — very little.

“The new design is consistent with that of the premium PureONE line and works well for the target customer who is looking for both quality and value,” continues Nuez, “For professional service technicians, the rebranding to Purolator ‘Classic’ creates a sense of comfort and confidence about using a product line they have come to rely upon and associate with the quality and advanced technology of PureONE.”

Fram takes a different approach to its oil filters by segregating its product category into three distinct lines (Extra Guard, Tough Guard and Xtended Guard). In addition to each line having its own unique packaging, each provides a different level of engine protection when compared to the leading economy filters on the market. The Xtended Guard, for instance, is capable of quality filtration for up to 16,000km when used with synthetic motor oil under normal driving conditions. Joan Kent, channel marketing specialist for Honeywell CPG Canada, goes on to explain the differences behind the media located within each one.

“The Fram Extra Guard oil filter features a cellulose-and glass-blended filter media that helps improve efficiency without sacrificing performance. The Fram Tough Guard filter uses an intertwined synthetic blend media that also contains cellulose and glass. It’s thicker and has a greater percentage of synthetic fibers. Fram Xtended Guard uses a specially engineered two-ply synthetic media that is reinforced with a metal screen. This advanced filtering media provides the highest capacity out of the Fram filter line up while still allowing for excellent efficiency.”

The oil change still remains one of the most important services of the preventative maintenance schedule for any independent garage. Be sure to keep up-to-date on what’s new in the filter market, the opportunities are out there if you know where to look. SSGM

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