Working to meet the growing demands of discerning vehicle owners, North American aftermarket suppliers are increasingly manufacturing premium air, fuel, and oil filters that are more durable and provide better filtration capacities to meet extended replacement intervals. A key factor influencing this trend is the growing use of synthetic oil, which has an extended drain interval and thus delays regular service intervals. “Probably the biggest mistake that we see people make is using a standard filter with synthetic oil. Each filter has a finite capacity for collecting debris before it goes into bypass, and the most inexpensive oil filters still dwell in the 3000- to 5000-kilometre range,” explains Jay Buckley, technical training director for the UCI-Fram Group. “That’s what they are built for. The unfortunate part of that – and I run into it with technicians too, not just consumers – is that most don’t really understand the range and when you explain the science behind it, they realize that for half of their oil change, their filter has been in bypass.” A standard oil filter is fine if you plan on changing it after a relatively short interval, but when you get into an extended drain interval when using synthetic oil, in order to take the best advantage of that synthetic oil, vehicle owners need to use a filter that has the capacity to go that extended amount of time. More cars come filled from the factory with synthetic oil, and drain intervals are increasing. This requires the materials and performance built into premium filters, like the Wix Premium and XP filters, to go those distances, adds Donald Chilton, vice-president of product management, Affinia. “We are now seeing more movement in the premium filter category, mainly because a lot of the car park now is made up of vehicles that came from the factory with synthetic or semi-synthetic oil. The manufacturers are specifying longer intervals between oil changes with the on-board monitoring systems, so people are gravitating towards the premium lines of brand name filters that are advertised to have a longer interval to match the oil change interval on their vehicle,” explains Buckley. Vehicle owners should always use the oil that meets the manufacturer’s specifications, even though some people think oil is oil – and it really isn’t. “Quite frankly, I have seen every brand of car out there go exceptionally long miles when they are taken care of. I always tell people you should be looking at buying a quality-made filter like the Fram Extra Guard, Tough Guard, or the Fram Ultra, and changing it at the interval that is recommended on the filter. We specify that each one of our filters has a finite life on the car, and if you leave it on there too long, it’s just going to go into bypass,” says Buckley. “With direct fuel injection, and given the fact that timing belts have given way to timing chains and plastic guides etc., using an oil that meets manufacturers’ specifications is very critical, and using a quality oil filter that captures particles in the 10 to 20 micron size is really the key to making those engines last a very long time,” advises Buckley. The filtration capacity of inexpensive filters is usually in the low 80% range. In comparison, for a few more dollars, a quality brand-name filter is in the 96 or 99% filtration range, and manufacturers offer a selection of filters that range in capacity from 10,000 to 20,000 kilometres and can hold up to two or three times the amount of dirt before going into bypass. “We recommend the Wix Premium filter for any vehicle 10 years or older and over 100K miles. It simply has the best combination of filter media and materials to deal with vehicles in that range. It goes back to the old adage, ‘you get what you pay for.’ If you want something to last, spend a little more and protect the engine for the long haul,” says Chilton. Engine oil filters are now at the centre of a debate due to environmental concerns. With the constant challenge of lowering emissions and raising mileage, OEMs are constantly searching for new ways to adapt the way new vehicles are made. One way they are doing this is with metal-free cartridge-style oil filters. However, these replace-the-cartridge-and-go style filters present a few more potential hazards and liabilities for DIYers and automotive service professionals. Cartridge filters are more environmentally sound, because you are not throwing away a metal can, and in some countries it is mandatory to cut the metal filters open, drain the cartridge, and recycle the metal. This trend is driving automakers to design new engines with the cartridge filter housing on them. “We are even seeing it in the heavy duty market,” adds Buckley. “The cartridge filters are a little more complicated, and we have published a number of videos on changing these cartridges, because there are a few more steps to pay attention to. It’s not that it is more difficult; it just requires more attention to detail to do it correctly,” says Buckley. “The canister filter originated in Europe. The design was made to reduce metal use and to be able to incinerate the used cartridge. Technicians should always change the O-ring/gaskets and cartridge at every oil change. Never reuse any part of the old filter, or your warranty will be voided,” advises Chilton. “If you look at GM’s Ecotec engines, for example, the green silicone O-ring that’s on the cap is designed to last the life of the car, but it can be damaged. That’s why when we make any cartridge filter we include the O-rings in the package, and it’s the call of the technician on whether or not he wants to replace the O-ring. One of the things that we find is a lot of people don’t understand how to correctly install an O-ring. You have to roll it on so that it is not twisted, and we see people having problems with that,” explains Buckley. These filters require additional tools, parts, and know-how. Anyone providing oil changes on the canister oil filters needs to make sure they have a good program in place to minimize risks. “When I am speaking to technicians about filtration, I tell them the O-ring should be inspected very critically and if they are the least bit uncomfortable with what it looks like, always install the new O-rings. Then I show them the right way to install them to get them into the groove. Some will try and loop one side over it and stretch it over the cap and it usually ends up with the O-ring being twisted. And it could become a potential leak,” he adds. A premium filter has better valves, higher quality media, and more capacity for longer drain intervals. A counterperson who understands filtration and can explain the features and benefits of premium products to customers is providing superior customer service that will result in selling more premium filtration product. Today some 85% of vehicles model year 2006 and newer have a cabin air filter, making this by far the fastest growing filter segment. There are about 30 million vehicles in North America that currently have cabin air filters. However, most people have never heard of a cabin air filter, or don’t know if their vehicle is equipped with one. If the technician were to remove a typical filter, he would likely find it terribly dirty, filled with dirt, dust, bird feathers, and other nasty stuff. But removing the filter is not always that easy, depending on its location in the vehicle. There is an easier way to find out in just a few seconds if the filter may be clogged and needs inspection or replacement, using an anemometer. This simple handheld tool measures the speed of the air coming from the heater ducts. Place the heater control so it is blowing out the vents on the dashboard, and use the anemometer to measure the air speed with the blower control set on high. It should measure 17-20 kph, depending on the scale of your tool. If it measures below 17 kph, an inspection should be performed. Shops that have adopted this method of selling cabin filter service have seen increases in sales, and there is no risk of wasting time removing the filter to find it clean. While it’s always a good idea to offer customers options so they can select for themselves, the bottom line is to be able to recommend a filter that best meets your customer’s needs, including the driving performance desired, the cost involved, and even brand preference. If a high level of performance is desired from a vehicle, a jobber or service professional should offer the product that will ensure that result. By prioritizing your customer’s needs, you can help your technician clients raise awareness of their customer’s filtration needs, which in the long run, will go a long way towards helping boost aftermarket filter sales. In most cases, a premium filter is the best choice for consumers looking to get the most out of their investment.