How to Remove a Stuck Oil Filter?

When changing the car oil, it's not an uncommon scenario that oil filters could become stuck to the surface of the engine.

If you are new to this changing oil activity, definitely it would be a challenge for you on how to remove a stuck oil filter.

Worry no more as there are several methods you can try so that you won’t make the same mishaps in the future.

Why Use Oil Filters?

Changing the oil of the car is one of the most critical vehicle maintenance. It's important to do this at least twice a year to keep the engine performance of the car.

In fact, most car owners do it on their own as automotive shops charge a lot. Furthermore, it doesn't take you a lot of time and effort to do it on your own.

You only need a few tools such as a new oil, oil filter, and some background knowledge obtained from watching and reading tutorials. Of course, read your car manual first for more info.

Typically, changing your oil happens when the mileage has reached 3000 miles. This is a good number to keep your engine at its maximum state but it finally depends on your car’s make and model.

Also, changing oil may happen quicker than expected if there are particulates into the oil and its color is black. These gradually happen as the oil is always subjected to very hot operating temperatures.

A dirty oil can cause wear on the engine components cause poor performance in due time. The natural color of an engine oil is honey brown.

A filter's main purpose is to remove the contaminants that may come with the engine oil. Though the engine oil is relatively clean in its initial state, some may accumulate the longer your rack up the mileage.

The engine uses the engine oil, motor oil, or lubricating oil to lubricate the gear components in an engine. If you don't do change oil, this will overload the oil filter.

Why Do Oil Filters Get Stuck?

An oil filter has a sealing gasket which tightly holds against the surface block of the engine. Just below it is the part which is surrounded by holes.

The oil is filtered by passing through the holes and back to the engine. Furthermore, the central hole is threaded to meet with the surface of the engine block.

The oil filter can be stuck onto the engine area particularly on the gasket and not on the threads as some suggested.

This happens when someone tightened the oil filter but with too much force that it had become impossible for you to remove it without tools.

Now, the thing you must remember is that you must break the attachment between the two surfaces so that the filter can spin freely. 

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Removing the Stuck Oil Filter

First and foremost, drain the oil before doing other steps. This is critical as you don't want the oil gushing out like a faucet while you work on removing the stuck filter.

This will make the filter slippery with oil. Not only that but also your gloved hands. It would be hard to focus on the problem.

Warm the engine first before draining. Let it run for about two minutes. The warmup will cause the oil to flow smoothly out of its container when you decide to drain it.

Then, drain the oil completely by loosening the drain plug. It’s located under the car and may be hard to do at first.

You may need to have some space while you work on your car. If you have jack stand, it's a good judgment to use it.

Prepare both your wrench and oil pan. The wrench will be used to loosen the drain plug counterclockwise and the oil pan will catch the oil stream.

You may only tighten back by turning the plug clockwise when the oil flow slows to a drip. Then, for the focal part of this article, removing the stuck oil filter comes in different ways listed below:

1. Use screwdriver and hammer

You should be prepared that once you do this, you will have an irreparable and unusable oil filter as the result.

Any screwdriver will do, either Philips or flat, as long as it’s large enough. The size matters as it will be used to puncture the side of the stuck filter. Drive the screwdriver into the filter from one side.

Then, make sure to let the excess oil inside the filter media drip away first before you proceed to remove it.

Drive the screwdriver further inside until it is inside the center hole. Gain leverage and with the aid of a hammer, proceed to wrench off the filter's base away from the engine surface.

2. Use oil filter band wrenches

This method is one of the easiest but you may have a hard time looking for an oil filter band wrench. The technique here is to slip the circular metal around the filter.

The handle will later be used for pulling and wrenching off of the base from the engine. Since the oil filter is in a horizontal position, pulling should be perpendicular to it or in a vertical direction. But you may need some space to work on for removing by pulling.

The metal ring won't slip away from the filter because there's the hinge mechanism which constricts to the surface of the oil filter. It constricts as you apply force to it.

Some also add sandpaper in between the metal ring and the oil filter surface to produce more friction.

In this method, you should position the metal ring near the base of the filter so you won't damage the thing. Oil filter band wrenches make use of metal for durability but they also come in rubber and other synthetic materials.

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3. Use big pliers with jaw

The idea here is the same as the oil filter wrench. Basically, this is an alternative to the previous method as not everyone has an oil filter wrench.

The big, round jaw of the pliers has great grip when you slip it at the base of the filter. Pulling it may be hard work and can be a drawback if you don't have enough clearance between you and the engine. In that situation, you can't apply excessive force than you would normally do.

4. Use strap wrench

As the name suggests, the wrench has an attached strap made of synthetic material. It is long enough to wrap around the oil filter can. You can buy one in automotive stores. The way to use this is the same as with the standard oil filter band wrench.

5. Use a socket wrench

This tool has an appearance of three gear-driven jaws. It has a threaded hole at the center to attach a driver ratchet or a socket wrench.

This is a method highly preferred by car owners and mechanics. This is due to the mechanism that the tighter the filter is stuck, the tighter the jaws get. It can remove any overtight oil filter without damaging it.

The way to use this tool is to hold the three jaws simultaneously and surround the filter surface with it.

Next, tighten your grip on the tool and use torque to turn the filter. Most socket wrenches are applicable for oil filters with the diameters from 2.5 to 4.75 inches.

Removing the Broken Oil Filter

When using the screwdriver method, the best case scenario is that you will only get oily gloves or dirty clothing.

However, some aren't so lucky and may have torn the other half of the oil filter but the engine block is still left with the base part of the filter can.

Since the larger part of the oil filter is made of thin metal, it's definitely vulnerable to crushing and tearing when you punch through a screwdriver and use it as leverage. The base part, however, is thicker as this section screws tightly on the engine surface.

When you're in such a bind, one thing that you can do is to use a hacksaw. Saw off the remaining thin metal part of the oil filter and leave out only the base which is the top lid of the can.

Then, with a strong jaw vice grip, clamp the jaw on the remaining part of the broken filter. Use this as the anchor point and apply the torque force to remove the filter from the engine block.

Changing the Oil Filter With a New One

Not all oil filters are equal and it's your responsibility to find one that is compatible with your vehicle. Oil filter may appear like a soft drink can on the exterior but the significant changes are in the threads and size of the gasket.

Choosing the wrong oil filter to replace the old one may cause the oil to leak out or may just fall off when you least notice it. Ultimately, the engine may be susceptible to serious damage. 

You can prevent stuck oil filters in the future when you put oil on the gasket before attaching it to the engine base. You can also opt for silicon grease in case you have it.


The methods above are all effective in answering your problem on how to remove a stuck oil filter. They only differ on the price aspects and difficulty.

Next time, don't put an oil filter on your filter assembly too tight! It should be tight enough that you can still spin it with a good enough amount of force.

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