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There Is A Time For Restraint. . . This Wasn’t It

February 25, 2019

Auto repair, like many endeavors, requires the use of force. . .but not too much.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

Put enough torque on a bolt and one of two things will happen. Either the bolt will break free, or it will just break. The toughest bolt I ever tightened was 250 ft lbs. It was the pinion nut when rebuilding a differential.

Every bolt has its breaking point. If you tighten them too far they break. So, it’s important to not push things too hard.

But, sometimes, very rarely, you can indulge your inner He-man.

Whenever you change your engine oil, or have it changed at a service location, you also need to change the oil filter. The filter does just what the name suggests. It filters impurities out of the oil.

The oil filter is one of the most unique “bolts” that you’ll put on a car. It actually acts like a large nut. It screws onto a threaded shaft. What makes it unique, is that you are only supposed to screw it on finger-tight. No tighter than you can tighten it with your fingers. There are no other bolts or nuts that get treated like this.

You might think, what’s the harm if you screw it on too tight? The problem is in trying to get it back off later. There are actually “wrenchs” that you can use to get them off.

I recently bought a new car. Well, new to me. I recently changed the oil. That’s a pretty routine task. And if you learn to do it yourself, you can save yourself about $40 every 3000 miles.

My new car is a GMC Yukon. Its big V-8 engine takes 6 quarts of oil. Only 5 1/2 if you don’t change the filter. But, as I said, you should always change the filter.

And it was at that point that I ran into problems. The filter is really accessible. That’s a plus. Often they are hidden and tucked up under the engine. In fact, I had a friend that owned a Porche. To change the oil filter, you had to lift the engine. Two thousand dollars for an oil change.

But, my Yukon had the oil filter right down where it was easy to get to. I even had access to it without having to get my arm under the draining oil pan. It was perfect.

Access was easy. (Taken of the second filter)

Except it wouldn’t move. Not a bit.

I tried twisting it as hard as could. My fingers slipped off the indented metal surface.

Time to move up. I got my oil filter wrench. It’s a canvas strap around a metal pipe. You wrap the canvas strap around the oil filter and twist the pipe. It works well. Most times.

Not today. The harder I turned the wrench the more I ended up denting the filter. The wrench was not going to move the filter.

Time to up my game. . .again.

There is literally no use for a used oil filter. It’s a bad idea to throw them away. Instead you should take them to an auto parts store. They will recycle them. Oh, and take your oil there too. Don’t dump it out, or throw it in the garbage.

Anyway, knowing that I was never going to need the filter again, I decided I had additional options available to me. Basically, I could do whatever it took to get that filter off my Yukon. In fact, I now had to get it off the car since it was crumbled like an empty beer can.

A dagger through the heart finally killed it

The next step was a dagger through the heart. Seriously, I took a large metal punch and pounded it straight through the filter and used it as a built in handle to turn the filter.

And it worked. The filter came off.

Generally you don’t have to impale the filter to get it off.

That’s why it’s important to not overtighten your oil filter. And sometimes. . .it really is okay to use as much force as necessary.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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