Changing your oil is one of the most common DIY projects performed by backyard mechanics. This comes as no surprise considering the ease of the procedure and the fact that every diesel and gasoline combustion engine on the planet requires this maintenance from time to time. Most of the steps are simple even if you haven’t performed an oil change before. Shimmying under the car on a mechanics creeper to undo the oil pan bolt, positioning the oil drain pan, unscrewing the oil cap and adding oil, and checking the oil level on the dipstick are all pretty intuitive. However, there is one step that can occasionally cause some minor headaches, and that step is removal of the oil filter.
Why is removing the oil filter challenging from time to time? Without diving too deeply into the physics, the reason that a filter tends to seem “stuck” and difficult to turn is due to constant heat cycling (warming and cooling) of your engine as you drive it and turn it off. That said, sometimes you can twist it off by hand if you have strong grip strength, but other times it just won’t budge and a tool is helpful.
If you need help removing a stuck oil filter, the best tool for the job is an oil filter wrench. The best oil filter wrenches will give you the mechanical advantage necessary to help you remove pretty much any screw on oil filter (also sometimes referred to as a spin on oil filter). Below are our recommendations for our favorite oil filter wrenches.
Note: Before making a decision on which oil filter wrench you need, spend a couple minutes to locate the oil filter in your car and determine whether it may need a special tool and how much room is available around the filter. These will both come into play when deciding on an appropriate oil filter wrench. Some cars require special tools. As an example, modern BMW’s and MINI Coopers have an enclosed oil filter and require a very large socket to remove the top of the housing. That said, most cars have regular old screw on oil filters and the wrenches below will work out great. Just have a quick look to make sure!
The Best Oil Filter Wrenches
Sometimes it can be hard to pick the best oil filter removal tool for your exact car. For this reason, we have broken down the three main types: jaw type (sometimes called claw or coil type), strap type, and oil filter pliers to help you choose. We have also reviewed our favorite example of each to point you in the right direction.
Lisle 63600 Oil Filter Tool
The Lisle 63600 Oil Filter Tool is a great example of a jaw type oil filter. This tool adapts to a normal socket wrench and fits around your oil filter. As you move your wrench to loosen the filter, this action causes the jaws clamp down on the outside of the filter. The harder you turn your wrench, the tighter the jaws grip the filter.
The Lisle tool has excellent quality. It is made of sturdy steel and should pretty much last a lifetime. It will fit most imported cars (Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda) with the commonly used 2.5″ diameter filter and will also fit many domestic cars (Chevy, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, GM, Cadillac) that sometimes use larger 3″ diameter filters.
This filter wrench doesn’t require a ton of space to operate and for that reason tends to be a favorite among most people. From a value standpoint, this filter wrench is very inexpensive, so it’s hard to go wrong. If you have a good socket set, we’d recommend getting a jaw type filter removal tool in most cases.
Tekton 5866 12 Inch Oil Filter Pliers
Another convenient way to go is with a good set of oil filter pliers. Tekton’s 5866 12″ pliers are our favorite around. Tekton has gotten great reviews from us before on a myriad of other tools, so it comes as no surprise that their oil filter pliers do the job admirably.
These pliers are definitely no frills but high value compared to other sets out there. Competitive products can easily cost two and sometimes even three times as much for the most expensive ones. That said, these have a pretty simple dipped rubber grip that will prevent them from slipping in your hands and the handle has a little bit of contour for comfort and clearance. They also have aggressive teeth on the jaws which allow you to really dig into the filter as your remove it (since you are just throwing the filter away it’s ok if you damage it…and these WILL damage the filter!).
The Tekton oil filter pliers will grab a filter up to 4.5″ in diameter, which is more than enough for any passenger vehicle and will also work on many military vehicles, trucks, boats, tractors or other farm equipment, or any other vehicle with a huge motor under the hood. If for some reason you find yourself in a position where you need to remove a filter larger than 4.5″ in diameter (and why you would we can’t imagine…), Tekton also makes a longer 16″ version of these pliers that will handle filters up to 5.5″. Overall they are an outstanding value for the money and will serve you sell.
Tekton 5868 3-3/4 Inch Flex Oil Filter Wrench
The Tekton 5868 is what most people think of when they think of an oil filter wrench. It is essentially comprised of a steel strap with a lever (that doubles as the handle) that allows you to tighten the strap around the filter when flipped. These are found in pretty much every automotive shop around the country and are by far the most common filter wrenches available. While we slightly prefer the other two styles because these can be a little less intuitive, people have been removing filters with these for decades so there is no question that they work.
Tekton’s strap type oil filter wrench is very similar in build quality to the pliers reviewed above. It has a dipped rubber non slip grip covering the handle which works well even with oily hands. Additionally, the handle has some articulation in it so you can maneuver it in tight spaces. Many strap style oil filter wrenches don’t have this luxury and can be tough to position so for this we give a big thumbs up to Tekton. This wrench will cover filters from 3 1/4″ to 3 3/4″ in diameter.
As far as value, you get a pretty nice tool for cheap. This wrench is slightly cheaper than the above two tools that we reviewed, but overall it is similar in quality. If you prefer using a strap type oil wrench we can’t recommend the Tekton enough.
Hopefully these reviews have answered some of the questions you may have had about oil filter wrenches. After trying to unscrew a filter by hand just once, you’ll realize that for the minimal cost of entry and the time saved, having the best oil filter wrench ready in your tool box is well worth it. That said, there are lots of options out there so if these wrenches don’t align with your needs, have a look at some other oil filter wrenches available by clicking here. Happy wrenching!