At first glance, it appears to be pretty simple to install a new oil or fuel filter on your heavy-duty vehicle: Just line up the threads and give it a spin. This mindset, however, can be dangerous to the vehicle’s operation and overall health.
The first thing to keep in mind when installing a new filter is that there are torque specs for every component on a vehicle. If the instructions for installing a new filter say it must be tightened to three-quarters of a turn after gasket contact, then tighten it to three-quarters of a turn after gasket contact, no more, no less.
Of course, there are other things to keep in mind in addition to this basic installation principle. All oil filters feature a gasket at the open end of the filter, which acts like a seal and a lock-washer after installation. Depending on the size of the filter, the gasket will be either flat (usually on smaller filters), or bevel-cut (on some larger filters).
The reason some larger filters feature a bevel-cut gasket is that the bevel-cut reduces the amount of installation torque that is required to meet the installation parameters. Since large-diameter filters have a larger amount of gasket surface area, it is harder to compress the filter gasket adequately for full structural performance. Some filters may also feature an internally lubricated gasket, which can reduce the torque required to get the proper number of turns.
But no matter the ease with which an oil filter can be installed, the installer must remember to follow the installation instructions. Whether it says to turn the filter three-quarters, one-half or one-quarter of a turn, it is imperative that those instructions be followed. Those turn values are not just pulled out of thin air; they are the optimum gasket compression for that filter.
A simple way to guarantee that the filter is being installed with the proper turn value is to screw it on until the gasket contacts the head, mark that spot with a marker, then keep turning the filter until it goes around the recommended distance.
In the end, a properly installed oil filter, especially those that are used on heavy-duty vehicles in demanding on-/off-road applications, will not only keep the oil flowing, but will keep the filter from leaking, shaking loose or backing off. Observing the recommended installation instructions will also help ensure that the oil filter will perform reliably throughout the length of its change interval.
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