Replacing Car Filters – The Best Tools for the Task

Now that we’ve covered driving habits and the car filters available for your vehicle, let’s look at what goes into replacing a car filter. Specialty tools are a great investment because they make the job easier, which in turn makes it easier for you to keep up with critical maintenance.

Engine air filter tools

The engine air filter is located inside the air box, sometimes under a plastic cover. Secured by clips, latches, or screws, it may require different tools to replace.

  • Vacuum cleaner – The air filter’s job is to collect dust, so there will likely be plenty of dust and debris in the air box. Clean it up with a vacuum before installing the new engine air filter.
  • Screwdriver or nut driver – If the air box is secured by latches, you’ll be able to undo them using just your fingers. For air boxes secured by screws or bolts, you’ll need a screwdriver or nut driver to loosen them.
  • Clip remover – If the air box is hidden under a plastic cover, you may need a clip remover to lift it. Silicone spray will help you loosen the clips.

Cabin air filter tools

Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for instructions on how to replace the cabin air filter, which will be located under the hood, under the windshield cowling, behind the glove box, or behind the centre console.

  • Vacuum cleaner – Dust is a major problem here, but animal nests can be even worse. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove nests without making a mess.
  • HVAC duct treatment – To kill off micro-organisms and eliminate musty smells, spray Clean Air Duct Treatment into the A/C system, with the fan on high, before replacing the cabin air filter.
  • Screwdriver or nut driver – If the cabin air filter is secured by tabs or latches, you can undo them by hand. If it’s located behind the glove box, you may be able to access it without tools, but some cabin filters require a screwdriver or nut driver to replace.

Engine oil filter tools

Whether you have a canister or spin-on engine oil filter, having the right tools will make it easier to replace, plus protect the plastic filter housings.

  • Strap wrench – Strap wrenches require a certain amount of clearance and come in several sizes and configurations. Clean the oil filter first to prevent slipping.
  • Cap wrench – Oil filter cap wrenches are used with a ratchet or wrench. Choose the right oil filter cap wrench to prevent slipping. For example, this Evercraft oil filter cap wrench fits only 73 mm 14-flute filters. Cap wrenches are ideal for plastic filter housings.
  • Universal cap wrench – Universal wrenches with two or three claws can be used on engine oil filters of various sizes. Typically used with a ratchet and extension, they are the best choice for canister filters.
  • Ratchet and socket – If the engine oil filter and oil filter housing have a hex lug, simply choose a socket of the appropriate size.
  • Oil filter pliers – Recommended as a last resort, pliers concentrate their force into high pressure points. If the oil filter is especially tight, these may be the only option.

Make sure you have the right tools on hand, starting with your owner’s manual, which should have detailed instructions specific to your vehicle. Wear nitrile gloves to protect your hands, especially against used oil and the nastier stuff air filters capture, and safety glasses to keep dust, dirt, bugs, and oil out of your eyes. If it’s your first time doing a filter replacement, don’t be shy—ask a technician at your local NAPA AUTOPRO for advice.

It’s almost spring! Check out our blog for tips on getting your car ready for spring and summer.

By Benjamin Jerew

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