How to Remove a Stuck Oil Filter (3 Easy Methods)

Typically, an oil change is a quick and easy process, but that quick job can quickly turn into a project when you can’t get the oil filter off. But what leads to the oil filter getting stuck in the first place? And more importantly, how do you get it off once it is stuck?

We’ll break down three tried and true methods that are sure to get your filter off in no time – and give you some advice for installing your new oil filter, so you’re not right back here at your next oil change!

how to remove a stuck oil filter

See Also: How to Remove a Stripped Oil Drain Bolt

Why Won’t My Oil Filter Come Off?

There are two main reasons your oil filter might not be coming off.

  • First, if you don’t put a thin layer of new oil around the filter’s O-ring, it can stick when you’re going to remove it.
  • Second, if you install the oil filter too tight initially, it will further suction once you start the engine and be extremely difficult to remove.

oil filter

When installing the new oil filter, it should only be hand tight, don’t use a filter wrench or anything like that, or you’ll struggle to remove the old filter.

While there’s nothing you can do about this after the fact, when you do get the old filter off they’re important things to keep in mind to keep it from happening again!

Which Way Should an Oil Filter Unscrew?

direction to loosen oil filter

Before diving into these filter removal methods, you need to ensure you’re unscrewing the filter – not accidentally tightening it. To remove the oil filter, you need to turn it counterclockwise when looking up at the filter.

The saying “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” applies to almost any item with threads that allows tightening or loosening (as it does here).

The first clue you’re going the wrong way is if the filter moves but doesn’t start to get easier to unscrew – but instead gets tighter. Unfortunately, if you’ve been cranking on the filter the wrong way, it just might be stuck now.

You may think you would personally never turn it the wrong way but when you have to contort your body to get to a hard to reach filter, it’s not as easy as facing the filter straight on.

Are Oil Filters Reverse Threaded?

No, oil filters on cars are not reverse threaded. They are threaded in the same direction as other screws and bolts, which is clockwise to tighten and counterclockwise to loosen.

How to Remove a Stuck Oil Filter

Once you realize the oil filter won’t come off by hand, it’s time to move onto some of the other options you have available. Below we’ve highlighted the three best methods – and when you should use each one to remove a seized oil filter.

#1 – Use an Oil Filter Wrench – (Best Method)

use an oil filter wrench

Oil filter wrenches exist for a reason – they do a great job at removing old oil filters. These tools come in various sizes that can help if your oil filter is in a hard-to-reach place or you need a little extra power.

If you have a rubber gripper oil filter wrench and it keeps slipping off, you can always install a ring of sandpaper around the inside of the filter wrench to get a little extra grip – which leads us straight to our next option.

#2 – Unscrew with Sandpaper – (Cheap Method)

sandpaper oil filter

If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, one of the oldest tricks in the book is wrapping sandpaper around the filter. This trick is extremely useful because it works even if the filter is in a hard-to-reach place.

Not only that, but many people have sandpaper lying around already, and if you don’t it’s not very expensive.

The sandpaper grit grabs the filter and makes it easier to twist off. Even better, you can either do this trick by hand, or you can still use a filter wrench – giving you the best of both worlds!

#3 – Screwdriver and Hammer – (Last Resort)

stuck oil filter

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do the filter will start to crush before it twists off. When this happens, the only surefire way to get your filter off is to use a screwdriver and a hammer.

This isn’t always easy depending on the oil filter’s location, and keep in mind it’s going to make a mess, so keep an oil pan or two and a few PIG mats handy. Simply hammer a long flat head screwdriver directly through the old oil filter.

Once it’s completely through the oil filter, simply turn the screwdriver, and there should be enough force to pull off the old filter.

Drive the screwdriver though as high as possible on the old filter, as this reduces the risk of the old filter shearing off. If the filter does start to shear, stop what you’re doing and go back to using an oil filter wrench – and wrap it as high around the filter as possible.

If you still can’t get it off, you can shear the rest of the oil filter off before using vice grips and a hammer to work off the rest of the filter. But keep in mind that this won’t be easy either, so only shear off the bottom of the filter if you have no other choice.

See Also: Will Auto Parts Stores Recycle Your Old Oil and Filter?

Adam Mann


  1. Due to limited room and the wench initially spun,
    I placed a TEK screw through the cup wench into the filter,
    and still had to use a “cheater bar” to remove.

  2. All sounds great if you Can physically approach your filter.
    Coming under with proper size cup wrench is the best for me.
    No space for any other tool doe to surrounding space limitation.

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