Cold Weather And Oil Changes - Here’s What You Need to Know

Did you know that when temperatures plunge your car needs extra attention to be able to give you the same level of service and performance you’ve come to expect? One of the best ‘cold remedies’ for your car during the winter months is an oil and filter change.

“Winter temperatures in most parts of the country place especially high demands on your engine's oil and oil filter,” said Kevin O'Dowd, Director Marketing & Communications at MANN+HUMMEL Purolator Filters NA LLC.

According to O'Dowd, the most obvious point to consider is your choice of motor oil. Oil that's too thin won't provide sufficient protection for your engine. Oil that's too thick will keep your engine from cranking or starting in cold weather when the thick, gooey oil in your engine challenges your battery and starter motor to spin the engine fast enough for it to fire. So be sure to check your owner's manual and choose oil viscosity accordingly.

“However, many people are surprised to learn winter weather puts extra demands on your oil filter as well,” notes O'Dowd, “and it's all related to temperatures and oil thickness.” At 20 degrees F, most engine oils have the thickness of maple syrup. So when your engine first starts up (assuming it does start up), your engine's oil pump forces cold, thick oil through all the large and small passages in your engine, including those in your oil filter. A number of factors will determine if the oil will find its way through the filter quickly enough to provide critical lubrication to your engine's bearings and other vital parts, while particulates are duly filtered out which, after all, is the primary role of the oil filter.

Since Purolator invented the very first automotive engine oil filter back in 1923, they have pioneered many innovations in oil filter technology, including developing the spin-on oil filter used today.  As a result, O'Dowd points to three specific design elements which are engineered into today's filters helping them perform properly in winter weather:

Structural Integrity: Engine oil pressure typically runs at about 60 psi (pounds per square inch) at highway speeds, O'Dowd said. However, on start-up in cold weather your engine may experience an initial surge of pressure that can reach as high as 100 psi under certain conditions. This kind of excessive oil pressure can compromise oil filters at their weakest point, which could manifest itself as a blown-out sealing ring, a split crimp, or even a burst canister. Any of these failures will result in an oil hemorrhage that, in short order, can cause catastrophic engine failure. Premium-quality oil filters like Purolator's PureOne design are engineered and tested to withstand virtually all real-world pressure spikes.

Internal Valving: Over the years Purolator engineers have developed a system of internal valving for their oil filters including a specially designed bypass valve that performs two functions. First, if the filter goes unchanged for an extended period of time, even the best filter can become completely blocked with debris. O'Dowd explains that, since unfiltered oil is better than no oil at all, Purolator's spring-loaded bypass valve allows unfiltered oil to flow to the engine's critical parts, providing at least some lubrication, albeit with dirty oil.

However, this bypass valve also comes into play momentarily during start-up in very cold weather, when overly thick oil, especially if it's too thick a grade, can exceed the ability of even the finest filtering media to allow oil to pass through. In such cases, the bypass valve will open briefly, allowing life-saving oil to pass until engine heat thins the oil enough to allow it to pass through the filtering media. Instead of a reliable coil spring, some oil filter manufacturers scrimp by substituting a flat piece of "spring" steel which may not return to its original shape after cycling. The result can be unfiltered oil for as long as the filter is in place, with potentially catastrophic results.

Filter Media:  The most critical part of any oil filter is the filtering media itself. The media must be engineered to strike a critical balance between filtering out the smallest possible particles while affording the least possible resistance to oil flow. According to O'Dowd, Purolator engineers have developed an exclusive filtering media which allows a PureOne filter to hold as much as 13 grams of debris, which is equivalent to 31 standard paper clips, while still providing minimal resistance to oil flow.

In fact, Purolator engineers have actually developed algorithms which dictate the exact size, shape, and number of pleats in the media to yield the maximum surface area of the media exposed to oil flow. So it's not only the composition of the media which is critical, but also its form.

So with winter weather upon us, take a few minutes to treat your car to a transfusion and new oil filter. It only takes a short time and a few dollars, but the life you are saving may be that of your engine.

MANN+HUMMEL Purolator Filters manufactures and supplies high quality automotive filters for the North American aftermarket. Inventor of the automotive oil filter in 1923, Purolator has, since then, pioneered more than 40 'firsts' in the filtration industry, including the “spin-on” oil filter in 1955. In fact, the first automotive oil filter was called a 'Purolator,' short for 'pure oil later.' Currently, the Purolator brand has more than 2,000 part numbers for automotive, light truck and heavy-duty applications.

  • PureONE and Purolator oil filters

  • PureONE and Purolator air filters

  • BreatheEASY cabin air filters

  • The 'forgotten filters,' including transmission filters, fuel filters, breathers and PCV valves. 

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