The oil that lubricates and cools your engine is forced through an oil filter to trap contaminants that can be harmful to engine components, causing premature wear and tear that could lead to costly repairs. When you have the oil changed inside your engine, it is customary to also have the oil filter replaced.
Many vehicles feature a spin-off canister-style oil filter. This type of filter is self-contained, something like a metal can with a filter inside that screws onto a flange on your engine. But many newer vehicles come with a cartridge-style filter instead. With this type of oil filter, a removable filter element is located inside a permanently-mounted cylindrical filter housing attached to the engine. The housing can be disassembled so that the filter element can be replaced.
This arrangement is similar to that of many residential water filters, where a plastic housing is opened up in order to swap out the filter element inside. But, in many cases, the procedures necessary to replace an engine’s oil filter housing are far more complex.
First of all, if your engine uses a canister-style oil filter, there is no housing to replace. If any of the following signs are evident in that case, they will point to a different problem. But if your engine relies on a cartridge-style oil filter, then these symptoms might indicate that the housing needs to be replaced.
Depending on the manufacturer, these filter housings can be made of varying amounts of aluminum and plastic. It is common for an engine to have a body made mostly of aluminum with a plastic container to hold the filter element. But some oil filter housings are composed primarily of plastic. In any case, the housing is mounted directly to the engine, often buried deep inside the engine compartment.
Other than physical damage to the housing from an impact or due to overtightening, the usual trouble with the component often stems from warpage. As your engine goes through heat cycles every time it runs, the plastic parts of the housing can warp and fail to seal against leakage. Therefore, signs of a bad oil filter housing include: