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Old 02-11-2005, 01:22 PM   #1
MikeQBF
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Arrow Comprehensive Oil Filter Survey

Honda's very recent change in E oil filter supplier from Filtech (Dana/Wix) to Honeywell (a/k/a Fram) caused me to ask, "OK, what in the heck is in that new blue can? Is it the same as the orange can? And what was in the old blue can?" Well, this snowballed into including a couple of selected aftermarket filters, and then, and then, and then... and by the time all was said and done, I'd cut apart 8 filters!

[BTW... this affliction runs in the family. My wife spent the evening - while I was away at a meeting - separating all the M&Ms from a 5-pound bag into their colors to prove to me that there are more browns than anything else. There aren't, but we were gypped on reds. ]

The subjects:
  • Honda 15400-PLM-A01, $4.88 from H&A Accessories
  • Honda 15400-PLM-A02, $5.95 from local dealer
  • Advance Auto "totalgrip" AA7317, $2.50
  • Purolator PureOne PL14610, $5 at Advance Auto
  • Fram Extra Guard PH7317, $5 at Advance Auto
  • Wix 51356, $6 at local parts supplier
  • Bosch Premium 3323, $7 at AutoZone
  • Mobil1 M1-110, $11 at AutoZone
  • Amsoil SDF13, $14 at local Parts-Plus franchise

Summary

Best: Honda 15400-PLM-A01, by a large margin. This is the "old" blue can.

Alternative: Wix 51356, but with more frequent changes.

Worst: A tie between Fram Extra Guard and Honda 15400-PLM-A02; Amsoil and Mobil1 get very bad marks for too-little filtering.

Surprise: Mobil1's and Amsoil's pathetic amount of actual filter.

Advice: Stock-up on 15400-PLM-A01 if you can!


Program Notes

I have to do this in installments. I will post the text first to get the info out, and will come back later to add pictures. Check for text edits, too, as I discover things that may need revision or clarification, or to add links, etc.

Also, I have no means to "test" these filters for flow rates, pressure drops, overpressure capacity, time-to-bypass, media efficiency, anti-drainback leakage... or anything else that simulates operating conditions. We'll have to leave that to the pros with the multi-million-dollar test labs, should anybody outside of the industry ever bother to publish results. :-|

Caution - Contains Major Bubble-Bursting!

The (in my estimation) worst filters relative to total filtering capacity were the two most expensive - Mobil1, at $11 and Amsoil, at a whopping $14 (is there gold inside?). These two respectively had 48% and 32% the filtering media of the Honda -A01 filter. For some reason these two brands have some manner of "Holy Grail" following, but I'm going to beg to differ - for the filters spec'ed by the makers for the E, you are paying 2-3X for less than half the filter. Nice work if you can get it.


15400-PLM-A01 ("Filtech") on left, 15400-PLM-A02 ("Honeywell") on right:
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Last edited by T Mac; 02-11-2005 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:24 PM   #2
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Definitions of Filter Terms

Anti-Drainback Valve. Flapper valve that keeps the oil from draining out when the engine is off to prevent oil-starvation "clatter" on startup. Made from either nitrile rubber or silicone. Silicone is considered to seal more consistently and has better resiliency over a wide temperature range.

Bypass Valve. Relief mechanism for when the filter becomes clogged, a normal function of use. Needs to be able to pass the entire oil flow without restriction, but shouldn't leak dirty oil if bypass isn't necessary.

Filter Area. The amount of filter surface available to do the job. More is better, less means that clogging (and therefore bypass) happens sooner.

Filter Medium. The paper or similar material which does the filtering.

Pleating. The folds in the paper which increase the available filter area.

Tension Spring. Pushes the guts of the filter against the base to keep everything sealed in spite of dimensional changes over the wide temperature extremes of engine operation. Coil springs are better than stamped springs.

End Caps. Covers the ends of the filter medium and keeps the pleats in place. Metal is usually considered better, cardboard (yes, cardboard) bad, but see comments about the Honda -A01 filter's unique design.

Base Gasket. The O-ring which seals the filter against the engine block.

Baseplate. The bottom of the filter facing the engine. Main features are nipple receptor (the threaded hole which screws onto the engine) and intake ports, which are the evenly-spaced holes around the base.


A disassembled filter is shown below, in order of disassembly. The base plate is the backside view (from inside the filter), and the bypass/tension assembly from this particular filter is shown upside-down for clarity.
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:25 PM   #3
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Honda 15400-PLM-A01 ("blue can" introduced in 2003)

Labeled "Filtech, Inc." It is made by Dana, which also makes Wix. Frankly, I was extremely impressed when I cracked the can. It has a very different filter media from the rest, which appears to be more of a synthetic weave than a treated paper. It had the most filter area of our sample set - by far - at 151 square inches, the result of deep pleating. Only negative I could find was metal-to-metal contact on the bypass valve, which risks undesired trickle of bypass. I have to mention the minor drawback of a stamped tension spring, but it's a really good one, made out of tempered spring steel and not just bent sheet metal.

This filter doesn't have traditional end caps. What it does have is a felt-like polyester material which seals the ends of the pleating enough to prevent bypass. The base gasket is special to Honda. It is a half-round design, with a flat surface against the baseplate but a curved surface against the block. Another unique feature is a semi-labyrinth seal between the anti-drainback valve and the filter core - best seal of the bunch.

This filter may be made by Filtech/Dana/Wix, but nothing about it resembles the off-the-shelf Wix. Consider it a completely custom design.

This is clearly the best filter of the lot by an immense margin. I sincerely hope that Honda is not planning on discontinuing this excellent design given the introduction of the next filter.

(Some of you might recall the "old old" Honda filter. It had a larger can and was made by Fram. It's been out of production since mid-2003 and I was unable to get a sample.)

Note: See "Definitions" for a picture of this filter's internal components.
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:27 PM   #4
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Honda 15400-PLM-A02 (newest "blue can")

Labeled "Honeywell", which is the new owner of Fram. This filter embodies nearly everything that is bad about a Fram filter - cardboard end caps, a stamped "outie" nipple receptor (harder to "aim" and easier to crossthread), filter material that looks cheap, and spacer instead of a tension spring. It just appears cheap in nearly every construction detail. Only positive was a silicone anti-drainback valve.

This filter has 106 sq. in. of filter area, which is about 15 more than its Fram sibling. Bypass valve is hard plastic. This filter also has the custom Honda baseplate gasket, half-round instead of a standard rectangular cross-section.

Not recommended. To limit your exposure, do not exceed 5K oil change intervals if your dealer gives you no choice but to install this filter.
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:28 PM   #5
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Advance Auto "totalgrip" AA7317

Made by Purolator, or the same OEM who makes Purolator. This is the same filter as the Purolator PureOne, except with a nitrile rubber anti-drainback valve, and adds a can coating of rubbery grip material. Best feature of this filter was the price: $2.50, half of the next least expensive. See PureOne comments for other details.

Conditionally recommended (see Purolator PureOne).
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:29 PM   #6
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Purolator PureOne PL14610

This represents "the middle of the road" of the sample group. Filter cartridge construction is good quality, with metal end caps. Filter area is 108 sq. in. Stamped tension spring.

Bypass valve is an area of major concern. It uses a stamped, fingered spring design that doesn't appear to open very far. My perception is that this filter could be a very risky bet with extended oil change intervals. Clogged filter media would exercise the bypass valve, but I perceive the valve to be too restrictive, and would starve the engine of lubrication at high RPM.

Conditionally recommended, and then only because it's tied for #2 in the survey for total filter area. Do not use this filter if you are following the 10,000 mile oil change schedule.
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:30 PM   #7
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Fram Extra Guard PH7317

The orange can.

Oh, where do I begin? Cardboard end caps, nitrile rubber anti-drainback valve, "outie" nipple receptor, 39 pleats (20% less than nearly every other filter), hard plastic bypass valve with little contact area (leak-prone), rubber-to-cardboard "seals", tensioner that's not a spring, just a spacer. In other words - and in my opinion - in every possible engineering decision between "a little better" and "cheap", the choice was "cheap". 91 square inches of filter surface.

I know that Fram has great marketing and that people still swear by the product. However, it did my heart good to cut this one apart, knowing that it will never live a single day of its life putting someone's engine at risk due to either internal collapse or constantly leaking dirty oil past the filter element.

Not recommended. Ever.

(PS - Keep an eye on this space. Fram's lawyers have harrassed previous reviewers attempting to get the word out; it seems that unless you hold a PhD in oil filter engineering and parse your words very carefully you are not permitted to comment on their product. So Tom, watch your mail. :wink: )
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:31 PM   #8
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Wix 51356

Wix is a division of Dana Automotive, a supplier of parts (of every description!) to the industry. This is a good filter. Well constructed, with metal end caps, coil tension spring, silicone anti-drainback - and a very unusual bypass valve design.

The bypass valve in the Wix lives at the base and not at the end of the can like all the rest. It is a very innovative design, which I presume is done this way so that a filter "in bypass" doesn't accidentally pull dirt out of the filter and put it back into the engine.

The cost of this creative design is less area available for the filter cartridge. As a result, the Wix has only 86 sq. in. of filter area, second to the bottom in our survey. So the nice bypass valve needs to be nice, because it will go into bypass sooner rather than later.

Recommended as a second choice, but stick religiously to 5K changes as your maximum interval.
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:32 PM   #9
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Bosch Premium 3323

This is a well-made filter using quality materials. Bypass valve is of excellent construction, with a rubber seal and coil-spring action with wide opening. Filter cartridge is of good construction, with metal end caps. Downsides of the Bosch are nitrile rubber anti-drainback valve and small filter area, 3rd from the bottom at 90 square inches. Tension spring is stamped metal; seems to be nicely "springy", but it could be better.

One area that got my attention was the extra-thick baseplate - roughly double the thickness of the others. Not quite sure what this accomplishes.

Recommended as a third choice, mindful of change intervals.
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Old 02-11-2005, 01:34 PM   #10
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Mobil1 M1-110

I'm going to burst some bubbles here, and I was honestly quite surprised: this is the same filter as the Bosch, but with 20% less filter area, at a miniscule 72 square inches - the worst on our list. Only other difference is a silicone anti-drainback valve. This filter is of quality construction, but at less than half the filtering capacity of the Honda -A01, there is simply no reason to bother with it.

Not recommended, especially for $11!
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