Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

"brand" name oil filters

Background: My wife just read Car talk in the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal about a dealer insisting that “brand” name batteries (i.e., “GM”) are required (and better) than a “generic” brand (i.e DieHard).

Well, I have a similar question. We recently purchased a 2007 Corolla, and the dealer said it’s OK to have the oil changed somewhere else, but we should purchase a filter from them prior to having the job done.

Is there really a difference? My inclination is to say “no”; however, I don’t want to void the remainder of the manufacturer’s warranty just by being cheap. What about after the warranty period?

You will not void the manufacturer’s warranty. The only way the manufacturer can legally require you to use a specific filter is if they do the required oil changes free of charge. Some manufacturer’s do this.

I’ve owned cars for over 40 years and have always used generic discount store filters. I’ve yet to wear an engine out. I’ve also never heard of an engine being damaged due to an aftermarket filter being used…with the exception of a very rare defective filter, which could happen with any brand. When you make many millions of something, one or two is bound to be imperfect.

GM doesn’t make their own filters. No car manufacturer does. They buy them from the same manufacturer you can buy them from and have them “branded” with the GM brand. If you’d like to sleep better you can buy from a parts store and ask for a OEM replacement filter. They may have a listing of what filter manufacturers sell to GM as well as what that manurfacturer’s part number is for the one they sell to GM for your specific vehicle. I confess that while I often do this for other parts such as plugs, I’ve never done so for oil filters, so I’m unsure if my suggestion will turn out to be productive.

Purchasing ANY oil filter that meets Toyota specs satisfies your warranty requirements. Neither Toyota nor your dealer can require Toyota maintenance products, so long as the product you use meets the manufacturer’s specs. Consequently, Wix, Fram, Purolator, Champion, etc all meet Toyota specs and can be used. I am a large aftermarket product user, and I have found literally no difference in oil filters.

There are only four or five battery makers in the US, so the GM battery being better than one purchased at Walmart or Sears is bogus. Check out Consumer Reports to identify a quality performing battery for your particular vehicle. There is a difference in battery quality by brand across the battery group sizes, but brand name doesn’t tell the whole story.

As long as the aftermarket part meets the car manufacturer’s specifications, they can be used without worry or voiding the car warranty. The car makers CANNOT require you to purchase parts from them to maintain the warranty. Such a “Tie-In Sales” provision is forbidden by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

The warranty cannot be voided by the use of an aftermarket filter. There is one exception to this and it’s unlikely that you will ever run into it.

That exception is if one runs into a “bootleg” filter of inferior quality. Sometimes importers may bring a batch of extremely cheap filters in and market these in plain boxes. Some quick lube facilities may use non-branded filters (generally in plain white or yellow boxes) and the majority of these are good, branded or not.
However, there can be a few out there in which the element may start to disentegrate if left in place too long. This could lead to possibly plugging an oil passage followed by a destroyed engine.

This is actually something you should not even worrry about; just pointing out a rare scenario.

As long as you purchase a branded filter, even an inexpensive STP or Wal Mart branded one, you will not suffer any problems nor lose any warranty coverage.
Also keep in mind that Toyota is just like other car companies and do not produce their own oil filters anyway. They simply farm it out and have their name stamped on it along with a correspondingly higher price.

The dealer is saying that for one reason and one reason ONLY…so you only buy from them…PERIOD.

As others have pointed out…NO auto manufacturer makes their own filters. Fram, Purolator, Denso and Wix make many of the OEM filters. The dealer can NOT void your warranty if you don’t use their filters. If they ever tell you that…ask them where you can get your FREE filter…it’s the LAW.

I wait for my Toyota dealership to have a sale on filters and stock up (3.95 each)…considering the small price between them and other brands I find it easier to buy at the dealership ( always in stock) and so I don’t have to figure out which one fits my RAV.

The dealer just wants your money. It will have no effect on the warranty.

There are differences in the quality of oil filters and the dealer supplied filters are usually high quality. The real point is even the cheap filters from the discount store are good enough for what they do. There is some guy who has lots of time on his hands and has taken to cutting filters apart and comparing them. He measures the filter media and looks at parts and declares that brand X is best because it has more square inches of filtering media and the valve looks more substantial, and that the valve in the cheap one looks like cardboard. What he has not done is any life cycle test or any test to prove that there is any difference in results or if there is a measurable difference does it make any measurable difference in the life of the car. It is all about his assumptions based on facts not just facts.

In real life, the difference is likely to allow you to get 300,010 miles with the best filters and only 300,000 with the cheap ones.

that’s why i affectionately refer to them as: “stealerships”

I only use AC filters on my GM cars (about $5) and will only use Honda filters on the Acura. On a car that new, I can’t see getting bent out of shape on the extra price of a factory filter. Just the way I do it.

Personally, I use OEM filters on my cars (either from the dealer or on-line suppliers). The parts store stuff may be “good enough” but they are all very cheap, so why bother trying to save $5 on a $15 part?

Something to keep in mind is that the car owner generally converses with a service manager/writer at the dealer and the vast majority of these guys have little mechanical aptitude or none at all.
Many of them actually believe what they relate to the customer and while they may be misguided and dead wrong they may not be doing it in a purposeful manner with intent to defraud.
It’s simply lack of knowledge and the tech in the shop will often disagree with the white shirt guys up front.

Heck, I used to do service work on the personal cars of the service manager of the local GMC/Jeep and formerly Oldsmobile dealer here. He was clueless, could not even change his own oil, and trusted me more than the guys who worked for him as sad as that is.

All of his problems and customer problems were self-generated; he would just pretty much hire only young guys out of trade school. Combine that with his service writer requirements (seriously) “No mechanical experience necessary; must be PC proficient and have 2 years of college”.
And one wonders why the customer hears a lot of utter BS at the service desk. :frowning:

Who do you think makes the OEM filters. Wix, Fram, Purolator, Denso…are the LARGEST suppliers of OEM filters. Your OEM filter is no better then the filters you can buy at any autoparts store…or even Wallmart.

I’ve been buying Toyota filters for a while now…ONLY BECAUSE…the dealer sells me the filters at $3 if I buy a case.

I used to use Toyota branded filters in my Toyota (20 yrs ago) because they had a check valve in them that kept the oil from draining back (for a while) which gave me oil pressure a split second sooner on startup. The extra cost of the dealer filter was insignificant to total cost of ownership. I drove that car for 275k miles and never opened it up except to adjust the valves twice. It ran perfectly when I sold it.

Now, with just a little research, I find out who makes the factory filters for my cars and I buy that brand on the internet from a trusted vendor. I have seen some fishy looking oil filters that had major brand names on them.

I used to use Toyota branded filters in my Toyota (20 yrs ago) because they had a check valve in them that kept the oil from draining back (for a while) which gave me oil pressure a split second sooner on startup.

And what aftermarket filter DIDN’T have the check valve. Every filter I’ve used on a car that needed a check valve…had one. Fram…Purolator, Wix…STP…You name it…they ALL had it.

I drove that car for 275k miles and never opened it up except to adjust the valves twice. It ran perfectly when I sold it.

And I’ve had 4 vehicles that went well past 250k miles…two over 300k miles…ALL USING FRAM OR PUROLATOR FILTERS…and never ever had a problem with those engines…Not one ever burned a drop of oil. All still running well when sold or traded in.

If an oil filter ever did anything but keep the big chunks out of the engine, it might be important to make a choice of some kind. I have used the bottom of the line quite a few times with no regrets. I do draw the line somewhere. I used the cheaper line of filters from a NAPA store and saved about $1.50 or $2.00 as opposed to their gooder ones. If it screws onto the outside of the engine, maybe it’s just there for looks. I wondered why they’re usually painted.

Mike, we have been through all of this before. I think OEM filters are different from other brands because I have seen their insides and can tell the construction is different. Just because they are all made by the same group of companies doesn’t mean they are made to the same specifications and doesn’t mean they are all the same. The filters sold by Honda look like high performance oil filters on the inside. Fram and Purolator filters look cheaply made. I agree with you that this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t work as well. One would have to speculate to say a nicer looking oil filter is better. By the same standard, you are speculating when you say an OEM filter is no better. I don’t thank you really know that for a fact either.

I think the true answer to this debate is that nobody here knows which oil filter is better. Some choose the cheap filters to save money and some choose the more expensive ones thinking they get what they pay for. Both approaches are valid. Do the cardboard end caps in the Fram filter cause less effective filtering than the filters that are capped in medal? Probably not. Do the strings wrapped around the filter element in Purolator filters hurt anything? Probably not. It does make them both look cheaply made though, so they are not all the same.

Have you looked at the high-end filters by Fram, Purolator or Wix?? I have…And compared to OEM filter it’s pretty much impossible to tell the difference.

Now manufacturers are trying to become GREEN. My wifes new Lexus uses a canister filter. All you replaces is the paper element. The case is part of the engine. You unscrew it and pull out the paper filter.

My OEM filters are made by Hengst or Mann; they are not normally available for the McParts places, but I can get them a little cheaper on-line from worldpac if I pay shipping or buy enough stuff to get free shipping. It’s usually easiest to go to the dealer or my local independent who usually has them in stock if I’m in a hurry.