Symptoms of a Clogged Oil Filter

It’s common knowledge that oil changes are a required service on our vehicles, as clean oil is essential for proper lubrication, cooling, and smooth operation of an engine. However, ensuring new oil goes into the engine is only half the battle, as keeping that oil clean and free of debris is just as important.

The component responsible for keeping your oil contaminant-free is the oil filter, which strains your oil, catching the dirt, debris, and metal shavings that could pose issues for your motor. For such a simple component, the oil filter plays a critical role in the maintenance of your vehicle and should be treated with such importance. 

Dirty oil filter cut open

What Causes a Clogged Oil Filter?

Like any filter in our vehicles, the oil filter sits passively collecting unwanted particles that could cause problems in the fluid. Over time, these filters accumulate contaminants and cause the oil flow to slow down considerably. 

While it’s good this sludge of debris is stuck in the filter rather than inside the engine, the decreased rate of oil flow can deprive the delicate engine components of much-needed lubrication.

In severe cases, this lack of oil and a high amount of friction will cause the motor to build up a dangerous excess of heat. Overheating may lead the metal to deform, warp, or crack, allowing oil and coolant to leak internally or externally and eventually destroy the engine. Even a small reduction in oil pressure can prevent engine components from getting proper lubrication.

Symptoms of Clogged Oil Filter

A blocked oil filter can show itself in some pretty nasty ways, including these common symptoms.


As we discussed above, overheating is not an issue you want to take lightly. It’s a quick ticket to irreparable engine damage if not addressed immediately.

If you notice your engine’s thermometer shows a high temperature, you should pull over the car immediately and have it towed to a shop for further diagnosis. Even driving your car the short distance to the repair shop could trigger complete engine failure, if not some other expensive damages. 

Your overheating may not be a result of your filter or even your oil, but you should never risk driving with an overheating power unit before taking it in for an inspection and repair. 

Low Oil Pressure Light

Since a clogged oil filter causes low oil pressure, you’ll likely have an oil pressure warning light pop up on your dash warning you of potential oil starvation. There are various other causes of low oil pressure, but this should always be treated with urgency to avoid the ugly results of running your engine dry. 

These lights most commonly appear as a red/orange outline of a dripping oil lamp, but this can vary by make and model. 

Oil pressure warning light on dash

Decreased Fuel Efficiency

As the friction inside the engine increases, it must do more work to use more fuel to produce the same amount of power and move the same distance. The extra resistance can have a drastic effect on the fuel economy of your vehicle. 

Decreased Performance

Similar to the reduced fuel economy, the increased resistance within the engine also has a negative impact on performance. A portion of the power that was once going to your crankshaft is now used up pushing past the extra friction of an under lubricated engine. 

Increased or Concerning Engine Noises

As the moving metal parts of your motor no longer have proper lubrication for smooth movement, much of the metal is now rubbing against itself and the imperfections of those components. It’s not uncommon to experience a metallic grinding or rubbing sound when an engine has been starved of oil and is a sign it’s nearing (or already has) severe damage.

When Should I Replace My Oil Filter?

With how important oil filters are to your vehicle, it’s fortunate that replacements are generally very inexpensive. Oil filters themselves can range anywhere between $10-$20 on most vehicles, and installation is quick and low-cost. 

When you receive an oil change at a repair shop, you’re most likely already receiving a new filter as well. These services are almost always done in conjunction with one another and ensure your new pristine oil stays that way rather than running through an already contaminated system. 

So next time you take your vehicle in for an oil change, just ask and make sure your filter is being replaced as well. A simple service like this could save you thousands down the line. 

Oil Services at Scott’s U-Save

Whether you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms or just need your routine oil change, the experts at Scott’s U-Save have extensive experience performing oil services on all makes and models!

We have three locations in Steger, New Lenox, and Schererville all equipped with the training and tools needed to carry out high-quality services. Give us a call or schedule online with our friendly team today!

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