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Hey Engine Man, What Is the Value of Cutting Up a Filter?

Successful Farming magazine’s Engine Man Ray Bohacz has engine grease and field dirt under his fingernails from a life spent repairing vehicles and running a farm. When he's not busy in the shop, he’s working on maintenance articles and videos for the magazine and answering questions from readers. The following is a letter the Engine Man received recently.

Question from Gaward Caveness:
I saw the Machinery Show television segment on RFD-TV where you demonstrated cutting the top off of an oil filter to examine the interior and the contents. Of what value is this procedure? If there are particles in the filter medium, you have no idea of the composition or where the particles came from. A better procedure on all equipment is to send a sample into an independent lab and receive its detailed lubricant analysis. The reports include wear metal types, contaminants, viscosity, total base number, and other data that can be kept for further reference in changes that might be occurring. Personally, I have used synthetic lubricants, bypass filters, and lab lubricant analysis since 1989 with great success on my farm equipment and vehicles. 

SF Engine Man: Filter Inspection

Response from the Engine Man:
When it comes to filter inspection, I respectfully challenge your thought about its value. As stated on the television segment, it is another tool much like a root pit shows something different than a soil test. The filter tool is a very quick and easy way to just take a look for something going wrong and is not meant to replace oil analysis.

Most farmers will not do oil analysis since it is burdensome to take a sample properly, package it up, and send it away. Then again, how many guys grow crops and never take a soil test, either? Way too many!

I, too, have used oil analysis for many years and find it of great value for every fluid. Two years ago, I did an article in Successful Farming magazine about the value of analysis, and there is an upcoming segment on the Machinery Show about this topic. 

I hope that I can make you a convert to internal filter inspection as an adjunct to your already excellent maintenance program.

Do you have a maintenance question? Email Ray Bohacz at

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