Oil Filter Cutters: Racing’s can openers can help you discover hidden engine issues

Story and Photos by Wayne Scraba & Summit Racing

Cutting open a used engine oil filter allows you to literally dig into the actual filter element to see what’s going on inside your engine. If you cut open a filter and you see nothing, then the engine is happy. But if you discover what looks like trapped bearing material or other metallic bits inside the filter pleats, you know it’s time to do some further investigating to see if something is ailing your motor.

You can use a hacksaw or other tool to cut open a filter, but a dedicated cutting tool makes a much cleaner job of it. They’re not expensive and are easy to use. Many cutters index off the center post of the filter. Just tighten down the adjustment knob enough to avoid denting the filter can, then spin the tool around the filter, adjusting the tension every complete turn or so as the blade cuts through the body. Before long, the filter baseplate is freed from the can and you can examine the internals.

As you can see, the task is easy enough, and there is no shortage of filter cutters to choose from. Summit Racing alone offers 11 types, including these:

– The Summit Racing Filter Cutter is made from billet aluminium and has a threaded steel shaft. It uses a cutting wheel along with a pair of opposing ball bearings that rotate the filter as it is cut. The tool can handle oil filters up to 5 ½ inches in diameter.

– The Allstar Performance Filter Cutter is designed to remove the outer shell of the filter. You adjust the tool by moving the threaded steel shaft that is coupled to a centering pin.  Once tightened in place, rotate the tool to cut the filter can.

– Kluhsman Racing Components calls its filter cutter an Oil Filter Inspection Tool, which is accurate enough. It indexes off the filter’s center post; tighten the end knob to secure and spin the tool around the filter until the can is sliced.

– The JOES Racing Products Filter Cutter works similarly to the Kluhsman and Allstar tools.  What makes it different is the removable center adapter bushing designed to work on filters with a large center post.  The cutter also has a round knob in the middle that you can use to steady it as you rotate it around the filter cannister. The main body of the tool is anodized billet aluminum while the threaded center adjustment shaft is steel.

Check out the photos below to learn more about racing’s ‘can openers.’

Once you slice open an oil filter, you can easily examine the internals for evidence of possible engine carnage. Finding metallic particles can be a sign of bad juju going on inside the engine.
Here’s how a cutter—in this case, one from JOES Racing Products—mounts to the oil filter cannister. They’re designed to cut the baseplate from the filter cannister without destroying the filter element. That’s not so easy to do with a hacksaw.
Summit Racing’s own oil filter cutting tool uses two bearings on the outer edges to help rotate the cutter around the filter. The cutter is adjusted using the outside handle.
The Allstar Performance tool indexes off the center post in the filter. Once the adjuster is tightened to suit the OD of the filter can, you simply spin it around to remove the baseplate.
Kluhsman Racing Components calls its filter cutter an oil inspection tool. It also indexes off the filter’s center post; tighten the end knob to secure and spin the tool around the filter until the can is sliced.
This is the Joe’s Pro Racing tool shown previously. It comes with two different center index pin setups; one is for filters with larger center posts. It does a great job of quickly opening filter cans.