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March 2002 Newsletter

    This month’s newsletter article is written by a dear friend and Christian Brother of mine, that I met over the Internet at the Yahoo e-group, Supercarbs.  John didn’t get a chance to finish the article as he intended because midway through the project he was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system, for which he underwent surgery and is now undergoing chemotherapy. 
John and his family could use your prayers and encouraging words.  In order to protect his privacy I will ask you to send him any words of encouragement and praise on this excellent article to me here at h2boost@adelphia.net for forwarding to John.  If you would like privacy in your emails to him, please send the message as a Word document attached to your email and I will pass on the email without opening the attachment.  On all emails to John through h2boost@adelphia.net please include “to John Wickerham” in the subject line.  I appreciate your words of encouragement and prayers for John and thank you in advance. 
I want to thank John publicly for the following excellent article.  I am sure that after John’s speedy recovery he will want, and I will grant, the opportunity to expound on the great work that he has begun with this article.  His original plans were to include some price comparisons and instructions for building your own by-pass oil filter with off the shelf components.  This will be especially valuable for those of you in South Africa and other remote places where these products are not available or are prohibitively expensive after duties and taxes.

Bypass Filtration
By John Wickerham

Note, all pictures of products in this article were included by permission of their respective owners.  The opinions expressed here are only those of the author.  No guarantees are made or implied as to the accuracy of the information presented.

Ever wonder why the oil in your engine turns black soon after you change it?  Ever wonder what causes “normal” wear and tear on your engine?  If these questions get your attention, then read on…

A few years back, I read about the Franz™ oil filter in a weekly newspaper column.  The author was actually making fun of the question that the reader had asked.  The reader asked about the infamous “toilet paper roll filter”.  You can imagine the jokes you could make about using toilet paper to filter your oil.

The “toilet paper filter” is not a myth.  In fact, the idea of this type of filter has been around for a very long time.  The industrial market has used this type of filter for decades to protect expensive machinery.  The technology behind these “super” filters that keep oil so clean is called “bypass filtration”, or “depth filtration”.  The idea is to take a small percentage of the full flow that goes through the engine (and the stock oil filter), and route it through a very dense filter media such as paper.  The dense media is able to filter out particles far smaller than a full flow filter can, since the fluid is traveling much more slowly, and the filtering media is much more dense.

Ok, that sounds good, but isn’t it just snake oil or an urban legend?

Well, that’s a good question.  But let’s look at this for a bit and see if the idea makes sense.

First, let’s look at what happens in a full flow filter in an engine.  The oil circulates at a high flow rate (several gallons per minute just at idle).  The filter must restrict that flow as little as possible, while trapping as much dirt on the first pass as it can.  In addition, as oil continues to circulate, the filter needs to hold more and more dirt that did not get trapped on the first pass.  These are two opposing goals – flow as much as possible, and trapping as much dirt as possible.

If you cut open a typical oil filter, you’ll see a pleated paper element perhaps 2 feet long and about 3-4 inches wide.  The best ones can trap dirt down to 20-40 microns in size.  But really, if you look at it, it just doesn’t look like it could hold very much.  And, your engine has tolerances much smaller than 20 microns, so the dirt that the filter can’t catch continues to wear at the engine surfaces.

Ok, if you pay much attention to how your oil looks when you pour it into your engine at an oil change, it looks pretty clean.  It’s kind of a light amber color.  But, within just a few hundred miles, it has darkened quite a bit.  In my own vehicle, it looks just plain dirty, and I still have 2500 miles to go before a 3000 mile oil change!

So, why does it turn dark?  I’ve asked that of quite a number of people of varying degrees of automotive and engineering knowledge.  Most agreed that the change in color comes from dirt.  Some say that it is a chemical reaction that occurs between the additives in the oil and the heat of the engine.  Some automotive mechanics will say that your oil is just doing its job – keeping the dirt in suspension within the oil.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have the dirt circulating in the oil all the time.  I’d rather the filter remove it so it wouldn’t wear out the parts in my engine.  That’s the whole idea behind bypass filtration.

Do dense media filters and/or bypass filters work?

Well, this article is not going to claim that all bypass filters work equally well, or tell you which one to buy.  I am going to say that the theory behind them is very sound, and share my experience with them up to this point.  Then, you can make your own decision.

You might want to consider what the industrial market uses for filtration.  You’ll find a great number of bypass filters in various types of industrial applications, protecting equipment that costs more than your car does.  Does this tell you anything?

Many of the manufacturers of bypass filters primarily serve the industrial markets – machine shops, chemical plants, heavy manufacturing, etc…  Their next marketing priority is the trucking industry.  If you can make your truck go longer between engine overhauls, you will make more money.  The last market segment that some of these filter makers serve is the general automotive market.

What’s out there?

While this list is by no means exhaustive, some of the companies I’ve run across while looking for bypass filters are below.  A number of these sites have excellent information on filtering technology that goes in more depth that what I’ve presented here.

Gulf Coast Oil Filters™ - www.bypassfilters.com
This is the first one I’ve tried.  I’ve been pleased with the quality of the hardware, and the support I received from the company.  I have more about my installation below.  Filter media is nearly free, as you simply go buy some commercial grade toilet paper.

Frantz™ Oil Filter – www.wefilterit.com
This is the first company I heard of that made a “toilet paper roll” filter.  They still make that type of filter as well as others.

Trasko-USA™ - http://www.trasko-usa.com/
Although they do not claim to make a true bypass filter, they make a dense media spin-on filter.  There’s more about these below.

Oil Guard Filters™ – www.oilguardfilters.com
They have some excellent content on their web site.  Looks like a high quality package at a reasonable price.

Amsoil™ – www.amsoil.com
You didn’t think we could talk anything about oil without mentioning Amsoil™ did you?  Amsoil™ has a very good reputation for high quality products that are better than anything you can buy anywhere else.   You pay for the quality, but you get what you pay for.

Installation and experience with my Gulf Coast Filter™

I purchased and installed this filter on my 1997 Ford Contour about 6 weeks ago.  I’ve been pleased with the quality of the unit, and the support I received from the gentleman who sold me the unit.

My biggest difficulty as you can see below, was finding a good location for the filter.  This is a problem with a lot of the bypass filters on small vehicles.  In the end, I found a spot I could live with at the front of the engine compartment.

Once the unit was installed, I fired up the engine and checked for leaks.  Everything looked ok, no oil drips I could see.  When I unscrewed the oil fill cap through which I had routed the return, I was surprised to see how much oil was going through the bypass filter.  I estimated about 1 qt per minute.  It turned out that this is about normal at idle, and normally leaves plenty of flow through the normal oil system.

After about 4 weeks of driving, I’d only gone about 400 miles.  I don’t drive that far to work, so it took a while to notice a difference in the appearance of the oil.  However, by the 4th week, the oil was definitely looking lighter in color than it was when I started.  Too bad I didn’t take pictures of that.  Visual inspection of oil does give you an idea of how clean it is, but to really get a good indication of what a filter is doing, you need to get an oil analysis done.  Kits can be purchased at various auto parts stores, or ordered online with some of the bypass filter manufacturers.

When installing a bypass filter (non-spin-on), you have to decide where you’re going to tap into your oil system for a pressure source.  Your normal choices will be the oil pressure sender unit, or your stock oil filter location.  It’s easiest to go for the pressure sender unit if it’s accessible.  You can go for the stock filter location by using either a relocation kit, or a sandwich adapter that fits underneath the stock filter.

You’ll also have to decide where you will return the oil back to the oil system.  Your best choice is the oil pan.  However, you could also utilize the oil fill cap in a pinch.  It’s probably not the best long term solution.  I chose the oil fill cap since my oil pan is cast aluminum, and I didn’t want to remove it in order to drill and tap a hole for the return.
Installation and Experience with the Trasko™ Filter

After proving to myself that bypass filtration works, I wanted something that would fit on my small car with less hassle.  I ran across Trasko™ filters at the suggestion of a friend.  These are spin-on replacements for your stock filter.  I ordered two of them, and immediately installed one on my Contour.  I moved the Gulf Coast Filter™ to my pickup which has loads of room under the hood.

As you can see with the pictures, the Trasko™ has a replaceable cartridge.  Essentially, the filter has two parts.  First, there are two very fine mesh filters which the oil must pass through.  Then, there’s the tissue paper filter.  To ensure both adequate flow to the engine, and a constant pressure gradient across the dense media section, there is a pressure regulator inside the housing.  This filter is essentially a full flow filter and partial flow filter combined into a single unit.

The Trasko™ filter has a much smaller media cartridge than the larger Gulf Coast Filter™.  However, it is rated at 5000-10000 miles by the manufacturer.  Filter elements are about $10 which includes shipping.  You get two filter media cartridges when you order the whole filter.  The nice thing about this filter in my case is that it made filter changes MUCH easier.  It was ” smaller in diameter and would be accessible through the wheel well.

When I changed my car over to the Trasko™, the oil was nice and clean since it had been getting super filtration with the Gulf Coast™ unit.  I wanted to put Mobile 1™ synthetic in my car, but I hated to waste the nice clean oil.  I opted to drain the clean oil from my car, and put it in my van, along with the other Trasko(tm) filter.  I then switched the car over to Mobil 1™ with another Trasko™ unit.

I’ve now been running the Trasko™ on Mobil 1 oil for about 200 miles.  That’s not really long enough to see how clean it will keep the oil, but so far it looks good.  I’ll know a lot more in a month or so.  My oil normally begins turning seriously dark in about 500-1000 miles after it starts picking up the dirt already in the engine.

There’s much more than can be said on the subject of bypass filtration.  In my opinion, they’re more than worthwhile.  They will save you money in the long run, as well as time spent in maintenance.  Don’t forget about an engine that could potentially last a lot longer with the lack of “normal” wear that you get even if you change your oil every 3000 miles.

A last note about synthetic oil - there’s no doubt that synthetic oil is better for your engine.  It flows easier at lower temperatures, resists breakdown at higher temperatures, and does a better job at lubrication.  However without a filter that can keep it clean, in my opinion, it is just a waste of money.  Now that I have a filter that will keep it clean, I’ll be using synthetic oil in my vehicles.  That’s another plus for bypass filtration.

If you’re interested in more detailed information, visit the web sites for Oil Guard™, Trasko™, Gulf Coast™ and Amsoil™.  You’ll find more than you ever wanted to know about the subject.  One other topic I would like to address in the future is that of building your own bypass filter.  It’s hard to beat the price these units when you compare your time and materials, but I think it would be worth looking into even so.

More information

    For more information on by-pass oil filtration and 25,000 mile oil change intervals and true engine protection visit www.hydrogen-boost.com/tech-info.html and click on the link entitles Exposing the Myth of the 3,000 Mile Oil Change toward the bottom of the page.

Contributing Authors

    If you would like to contribute to our Hydrogen-Boost Newsletter with information or a complete article, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Encourage John Now

    Please don’t forget to send John some encouraging words during this time of great trial for him and his family.  Send to h2boost@adelphia.net with “to John Wickerham” in the subject line.

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