K&N Q&A – Bert Heck Answers Our Questions About Oil Filters

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Tundra oil filter 5.7 4.6

Is the OEM filter for the Tundra the best option? How can someone know?

At TundraHeadquarters.com we field a lot of questions – both in the comments section and via email – about oil filters.  We decided to collect the most often-repeated inquiries together and talk to someone who knows the business inside and out to get some answers.  That someone is Bert Heck, Performance Kit Manager at K&N Filters who took the time to provide us with his perspective regarding the intricacies of oil filtration.

Filter Flow Rate vs. Filtration Ability

The very first question we asked Bert had to do with the perennial debate concerning flow rate versus filtration.  Simply put, is it better to have a high flowing filter that runs the risk of not catching as much particulate matter as possible, or does an engine benefit from a more rigorous filtration system that doesn’t flow quite as well?

Heck’s response spoke from K&N’s experience in the high performance oil filter world, and he referenced the company’s decision to focus on efficiency – i.e., filtration ability – over pure flow numbers.  Although extreme high flow filters might be necessary in motorsports applications such as Top Fuel dragsters with very tight tolerances, in real world applications it’s more important to install a filter that will actually keep engine oil clean rather than sacrifice filtration capability for a little extra flow.  The key is to balance filtration with flow instead of leaning too far in either direction.

Bypass Valves

While still on the topic of filtration, we asked Bert about the frequency with which a filter’s bypass valve is activated during normal driving.  He told us that the single worst operating environment for a filter is a cold engine start at low temperatures, when engine oil is simply too thick to flow through the filter element.  This is when most bypass valve use occurs.  Otherwise, the valve simply acts as a safety device that prevents oil starvation should a filter become clogged for any reason, which is a rare occurrence when regular service intervals are respected.

What’s Inside Your Filter?

Cutaway look at a K&N oil filter.

Moving on to the subject of oil filter construction, we were curious as to whether spiraling the metal tube that serves as the center support of the filter actually improves oil flow or if it was done merely for aesthetic reasons.  Bert replied that the strength of the filter depends on this component, but that K&N engineers are always looking for ways to squeeze more holes onto its surface in order to maximize oil flow without compromising the filter’s ability to resist pressure collapse.  We also asked Bert whether K&N made use of their own special filter media, or if they sourced it from a general supplier.  Heck told us that K&N in fact did not manufacture their own media but had it produced for them to a proprietary spec by a third party.

Home Oil Filter Testing

Our final question for Bert had to do with home testing of individual oil filters.  Specifically, is it possible for the average Tundra owner to determine whether one brand of oil filter is outperforming another without having to involve an independent oil analysis lab?  Heck told us that unfortunately, the processes used to analyze oil weren’t possible to duplicate outside of a laboratory environment, and so truck owners interested in finding out more about their filter’s efficiency would most likely have to engage one of the many services that operate in this particular field.

Home oil filter examination

What can you learn from home oil filter examination? This image comes from a Tundra oil filter comparison created by Olathe Toyota Parts Center – is it any good? Click the image for the original comparo.

He did say, however, that it is possible to visually inspect the interior of an oil filter – after cutting it open – in order to verify that it has maintained structural integrity over the course of its life cycle.  Specifically, filter elements that appear swollen or broken down indicate poor quality and a risk of engine damage due to reduced filtration capability.

We’d like to thank Bert Heck at K&N Filters for taking the time to answer our questions about oil filters.

Have you ever done your own oil filter test? What have you found?

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  1. LJC says:

    Quick post:
    1) The Tundra has a built in oil-bypass value, so one will not be found in the oil filter for a Tundra
    2) K&N Filter media produced by a third party? Hmm, so it’s likely they’re using the same material as someone else
    3) An oil analysis will let you know how well a particular oil filter is working, that is filtering–oil analysis would an informative article 🙂

    At my next oil change, I’ll try a different filter, but keep the oil brand and weight the same. Thereafter, I’ll compare the results of an oil analysis.

  2. LJC says:

    Oh, one more thing: another useful and informative article 🙂

    This site is on it’s way to exceeding PUTC in quality and usefulness!

  3. mk says:

    did you ask the K&N rep if they mfg. the hi-flo oil filters as well I have been using in 303 number (KN303 vs. 303 same number as high flo)on the oil filter. I compared apples to apples and besides the nut on the outside for easier use, I think the internals are the same, correct or not? K&N is 13 or so vs. Hi-flo oil filters about 1/2 of that. A lot of dough extra to pay for the nut on the outside if they are mfgd. the same?

  4. Mickey says:

    I don’t use K&N filters but it was very imformative from Bert’s analysis. I been using Fram since I was a teenager. 40 years ago. I know they have other better products out there. Competitive pricing helps keep it inline. I never had an engine failure from a fram filter but did once have a stick go through one and all the oil leaked out causing a rebuild job. It was caused by the vehicle in front hitting a small piece of wood which was tossing till I got there and it bounced up through the filter.

  5. mk says:

    Widely known Fram oil filters are regularly at the bottom of the quality stats, but if they work fine for you Mickey, go for it. I think more and more oil filters are being made by like 3-4 ONLY mfgs. nowadays and all the aftermarket distributors just slap their own logo on them is all. I know AC Delco oil filters use to be at the top of the quality list for GM vehicles but have since found out another company is making them and have far less quality than in years past.

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