What causes black, brittle and broken filter media?

Occasionally an oil filter element, removed from its housing during servicing, may show visible damage to the pleated filter media.

At first glance, the affected filter may be considered to be defective, as often the pleats can be broken (as illustrated below, left), or may be ‘brittle’ and disintegrate as a result of slight finger pressure when attempting to remove the element.

This abnormal condition is known as media embrittlement.

The root cause
Due to severe operating conditions – such as those experienced by short distance or stop/start driving, delivery vehicles, Mom’s taxis and driving schools – the engine lubricant can become extremely acidic and may attack the protective resin impregnation of the filter media, leaving the media strands open to degradation by acids and chemicals in the oil. This turns them black and brittle.

Related causes
Unsuitable, poor quality or aggressive oil – A depleted TBN (Total Base Number) lubricant is unable to neutralise acidity.

Underservicing of oil and filter – This is commensurate with severe operating conditions.

Non-OE or inferior quality filter A sub-standard filter media is unable to cope with OE standard or extended service intervals.

The solution
1. Maintain oil and filter service intervals as per the vehicle’s operating conditions.

2. Install the correct lubricant grade for the vehicle application.

3. Install a Genuine OE quality oil filter from a trusted supplier, such as MANN-FILTER.

Oil filters – Why choose premium quality?
Filter media – Engineered and impregnated with special resins that defend against oil acidity and aggressive conditions.

Efficiency – Meets the OE specification for optimum contaminant retention.

Service life – Efficient protection of engine components during the entire OE recommended service interval.

Seals – Specifically matched to each application and operating conditions and durable for filter service life.

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