Fleetguard Invents Plastic-Canister Filter

By Tom Berg, Truck Editor | September 28, 2010

A molded-in pocket accepts the square ½-inch-drive of a ratchet wrench or drive extension to loosen the filter. But the polymer filter can only be hand-tightened. Many versions of oil and fuel filters are planned.

Anyone who's ever changed an oil or fuel filter will appreciate Fleetguard's new "user-friendly" design the first time he or she picks it up. Unlike the metal-canister filters it will replace, the new polymer plastic product almost nestles in one's hand because of slip-resistant surfaces near its base. It feels secure and should be easy to grasp while spinning it on the engine's spud.

We haven't done that yet because Fleetguard has just put its plastic-canister filter into production. The company says it's the first such filter on the market, but it may well start a trend away from ubiquitous metal-canister filters of all kinds.

The plastic canister design has no snappy marketing name, and will be known only by new part numbers when it begins showing up in the supply pipeline. Only the canister will change — the same filter media as in current Fleetguard filters, based on application, are inside the new canisters.

The first ones made will be oil and fuel filters for Cummins 5.9-, 8.3- and 8.8-liter diesels, which are the biggest-volume automotive and industrial models built by Fleetguard's parent company. Soon there'll be versions for other Cummins and many competitor diesels, as well as for private-label distributors.

Current filters in the FF, FS, LF and MK series will be replaced by new numbers with the same letter prefixes. These will be for applications on Case, Ford, GMC, International, Komatsu, KHD, Volvo and other engines. Fleetguard might eventually make the filters for hydraulic systems, but that has not been determined yet, a spokesperson said.

As the new filters enter the market, and especially after they have been in service long enough to be pulled off, mechanics accustomed to dealing with metal-canisters will immediately notice the new filter's other attributes:

  • Polymer threads at the filter's top screw easily onto the engine's metal spud, but cannot hurt the spud if the mechanic cross-threads it. Cross threading ruins only the filter, not the spud, which is troublesome and time-consuming to replace.
  • A one-way socket indentation molded into the bottom allows the filter to be removed with a bare ½-inch-drive ratchet wrench or a ½-inch-drive extension. But that wrench can't tighten the filter; it can only be hand-tightened, which avoids overtorquing.
  • A flat bottom lets the filter stand on any level surface topside up, keeping it clean until it's ready to be installed and, after removal, keeping dirty oil inside until the mechanic is ready to dump it. The flat-bottom feature is easily molded into plastic, but cannot be stamped onto the bottom of a metal-canister filter because it needs curved edges to withstand high oil pressures.
  • Plastic is lighter than metal, so a new plastic filter will weigh about 50 percent less than a metal-canister filter.
  • The polymer nylon material is crushable and recyclable. Many recycling operations now accept the material, but it can also be incinerated in states and locales that allow it, the company said.