Could an off-brand oil filter damage your car's engine? What to know about replacing car parts

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Tuesday, March 26, 2024
Could off-brand replacement parts damage your car's engine?
Should you use your car manufacturer's brand when changing your oil filter and replacing other parts? What you don't know could affect your wallet.

DEKALB, Ill. (WLS) -- Should you use the manufacturer's brand when changing your oil filter and replacing other car parts?

"I don't understand," said Tamya Washington as she listens to the rattling under the hood of her 2017 Ford Focus. It sounds unsettling and her check engine light is on, "It just makes me sad. It's a lot of money."

Washington, who lives in DeKalb, first thought her troubles were due to an engine-related recall issued for her vehicle.

"The oil light came on, and my grandson called me and was like 'Granny, your oil light came on.' And I'm like 'What did you do, you just had the oil changed?'" she said.

Ford had her car towed to a dealer days after the I-Team reached out, but said after an inspection it determined Washington's troubles are not due to a recall issue.

"Ford did find metal flakes and paper debris from a non-Ford oil filter, which appears to have come apart and released debris into the engine oil system," the manufacturer said in a statement. "Ford concluded that the cause of the engine failure was the non-Ford oil filter. Because this failure was not related to the recall these repairs will not be covered"

"Now I'm like, so what am I supposed to do? I have no car. I have to go to work," Washington said. "My grandson has to go to work."

Washington showed records of regular oil changes, most from her Ford dealer. Her latest oil change, was done at different business and a non-Ford oil filter was used. So should you be buying manufacturer brands?

"I don't really think it matters," said Ken Ziolo of A & A Automobile Service on the Near West Side.

In most cases, he said, you should be able to use other brands, but you also should make sure they meet manufacturer specification.

"But in some rare cases, I have heard they want a specific oil filter put on a car," said Ziolo.

Ziolo said a manufacturer's guidance on parts could determine whether or not they cover a problem. The Ford Focus 2017 owner's manual recommends Ford's brand but also says you can "use an oil filter that meets industry performance specification."

Washington said if she needs a new engine it could cost her $8,000, but another mechanic may be able to fix it without replacing the engine.

"It sounds like somethings just gonna fall apart or something," she said.

Ford added that owners should check their manual for general maintenance parameters and guidance.