Oil Filter Wrench for Tight Spaces





Introduction: Oil Filter Wrench for Tight Spaces

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

This is a home-crafted oil filter wrench for tight spaces on modern automobile engines.  It is made from an old piece of 1/2 inch black iron pipe and a pipe end cap.  Also used is some discarded bicycle chain.  The wrench is operated by a 3/8 inch drive socket ratchet.

The chain tightens its grip on the oil filter as the pipe twists when pressure is applied to the ratchet handle.  

Step 1: Commonly Available Filter Wrenches

 These common wrenches do not always fit the space available on an automobile.  The end cap style (center) sometimes should fit a particular filter, but does not.  Sometimes no end cap wrench is available for a particular filter.  The wrench described in the Instructable can be made to fit whatever filter your car uses. 

Step 2: Drill the End Cap for the Ratchet

 Drill a 3/8 inch hole in the center of the end cap for the ratchet.

Step 3: Square the Hole

 Work carefully with a small file to make the round hole square so the ratchet will fit into it the way the ratchet fits into a wrench socket.

Step 4: The Ratchet in the Hole

 Here you see the ratchet's square end partially inserted into the hole in the end cap.

Step 5: Mark the Pipe for Drilling Holes

 I stuck a piece of masking tape onto the pipe for marking where to drill holes for the chain.  I considered using three pieces of chain and made the markings, but later decided on only two.  Also, use a pipe wrench and a vise to screw the end cap onto the pipe as tightly as possible.  That should be sufficient to keep the end cap from unscrewing when pressure is applied by the ratchet.  

Step 6: Drill Holes in the Pipe

 The size of the holes you drill will depend on the size of the chain you use.  My chain was 9-speed chain for a 27 speed bicycle.  I needed holes just a little larger than 3/8 inch.  Drill the holes through both sides of the pipe, upper and lower.  

Step 7: Fit the Chain to Your Filter

 Slip the end of the chain through one set of holes and wrap it around an extra copy of your oil filter.  Note which pin in the chain to use when opening the chain. 

Step 8: Using the Chain Tool

 If you have not used a chain tool before, push the pin far enough that you can wiggle the chain and the one piece separates from the other, but not so far that the pin comes out completely.  In the photo you can see the pin extending toward the upper part of the photo.  Its end is almost flush with the outer edge of the chain tool. 

Step 9:

Make a second piece of chain the same length as the first.  Place one end of each piece of chain through a set of holes in the pipe and connect the two ends of each piece of chain.  Your wrench should look like this when finished.    

Step 10: On the Car

Here you see the wrench on the oil filter on my car.  Space is not as limited on this car as on some.  Still, this could be a very handy wrench for removing or installing an oil filter on many cars where space is very limited. 



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    I like the double-action, useful indeed I should think.


    10 replies

     You are quite correct.  The chain pieces tighten around the filter as easily whether installing or removing the filter.  

    One of my goals was also to make this without any welding, even though a little welding might have made some steps easier.   No welding means more people can make use of it.

    Thanks for your comment.

    You can buy wrenches like this, but not with two chains as I remember. Beats whacking a screwdriver into it, which is another way...


    My wife drove a Subaru Forester for several years.  It used an odd size filter for which no standard wrench fit.  This would have been handy for that car, had I thought of it then. 

    I thought only shade tree mechanics in the USA drove a screwdriver through the filter in hopes of turning it loose.  I did not know people in the UK had fallen to our low standards, too.

    Great work, I tend to lean towards not over tightening the filter at oil change time. I haven't used a filter wrench in at least a decade.

    Oh aye, it's a classic, after all you throw 'em away don't you?


    but its really messy it makes a real mess out of your clothes and pavement

    Yes I know, that was the original point.


    u are right but sometimes u gotta do what u gotta do eh

    Oh yes, you do, that's true.


     The screwdriver method has not worked well for me.  First, there may not be a good angle for pounding the screwdriver into the side of the filter.  Then I may not have enough room to make the filter turn.  I am apt to mangle the filter badly so that I cannot get a good hold on it later with any tool.  At the start I had an intact filter difficult to remove.  Later I have shards of a filter I cannot grasp and it is still difficult to remove, but there is no tool that will work at that point.  

    I like this, very elegant solution. Definitely beats the screwdriver method.
    Thanks for sharing. :-)

    1 reply

    Thank you. I think we all were forced into the screwdriver method at some point in life.

    Thank you.

    Thank you. I am sorry I did not see your comment until now.

    I'm still confused how this actually works. Is there a chain tensioner inside the pipe? Maybe I'm just looking at this wrong, but I can almost always figure something out in an Instructable.

    1 reply

    There is nothing inside the pipe. Each piece of chain passes through a hole in each side of the pipe. Each piece of chain is a closed loop sized for the filter. When the ratchet wrench turns the pipe the chain wants to wrap itself around the pipe, which has the effect of shortening the chain around the filter and makes it very tight on the filter. The only thing the force of the ratchet can do once the chain is tight around the filter is to twist the filter on or off of its threaded stud on the engine, depending on which direction you are pulling the ratchet. I hope this helps. Thank you for looking.