(Image/Summit Racing)

A few weeks ago, we posted an article in which we cut open several engine oil filters to have a look inside. While it’s possible to improvise a homemade filter cutting tool, we used a dedicated oil filter cutter to get the job done. (Oh, and a specialty tool will definitely do a better, cleaner job.)

Why Would You Use an Oil Filter Cutter?

In that earlier article, we started with new unused filters, but filters are typically cut open after they’ve been used a while, so you can inspect them after, say, a race or engine break-in. An oil filter cutter allows you to literally dig into the actual filter element to determine what the filter is capturing. Essentially, the process can often provide some clues as to what’s going on inside the motor—good or bad.

For example, if you cut open a filter and you see nothing, then the engine is happy. But if you discover trapped bearing material or other metallic traces inside the filter pleats, you know something’s awry and it may be the time to yank out the engine for a rebuild.

How Do Oil Filter Cutters Work?

Oil filter cutting tools are basic devices and most work in the same way. Many of them simply index off the center post of the filter. Then you tighten down the adjustment knob just enough to avoid denting the filter can. Spin the tool around the filter and adjust the tension every round or so (as the blade cuts through the body) and, before long, the baseplate (or “tapping plate”) is freed from the can. At that point, you can examine the filter internals. We should point out that some filter cans might require you clamp them in a vise first, but many of the following tools will open the can while you hold it in your hand.

Popular Oil Filter Cutting Tools

The task is easy enough and there are any number of tools out there to get the job done. In fact, you can find a bunch of oil filter cutters on our favorite auto parts website. So, let’s take a closer look at a few of them.

Summit Racing SUM-90511

Summit Racing’s filter cutter is built from black anodized billet aluminum with a threaded steel shaft. The layout differs from many of the others in that it is fitted with a cutting wheel along with a pair of opposing ball bearings that work to easily rotate the filter as it is cut. This cutter can slice filters up to 5-1/2-inches in diameter.

Allstar Performance AAF-ALL10538

Like other filter cutters, the Allstar Performance tool is designed to remove the outer canister or shell of the filter. This example is adjustable by way of the threaded steel shaft coupled to a centering pin. Once tightened in place, you simple rotate the tool to cut the filter can. The cutter’s main body is manufactured from aluminum.

Kluhsman Racing Components KRC-1203BK

Summit Racing has several different Kluhsman Racing Components (KRC) filter cutting tools, and they all work by indexing off the center post of the filter. Once the end knob is tightened, you simply spin the tool around the filter until the can is sliced. KRC offers a couple of different designs to fit different applications (for example, aviation filters) along with different tool colors.

Longacre Racing Products LNG-77750

Longacre Racing’s filter cutter is actually setup similar to the Summit Racing tool, which rotates around the filter body on a couple of bearings. Here, the body is manufactured from billet aluminum with an adjustable threaded steel shaft coupled to a knurled handle. The tool can accommodate filters from 2-3/8-inches to 4-3/4-inches.

JOES Racing Products JOE-21000

This cutter works similarly to the KRC and Allstar tools. What makes it different, is the cutter includes a removable center adapter bushing designed to work on filters fitted with a large center post. Additionally, there’s a round knob in the middle that helps hold the tool as you rotate it around the canister. The main body of the tool is anodized billet aluminum while the threaded center adjustment shaft is steel.


As you can see, there are several different options at several different price points. They all work well and for all intents and purposes, they’re “racing can openers.”

For a closer look at filter cutters, check out the accompanying photos:

Once a filter is sliced open, then you can easily examine the internals for evidence of possible engine carnage. (Image/Wayne Scraba)
Here’s how a typical cutter “mounts” to the oil filter canister. They’re simple tools and most offer replaceable cutting wheels. (Image/Wayne Scraba)
This is Summit Racing’s own oil filter cutting tool. The layout of this tool is such that it makes use of a couple of bearings on the outer edges to help rotate around the filter. The cutter is adjusted by way of the outside handle. (Image/Summit Racing)
The Allstar Performance tool indexes off the center post in the filter. Once the adjuster is tightened to suit the O.D. of the filter can, you simply spin it around to remove the end plate. (Image/Summit Racing)
The Summit Racing catalog has several different KRC oil filter cutting tools available. They all operate the same (similar to the Allstar tool), but you have a choice of colors and applications. (Image/Summit Racing)
The Longacre Racing oil filter cutter functions in a manner similar to the Summit Racing tool. Basically, the tool rotates around the filter body on a couple of bearings rather than indexing from the center post. (Image/Summit Racing))
This is the Joe’s Pro Racing tool shown previously. It comes with two different center index pin setups (one is for filters with larger center posts). It’s a robust tool and it does a great job of quickly opening up filter cans. (Image/Summit Racing)
Author: Wayne Scraba

Wayne Scraba is a diehard car guy and regular contributor to OnAllCylinders. He’s owned his own speed shop, built race cars, street rods, and custom motorcycles, and restored muscle cars. He’s authored five how-to books and written over 4,500 tech articles that have appeared in sixty different high performance automotive, motorcycle and aviation magazines worldwide.