To say Tony Rotundo’s first oil change on his recently-acquired 1965 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S was a disaster would be an understatement. The San Francisco-based wrestling photographer suffered for three days trying every trick in the book, turning a clean orange cylinder into a beat-up thin plate and his excitement for his new car into total exhaustion.
Tony described the photo above. “This is the plate still attached. The phone is right in front of it, which makes it look like there’s a lot of space to work in. There isn’t.”
Tony had bought his 273 cubic-inch V8-powered 1965 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S a few months ago from Washington State and had the vehicle shipped to the Bay Area. “The oil change started out innocently enough,” he said as we began our Facebook Messenger conversation, “though I had to run to the auto store to get a steel band wrench that was big enough for the V8 engine.
“However, the filter would not budge, so I went back to the auto supply store and got a rubber band filter wrench, and that actually crushed the filter a bit, the first time that’s ever happened to me. At that point I was a bit nervous and stopped for the day.”
Rotundo began doing a bit of research, watching YouTube videos on oil filter removal techniques; a common trick that he heard — and one that I’ve unfortunately had to employ on numerous occasions — is shoving a screwdriver through the filter casing and using the handle to gain a moment-arm to turn the canister. At the time, Rotundo thought this was a drastic measure. “But little did I know that was nothing,” he foreshadowed.
Rotundo texted the previous owner to ask if there was a trick to the whole oil filter removal process. “It turns out he had never changed the oil in the three years that he owned the car. He said he didn’t drive it a lot. I guess he avoided the catastrophe that was about to unfold for me. Lucky him.”
Things went south quickly. “At every point of the process, the next step seemed more and more outrageous. I thought, ‘Well, if I commit to the screw driver through the filter that will surely get it off.’ It didn’t,” Tony recounted. “In fact, the screw driver just crushed the can more. It was a waste of time. I stopped again for the day and spent the evening thinking about the next move.”
Rotundo wrote about his saga on the Facebook group “The Early Valiant and Barracuda Club Group” and received over 100 replies from people who understood his pain. Far too many folks in this world have struggled with over-tightened-oil-filter-itus. In an attempt to reduce worldwide suffering, I wrote an article in 2018 titled Stop Screwing Your Oil Filter On So Damn Tight. (In that article I mention that prominent oil filter manufacturer Wix recommends turning the filter just 3/4 of a turn after its seal has touched the oil filter housing; I tend to do just 1/2 turn).
People on the Facebook page commiserated and suggested all sorts of solutions, including removing the oil pump. On an older Plymouth, that’s not the end of the world, but it still constitutes an absolute shitshow when compared to the five seconds this task should have taken.
Rotundo didn’t undo the oil pump, though. He had sprayed penetrating oil where the filter met the threads, he’d dumped Goo Gone onto the base of the filter (presumably to try to soften the gasket which might have been sticking), and he’d applied heat. The next step was to break out an impact hammer and then remove parts of his car to get more room to whack.
“People [on the Facebook group] talked about banging on it with a hammer, so I even brought down a muscle massage device to really bang on it repeatedly. (It goes without saying, there’s very little room to work with. I was looking for parts I could take off and get out of the way, like the transmission dip stick.)” told me.
“On the third day, I committed to cutting the can off entirely and tackling just the metal plate. I put some heat on it, but not enough, and was able to get an impact hammer with a chisel bit into one of the filter holes.” Despite this — and despite shoving hot razor blades between the gasket and engine — the filter wouldn’t budge.
“That night, folks in the forum recommended a number of things. One was to take off the oil filter adapter, but when I checked that out, I didn’t have the inch+ socket. The most common thing folks were recommended was heat, so I decided heat and the impact gun was the way to focus. And that eventually got it.”
“SUCCESS! All Fram filters bow to your new overlord!... I was victorious against the mighty Fram Filter. Whew!!” Rotundo wrote on the Facebook page.
“I used a heat gun, not a propane torch, because I really didn’t want to light my car on fire,” he told me. “So I just heated and heated and heated from above and under, and then hit it with the impact [hammer]. The first time I saw it budge, which was a millimeter, I screamed with joy and knew I had it. But, I still had to heat more, and hammer more, moving it a mill at a time, until finally it spun free.” What a saga!
Tony came out mostly unscathed. “The bandaid in the pic was a small cut from this. I always remember to put on gloves after the fact,” he told me. “I lived on a farm outside of Buffalo, NY, and was a wrestler (I’m a wrestling photographer now), so I tend to throw my body at problems pretty hard. By day three I was fully geared up, though I did have a drop of warm oil land in my eye on day three.” Could have been worse, I guess. But should have been so, so much better.
Rotundo suspects that whoever had done the oil change last tightened the filter so much that it actually crushed the base plate. “There’s damage to the plate that I didn’t do, so not sure what monster spun that thing on,” he concluded.
How absurd. Remember folks, over-tightening oil filters ruins lives. Don’t do it.