All the good things coming from that easy swap to a high-flow/performance air filter on a Harley are well known. A better breathing engine is a crisper, happier V-twin. It’ll make more horsepower, more torque, and even turn in better MPG numbers. Well, talking about all this with the guys at Speed’s Performance Plus (SPP), pro tuners who travel the country working on thousands of motorcycles each year, the matter of that other Harley filter came up, the oil filter. Anything to be gained there, performance-wise? Aftermarket air filters have certainly proven their worth. Is the same true with an oil filter?
“Most definitely,” SPP’s Jamie Hanson says. “Especially if you’ve already made the switch to synthetic oil, as most everyone has.” That switch to synthetics, by the way, brings benefits all its own. Arguably, synthetics do a better job of lubricating an engine, they’ll maintain their viscosity longer, flow better making the job of the oil pump easier, and they’re significantly better at cooling an engine, something really important for any air-cooled motor. That extra cooling alone can be especially welcome on the warmer-running late-model Harleys; full-synthetics can drop engine temperatures anywhere from 15 to 25 degrees.
“But with that switch to synthetics, you’ll definitely want to include an oil filter that’s compatible,” Jamie goes on. “Synthetic oils can cause ordinary paper-element filters to deteriorate, even clog up.” There are plenty of name-brand filters available designed to work with synthetics, though, like the top-quality ones from Drag Specialties and, notably, the K&N Wrench-Off models. These filters have been specifically engineered to be compatible with those highly-concentrated exotic synthetic oils; the filtering media inside won’t break down, and they allow for the higher flow-rates associated with synthetics. They’re just better filters overall. The K&N units even pack in 25 percent more filtering area. All good things, well worth the added cost.
“But another really good option,” Jamie tells, “is to pick up one of those cleanable/reusable metal-mesh oil filters.” SPP offers these, as well, and they’ve become increasingly popular for a lot of riders. Not only would this be the last oil filter you’ll ever buy (and those disposable/synthetic-compatible filters aren’t cheap), these cleanable and reusable oil filters flow even better than the quality disposables and the filtering element inside these things is made from medical-grade 304 stainless steel micronic filter cloth. One square-inch of it will flow almost 2 gallons of oil per minute at only 1 PSI pump pressure. The ones that SPP offers also include rare-earth magnets in the spin-on base to further trap metallic particles and debris before it even gets to that extra-fine filtering mesh. In addition to all that the aluminum canisters these filters use (available either black or polished) they feature lots of cooling fins that help drop oil temperatures even more. The filter becomes, in effect, a combination oil filter/oil cooler. There’s a pretty sophisticated bypass system engineered in for consistent operation and proper differential pressures and a twist-lock design assures positive element placement inside the canister while allowing for easy disassembly, inspection, and cleaning. And here’s the kicker. Besides doing a superior job of cleaning and cooling the oil, independent testers doing back-to-back dyno comparisons of these reusable oil filters and an ordinary disposable charted as much as an 8-horsepower bump along with 10 more lb-ft of torque. Chalk that up to the high-flow characteristics really easing up the job of the oil pump. These cleanable/reusable oil filters have been approved by the FAA too, which should tell you something about their safety. If they’re good enough for an airplane, where you can’t exactly pull over to the side of the road if something goes wrong, they’re more than ready for a Harley.
So back to that original question: Are there performance gains to be found in something as simple as an oil-filter swap? The answer is yes, absolutely. And those cleanable/reusable ones with their billet aluminum finned canisters look good, too! You can talk about all of this and plenty more with the guys at SPP when they’re at a nearby event. You can chat with the SPP team at these upcoming events:
Muskegon Bike Time, Muskegon, Michigan July 20-22
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis, South Dakota, July 31–Aug 12 HB
Speed’s Performance Plus
(605) 695-1401 – MN
(605) 695-2272 – SD