Ninety-nine percent of Top Fuel and Funny Car teams use System 1 Filters, which kind of caught our attention. In drag racing, duty cycles are measured in seconds, so it would stand to reason that it could work for applications where engines are run hard for much longer. Is there something here that could benefit road racers? We caught up with System 1’s Mark Mittel to find out more.
System 1 offers filters for oil and fuel in filtration ranges from 10 microns for fuel, in 35 and 45 microns for light and medium multiviscosity oils, and up to 75 microns for the heavy stuff we don’t typically use in road racing.
The 35-micron filter can go from a 0W-20 all the way up to a 10W-40, Mittel said. But when you use something like a 20W-50, System 1 likes to see you go to the 45-micron filter, which is the company’s basic performance element. It’s a good middle-of-the-road solution for multiviscosity oils or even a straight-weight 40. The key to a System 1 filter is to use it not just as a filter, Mittel said, but also as a tool. When you clean it, you can get a pretty good picture of engine wear.
“Check the filter because it won’t lie to you, and if you have an internal bearing problem or a gear problem or anything of that nature, it’s going to show up in the oil filter,” Mittel said. “And it allows you to fix that problem before it becomes a major problem like kicking a rod out or losing a gear.”
Telltale signs include copper flakes, which can indicate main bearing problems. Silver flakes often indicate rod bearings or chafing of a moving part on an aluminum internal surface. Mittel even spoke of green plastic bits trapped in a filter, which pointed to worn nylon timing gears in a small-block Chevrolet.
“Most people kind of miss that,” he said. “They’ll take it apart and look at it and see the particulate, and they’ll just kind of clean it up and away they’ll go, not knowing what they’re looking at.”
That’s the benefit of a cleanable stainless-steel mesh. Another advantage is the uniform thickness and pleat depth around the full circumference of the filter itself. A paper element might have a thin spot, which offers oil the path of least resistance. The majority of the oil is going to head for that path and filtration will suffer.
Perhaps the most attractive benefit of a stainless-steel mesh element and its uniformity is that it presents less of a pressure drop compared with a paper element.
“It’s not a real torturous path on a woven-wire cloth,” Mittel said. “A paper-style filter will lose about six and a half pounds of pressure just by going through the filter, whereas with ours, we only have a pound and half pressure loss going through the filter. That’s a big difference.”
Stainless steel also does something paper cannot and that’s resist the absorption of moisture, which will eventually hamper filtration. That’s not as critical when you’re burning straight gasoline, but when ethanol comes into play, crankcase moisture and oil dilution increase.
There are a couple of ways to clean the filters, Mittel said. If you have access to a solvent tank, a parts cleaner, that’s the way to go. Put a pan in the solvent tank let everything fall into the pan. Use compressed air to blow from the inside out — because oil is filtered from the outside in — so it blows any particulate off the element. When you’re done cleaning, it’s like panning for gold to see what is wearing inside your engine.
Mittel said you also can use brake cleaner, and some of his customers report using Dawn dishwashing soap and hot water. All these cleaning methods are fine as long as you blow it out from the inside.
“It’s reusable, cleanable and pretty much a one-time buy for you,” Mittel said. “Use the thing as a tool. It’ll actually end up being one of the best tools you ever own if you use it that way.”