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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Most of you will probably already be aware that the Tokyo Roki 15208AA160 "black" filter that comes on Japan-built Subarus is not available in the USA. US Subaru dealers replace it with 15208AA15A "blue", made by Fram, at the first oil change. It's widely understood that the Roki filter is superior. Subaru fans have been buying Mazda N3R1-14-302 Tokyo Roki filters, intended for the RX-8, in the belief that they are the same filter as the Subaru 15208AA160. But are they? I decided to find out.

Here we have a disassembled Subaru black next to a disassembled Mazda filter.
Tableware Drinkware Product Cup Serveware


I opened these with an angle grinder.

They certainly look identical at first glance. The external dimensions are the same; the baseplate is the same. Internal construction is the same, with the same anti-drainback valve, and the same steel spring plate holding the filter cartridge down. The filter cartridge is the same length and diameter, and contains the same number of pleats (55), joined with a metal clip.

The bypass valve is spot-welded into the filter end cap:
Light Automotive tire Dishware Drinkware Wood


So far so good. But what concerns most people is the bypass valve pressure. How to compare that? Hmm.

I put each filter cartridge in a cup on a scale and zeroed it:
Tableware Drinkware Cup Flat white Coffee


I put a piece of blue tape on a driver:
Road surface Asphalt Tar Tool Road


Then I pressed down the bypass valve with the driver until the tape touched the end cap, and noted how much force the scale showed. I don't have pictures of this, because I only have two hands. You'll have to take my word for it. The Subaru filter took 5lb 6.2oz of pressure to open the valve to the tape, and the Mazda filter took 5lb 5.7oz of pressure. I would consider those results within the range of measurement error or manufacturing tolerance. Looks to me like it is the same valve. (Please note that I am not saying these are ~5-6psi valves. These numbers don't mean anything except for comparison to each other.)

So are they the same? Well, there is one difference. The center core is different. Here's the Subaru:
Food Wood Audio equipment Gas Auto part


And the Mazda:
Automotive tire Fluid Wood Drinkware Cup


I didn't disassemble them to count the holes, but my eyeball estimate says the Subaru filter has about 50% more holes than the Mazda. What I don't know is whether that makes any difference. I took a look at a few other filters I have on hand (Champ, Wix, Baldwin, Purolator Tech, and Subaru blue) and the perforations in the core vary, but none of them have as many holes as the black Subaru pictured here. So I'm going to guess it doesn't matter. I'd imagine that as long as the total hole area in the core exceeds the hole area of the inlet holes in the baseplate, that's probably enough.

So, assuming the core perforations are a difference that makes no difference, then my conclusion is that the Mazda N3R1-14-302 is functionally the same as the Subaru 15208AA160, is built to the same quality, and is a good choice to replace the USA-unavailable Subaru filter if you want the closest thing to what the engine was built with.

Just for a fun comparison, here's a Subaru 15208AA15A "blue" filter cut open:
Adhesive Adhesive tape Dishware Drinkware Wood


That's a Fram or I'll eat dirt. The less said about it the better.

Comments are welcome.
 

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The inside of the blue Subaru filter looks pitiful. I don't get it. Why doesn't Subaru use the black one in the US? Mazda does. Quick Google search shows that the black are available.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The inside of the blue Subaru filter looks pitiful. I don't get it. Why doesn't Subaru use the black one in the US? Mazda does.
I'm sure it comes down to cost. In Japan, the Roki filters don't come with import costs, whereas the Fram-made ones do; in the USA, it's the reverse, and I imagine that makes the blue filters much more attractive to use here. Fram builds them to Subaru specifications, which is whatever failure level Subaru has decided to allow in their specs. I've actually never had one fail, and I haven't heard of any failures, so they're probably "good enough." But yeah, they certainly don't inspire confidence just looking at them.

Quick Google search shows that the black are are available.
They are, but it's basically gray market; Subaru dealers don't sell them. There are eBay sellers offering the 15208AA160, but not all of them are honest; sometimes they'll ship the blue 15208AA15A instead, and refuse to accept returns on the basis that Subaru's catalog shows the 15208AA15A as the current part number.

I've been using these Mazda filters for a while now and decided to actually check for myself that they were the same. But at close to ten bucks a pop at a Mazda dealer, I'm not going to keep buying them. Instead now I've got a dozen Champ filters stocked up for when I finish using up my remaining stock of these Mazda ones. We have two Subarus that use this filter, so I go through them fairly quickly.
 

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I'm sure it comes down to cost. In Japan, the Roki filters don't come with import costs, whereas the Fram-made ones do; in the USA, it's the reverse, and I imagine that makes the blue filters much more attractive to use here. Fram builds them to Subaru specifications, which is whatever failure level Subaru has decided to allow in their specs. I've actually never had one fail, and I haven't heard of any failures, so they're probably "good enough." But yeah, they certainly don't inspire confidence just looking at them.


They are, but it's basically gray market; Subaru dealers don't sell them. There are eBay sellers offering the 15208AA160, but not all of them are honest; sometimes they'll ship the blue 15208AA15A instead, and refuse to accept returns on the basis that Subaru's catalog shows the 15208AA15A as the current part number.

I've been using these Mazda filters for a while now and decided to actually check for myself that they were the same. But at close to ten bucks a pop at a Mazda dealer, I'm not going to keep buying them. Instead now I've got a dozen Champ filters stocked up for when I finish using up my remaining stock of these Mazda ones. We have two Subarus that use this filter, so I go through them fairly quickly.
Interesting that "cost" isn't an issue for Mazda. Also a good deal of the parts that are sold at the dealer are imported. I can't believe that the oil filter would make a big difference.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Interesting that "cost" isn't an issue for Mazda. Also a good deal of the parts that are sold at the dealer are imported. I can't believe that the oil filter would make a big difference.
Good point.

My guess: At Mazda, this filter is only for a few model years of the RX-8. So maybe they don't do enough volume of this particular filter that there would be substantial savings by not importing it. Kind of like Subaru with the WRX, which takes a Subaru part number 15208AA170. That's a Tokyo Roki, but it's not used for other models; just the WRX and (maybe) the BRZ.

I don't know if Mazda has a US filter supplier for their regular cars in the way that Subaru does, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I did not write to Rocki, however. Or Bullwinkle. :D
Rocky could fly without the use of an ICE so I'm guessing he had little need for an oil filter...
Maybe if we'd had more female servicemembers in WWII, we'd have had Tokyo Rocky on the radio along with Tokyo Rose, trying to sweet-talk US WACs into giving up on the war effort.
 

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Maybe if we'd had more female servicemembers in WWII, we'd have had Tokyo Rocky on the radio along with Tokyo Rose, trying to sweet-talk US WACs into giving up on the war effort.
Sorry, don't get it. I was in the UK and not in a military family. The only reference I remember to WACs was joke: if a WAC means a walk and a cuddle then I can't wait to meet a WAF...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
A WAC was a member of the Women's Army Corps, so that's probably the basis of your joke, too.

Tokyo Rose was a generic name for female pro-Japan radio propagandists broadcasting to Allied troops in an attempt to demoralize them. My joke was that if there were enough female Allied troops, maybe Japan would have put a smooth-talking Tokyo Rocky on the air for them.
 

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A WAC was a member of the Women's Army Corps, so that's probably the basis of your joke, too.

Tokyo Rose was a generic name for female pro-Japan radio propagandists broadcasting to Allied troops in an attempt to demoralize them. My joke was that if there were enough female Allied troops, maybe Japan would have put a smooth-talking Tokyo Rocky on the air for them.
Got it, thanks, LOL!
 

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As a tech i would recomend the black filter or the napa wix the wrx big filters work too
Wix didn't fare too well compared to other filters. In depth testing of oil filters on BITOG...
 

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Wix didn't fare too well compared to other filters. In depth testing of oil filters on BITOG...
Well poop. I've been using NAPA platinum filters for 124K (@5000 change) and so far, so good. Never been impressed with the pop can filters everything has nowadays. I'd run the standard Ford FL1A if I could.
 
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