suggestions on water filter housing

I've got an old Master Plumber (True value) whole house water filter setup in my garage right after my pressure tank, and lately when I change out the sediment cartridge, it's become increasingly difficult to loosen the filter housing to get to the cartridge. I do eventually get it, while trying to put minimal strain on the pipes (fortunately, I can brace the pipes with my shoulder as I'm trying to unscrew the housing), however it seems to be more difficult than say a couple of years ago. I've taken to greasing the O-ring with silicone grease after loosening it, but it doesn't really seem to help. I have heard some people say that a strap wrench on the filter will be much better than the supplied filter wrenches that just grab the fins. I also always open a downstairs faucet before attempting this job. Does anybody have a suggestions as to what could make this task somewhat easier? Thanks in advance for any help.
Tony
P.S. Around a year ago, on advice from a friend, I lubricated the threads of the filter with Vaseline, not silicone. Could this be helping creating a problem now?
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Step one: Relieve the pressure.
If you are trying to open the housing while the line is under pressure, it will be very difficult. Once the pressure is out, it opens easily.Some housings have a valve on the top to turn to bypass mode or to turn the filter off. On mine, it also incorporates a pressure relief. If you don't have that, the filter should be isolated by a valve in the line before the filter. Then all you have to do is close the valve and open a nearby faucet to let the pressure off.
Since you say you open a faucet, I'm wondering what else it can be. Are you shutting off at the housing? That may be the problem if the pressure relief is not working properly. Is there a shut off before the housing? If so are you using it?
Lubricants usually help. Are there any other places the housing may seal that are not lubricated? Are you putting it on too tight? They take only hand tightening to seal.
Strap wrenches work well on filters, but brute force is not a substitute for proper methods of use.
On a side note, the easiest way to open jars is the same method, relieve the vacuum by breaking the seal first. Amazing how easily a jar opens then. I bought one of these and was so pleased by it, I bought a dozen to give away to friends. http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.aspx?c=2&pD271&cat=2,40733,40734
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Does anybody have a suggestions as to

If the O-ring has dried out enough that it allows the plastic of the container to come in contact with the housing, it will be darn near impossible to break it loose. My Son In Law dropped the O-ring and didn't notice and put his back together without. Had a rough time getting it back off to put the O-ring back in. Also, is it possible that calcium has built up over time on the threads, making everything a tighter fit. A good soak in Vinegar might help if so.
Tom G.
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I'll try replacing the o-ring as that one that's on there is about 2-3 years old (I'm guessing). Also, since we used to have a galvanized pressure tank I'd have to change the filter cartridge at least once a month because of all the rust in the water from oxidation in the tank so there was constant loosing and tightening of the filter housing (and I always did only hand tighten the housing upon re-installing). Is there a general rule of thumb as to when to replace those o-rings?
Thanks Tony
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When you can't get the housing off easily :)
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