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How to Change Your Car’s Engine Oil

By Chad Ina - January 12, 2016

Changing your car or truck’s engine oil is a simple task that requires very few tools and can be done in 30 minutes or less for most vehicles.

Truly, in less time than you could drive to a service station to have your oil changed, (unless it’s just around the corner), you could be done and have the satisfaction of knowing it was done right. Then, of course, you don’t have to wait in the lobby reading 2-year-old (if you’re lucky) magazines.

Tools and Supplies Required in Most Cases

You’ll need very few tools to do the job, but here are the ones we recommend:

*A wrench to remove drain plug (a box end or socket will do just fine).

*An oil filter wrench.

*An oil drain pan.

*A funnel.

*A car jack or ramps (this is optional and depends on your ground clearance).

*Your vehicle’s recommended oil in the quantity required.

*An oil filter designated for your vehicle.

With some vehicle makes or models, you’ll need a new oil drain plug and gasket or rubber seal depending upon what is needed. Most cars and trucks have reusable plugs, but some don’t. If you don’t know, check your user manual before you begin. If that doesn’t say, then check at the auto parts store.

Quick Tip

Be sure to match the oil filter wrench to the oil filter before you leave the auto parts store. There is no universal size, and you don’t want to find out you have the wrong size in the middle of a job.

They also have oil filter wrenches that use serrated style grooves in the oil filter to lock it down. It’s recommended you match one up with your filter.  This will give you a great grip on it, so it doesn’t slide if it’s on too tight when you need to take it off.

How to Change Your Vehicle’s Oil

1. Make sure that your engine is warm but not hot. If your vehicle is outside in freezing weather, run it for 3-5 minutes and then let it sit for 5 minutes to let the oil drain back down into the pan.

This will allow the oil to flow out of the drain plug faster and nearly completely.

2. Depending on the available room under your car, jack it or ramp it up as needed so that you have plenty of space.

3. Locate both the drain plug and the filter. They will be on the underside of your vehicle below the engine.

4. Place your drain pan below the drain plug. If your plug is on either side of the oil pan, then compensate for the oil flowing out in a stream by placing the pan off center of the plug. Your oil will flow out with a little pressure from the weight of the oil above it. There’s no point in making a mess.

5. Now open the oil drain plug and then open your oil fill cap on the top of your engine where you add oil. Don’t open the cap first. If you do, the oil will flow out rather fast, and if your pan is not in the right spot and you need to adjust it, you’ll just have more to clean up.

6. Drain out all the oil. Inspect and clean your drain plug before putting it back in. If it needs a new washer, then replace it before re-installing. Be sure to replace the drain plug before you remove the oil filter.

Tighten the drain plug as tight as you can without any leverage assistance, such as a pipe over the wrench to lengthen it for leverage. You want it to be quite tight, but you don’t want to strip it out.

7. Position your oil collection pan under the oil filter.

Remove the oil filter. If it’s feeling a bit tight, it’s generally because the gasket seal can swell up over time. Take care not to over tighten it when you replace it because you thought you had to match its tightness, when in reality you don’t.

As you remove it, turn it over and drain it into the pan as well. Don’t drop it in the pan or it will almost always splash oil back at you.

8.  Wipe a small bit of clean oil onto the new oil filter’s gasket seal (some call this an “O ring”) to lubricate it and keep it from binding and tearing as you install it.

Replace the oil filter by gently starting the threads. Then, once you feel the gasket make strong contact, draw a line with a pencil or marker straight across the bottom of it. This will be your reference line when you tighten it.

Take your oil filter wrench and tighten it no more than 3/4 of one turn using the line you drew on it for your turning distance reference. Check your owner’s manual to see if it differs from this, but this is the general rule. Do not over tighten or you can cause damage.

9. Add the recommended amount of oil to refill your engine oil chamber. Replace your engine oil cap. Then run your car for 1 minute and look for any leaks.

If you’re satisfied with the results, then take your vehicle down off of your jack or ramps.

10. Once your car is back on flat ground, check your engine oil level with your dipstick in accordance with your owner’s manual.

11. Drop off your used oil at an approved collection station and you’re done.

This is a very satisfying way to save a bit of money, and you’ll know that the job was done right.

About the Author - Chad Ina

8 comments

  1. The problem is that when somebody does it on their own they tend to buy the cheapest oils and the sales person will sell almost anything to them.
    One cannot always believe what is written on the oil drums.

    • Very true. I always recommend using something along the lines of Castrol or Mobil 1. If it’s a more high performance engine, i swear by Motul.

  2. Never get under a car on a jack always use axel stands or lower the wheels onto old car wheels. This will give you the clearance and keep you safe. Also chock rear wheels

  3. I do change engine oil by myself since i bought my first car. One thing what i doo whats ‘s not mentioned here is when to warm up engine add engine flush so it losens up the slum frpm oil pan otherways the new oil gets it up and efficency from new engine oil is around 80%

  4. If possible when I change my oil I always fill the oil filter with the clean oil and put a small amount on the rubber seal. That is if the filter fits up to its fitting if it is lade on its side you can not do that.

  5. Rather than crawl under the car, you can buy a suction pump and drain the oil through the dipstick. This way might be a little slower, but it’s easier and cleaner.

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