One of the most important parts of car maintenance is changing the oil. Changing your car’s oil helps to improve engine efficiency, allow better engine mileage, cool engine components, prolong engine life, and protect the engine against premature wear and tear. Now, as part of your car’s regular maintenance, changing the oil is a regular chore that can cost you a lot if you don’t know how a DIY oil change works.
If you’re an enthusiast DIYer, changing your car’s oil is not rocket science or brain surgery, but rather a chore that can be accomplished if you have the right tools. However, if you have a phobia of getting under cars, then the appropriate action is to book an appointment in a lube shop.
Now, Oil changes can be done after several months or years depending on your driving habits and the type of oil used. For instance, conventional oils demand oil changes every 3,000-5,000 miles while synthetic oils allow longer intervals between oil changes.
How to Change the Oil in Your Car: Step by Step Guide
Changing your car’s oil is considered an inexpensive method that saves you both time and money. It also gives you total control over your car and offers an excellent opportunity to inspect your auto while under the hood.
Having said that, we will now get to our main topic where we’ll discuss how to change your car’s oil. In our discussion, we will focus on how to drain the old oil, how to replace certain parts, how to add the new oil, and how to check for any possible leakages.
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But First, What Are the Pros & Cons of DIY Oil Change?
Just like most other situations, a do-it-yourself oil change can have its fine share of pros and cons. So, before we begin the oil-changing process, we would like to list some of the benefits and risks of taking matters into your own hands.
- It Saves Time:
If your working schedule allows you to book an oil change appointment during peak hours, then you’ll have to wait for a longer time before your car is attended.
Luckily, if you have a little knowledge of how to change the oil yourself, then you won’t have to waste your precious time. Instead, you can schedule the oil change on a weekend afternoon and complete the job in less than 30 minutes.
- Doesn’t Strain Your Wallet:
Other than saving you precious time, at-home oil change asserts less strain on your wallet. Now, when doing an oil change, whether it’s at home or in a lube shop, you’ll need to incur some cost.
This comes in the form of oil cost (synthetic vs. conventional oil), the tools, the oil filter, and the drain plug washer. The best thing about a DIY oil change is that you can get these materials at a lower cost. Besides, there isn’t any labor cost involved.
- Peace of Mind:
Lastly, there’s that feeling of satisfaction when you change the oil yourself. You see, in a lube shop, you’ll expect to find several cars being attended simultaneously. Since your mechanic is expected to meet the deadline to release the cars to their owners, there are more chances of human error.
However, when you change the oil yourself, you’ll have enough time to relax and follow the right process. All you need is to check the manual to know which type of oil is recommended for your specific car. You also need to have the right tools.
- Difficulty Recording the Mileage:
When doing an in-home DIY oil change, there are more chances of forgetting to record the next oil change. This is different from a lube shop where a mechanic sticks a tiny sticker indicating the date of the next oil change.
But, one rule of thumb about oils is that regular conventional oils demand 3,000-5,000 miles (3 months) before an oil change while synthetic oils demand up to 20,000 miles (24 months) before an oil change is scheduled.
- More Chances of Errors:
Replacing your oil with new young oil is a very simple process. However, you need to be careful and thorough as there are many steps involved. Some of these steps can lead to costly errors if you’re not careful.
How to Do an Oil Change
Gather Your Supplies
- Wrench set
- Latex gloves
- Oil drain pan
- Safety glasses
- Jack and jack stands
- New oil
- Oil filter
- Oil filter gasket
- Drain plug washer
- Step One: Prepare Your Car
At this point, we’ll assume you’ve already confirmed with your car’s manual to determine the amount of oil you’ll be needing. We’ll also assume you’ve already gathered the tools and the exact type of oil (synthetic vs. conventional) you’ll be using.
So, with everything ready, park your car on a level ground most probably inside the garage or somewhere on the driveway. Make sure the engine is warm when you’re getting started but not too hot for the oil to scald you when draining.
In case you’ll need to raise your car for better access to the hood, then make sure you apply the parking brake. To raise your car, you can use a jack or steel ramps.
- Step Two: Locate the Oil Drain Plug
So, while under the hood, try to locate the drain plug. In most cases, this plug is located at least 1-2 ft. away from the front of the car. It’s usually located directly beneath the engine at the bottom of a tank called an oil pan.
So, depending on the make of your car, the drain plug can either be facing directly to the ground or slightly slanted at an angle. Knowing the position of the oil plug is important as it will help you predict how the oil will drain.
- Step Three: Unscrew the Oil Drain Plug
With safety glasses on, unscrew the drain plug using a wrench and allow the oil to drain in the awaiting drain pan. This will take about 5 minutes for all the oil to be drained out. Remember, oil is a thick liquid that will require more time to drain entirely.
- Step Four: Locate and Unscrew the Oil Filter
Depending on your vehicle’s model, the oil filter can be positioned at the back, front, or on the side of the engine. If you don’t have any idea of what an oil filter looks like, you can look at the new filter you purchased just to have an idea.
So, once you’ve located the oil filter, you can use a wrench to turn it counterclockwise in a slow but steady motion. Once it’s loose, hold it firmly with your dominant hand and twist it slowly but steadily. In case the filter is too stubborn to come off, you can use a filter removal tool instead.
In most cases, the filter will contain oil inside. So, to avoid creating a mess, make sure that you position the drain pan close enough for the oil to drain inside.
- Step Five: Replace the Old Oil Filter
With the old filter out of the way, pick a new filter and start by smearing a few drops of the new oil on the gasket ring. You can also pour a few drops of the new oil inside the filter before installing. This helps to improve the time taken by your car to regain proper oil pressure.
Before screwing the new filter, make sure the old filter’s O-ring is not stuck on the engine. This is a slight error that can cost you a lot of time trying to figure out why the new filter isn’t holding on properly. So, screw the new lubricated filter until it’s tightly secured.
- Step Six: Tighten the Drain Plug
Lastly, pick the old drain plug and clean it thoroughly. Pick a new drain plug washer and use it to tighten the drain plug. Always make sure the old washer is completely out of the way before replacing it with a new one.
- Step Seven: Pour the Fresh Oil
Open the car’s hood to locate the oil fill hole. Use a clean funnel to pour the new oil inside the engine. At this point, I assume you’ve already confirmed your owner’s manual regarding the amount of oil you’ll need for your car. You can use a dipstick to confirm the level of oil in the engine.
Once you’re done, put the oil cap back and screw it tightly. Start the car and run the engine for about 30 seconds to allow the new oil to circulate. Turn off the engine and inspect the car’s hood for any signs of oil leakage.
Once you’re satisfied with the results, lower the vehicle and get ready to perform a small test drive. When driving, check the pressure gauge to ensure proper pressure reading. Also, ensure the oil light in the dash is off.
- Step Eight: Dispose of the Old Oil
When everything is done, pour the old oil inside a container, most preferably the empty container that contained the new oil. Use a funnel to pour the oil to avoid creating a mess. When you’re done, seal the container and label it “used oil”.
You can take the oil to a repair shop that buys old oil for recycling or you can dispose of the oil as per the guidelines set by your local waste company.
So, there you have it. You’ve just learned how to successfully change your car’s oil without having to hire a professional. Although this process may seem tricky at first, doing it a couple of times will boost your confidence and allow you to bond more with your dear auto.
With that said, an oil change is a regular maintenance chore that must be observed at all times. It helps to boost your engine’s performance and prevent premature engine wear.