Changing your oil and oil filter on a regular basis is not only a vital element of proper vehicle maintenance, it’s also an important rite of passage for anyone with true gearhead aspirations. Here’s a simple(ish) breakdown of how to DIY, and there’s also a wealth of how-to resources up on YouTube to help illustrate the process even more.
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* A good socket wrench, a set of sockets, and maybe some latex gloves to avoid picking grime out of your fingernails for the next few days.
* An oil filter wrench, while not mandatory, will likely make the job a bit easier.
* Wheel ramps or a jack and jack stands to raise the car up and secure it there. If you opt for the jack/jack stands, consult your manual before lifting the car up to ensure you’re using the right lift points under the car, otherwise you could cause damage to your vehicle.
* An oil drain pan to decant the used motor oil and a funnel to pour in the new oil.
* An oil filter and a few quarts of oil. Most modern engines require five to seven quarts of oil, but be sure to check your owner’s manual to make sure you don’t over- or under-fill your engine. The manual will also outline the recommended type of oil to use with your engine as well.
Get your hands dirty
It’s generally good practice to change the oil on an engine that is warm — but not hot. If the car hasn’t been started in a few hours or more, let the engine run for a couple minutes, then get to work.
If applicable, raise the vehicle up on ramps or jack stands. Once you’re under the car, locate the drain plug. Newer vehicles may be equipped with a plastic skidplate underneath the car. These are used to protect vital engine components from damage and for improved aerodynamics/fuel economy. If yours has a skidplate, you may need to remove it as it often prevents direct access to the drain plug on the oil pan. Fortunately, removing this barrier is usually a very simple process that utilizes twist-off clips and does not require any additional tools in order to remove the piece.
LOCATE THE DRAIN PLUG
The drain plug will be a bolt located at the bottom of the oil pan, a rectangular metal container which looks like a small tub connected to the bottom of the engine. Once you’ve located the drain plug, place your oil drain pan underneath it. Note the angle at which the drain plug is positioned, as this will affect the angle that the oil drains out of it, and adjust the placement of the oil drain pan accordingly. Next, remove the oil filler cap on the top of the motor; removing this cap will not only allow the oil to drain out easier, it will also serve as a reminder to add the new oil before closing the hood again.
Once that’s been done, get back underneath the car with your socket wrench and loosen the drain plug. As you start to reach the last few threads of the plug, make sure you keep a good grip on the drain plug to avoid having to fish it out of the oil drain pan as it rapidly fills with dirty motor oil. After the oil is finished draining, replace the o-ring around the drain plug if your vehicle requires it — your owner’s manual will tell you whether or not it’s necessary. If it is, make sure the old o-ring isn’t still attached to the drain pan, as you don’t want to accidentally stack the new o-ring atop the old one.
Next, place the drain plug back into the oil pan and tighten the drain plug.
Time to remove the oil filter
If you have an oil filter wrench, attach it and set your oil drain pan directly below the oil filter. Once it’s removed, clean the area where the filter attaches and make sure the old o-ring from the filter isn’t still attached to the engine. With that done, place a dab of new motor oil on your finger and run it around the rubber seal on the new oil filter. This will help the new filter make a better seal with the engine when you tighten it back on. Install the new filter and tighten it as tight as it will go by hand within reason. After you’ve double checked to make sure both the drain plug and the new oil filter are both reinstalled and properly tightened down, it’s time to put in the new motor oil.
Replace your oil
Place your funnel on the oil filler tube on the top of the engine and pour in the amount specified in your owner’s manual — but hold off adding the last quart until later. After adding all but the last quart of oil, replace the oil filler cap on the engine and run the motor for about 30 seconds or so to allow the oil to circulate throughout the motor. Once you’ve done that, check under the car to ensure there are no leaks, and if there are none, lower the car back onto the ground. Now check the oil level with the dipstick and if it indicates that the oil level is a bit low, add the last quart. If the dipstick indicates a proper oil level, keep the last quart of oil for next time.
Close the hood
You did it! Don’t forget to dispose of the used oil and filter properly. Most parts stores that sell motor oil will take your used oil free of charge.
While explaining the whole procedure might be a bit of a mouthful, the entire job can be done in well under an hour, especially after you’ve become better acquainted with your vehicle’s mechanical particulars. Additionally, once you’ve gained some familiarity with your car by changing its oil, you might be surprised how inspired you may feel to tackle other basic maintenances tasks, saving you a ton of money in the process.