Learning to change your car’s oil yourself is one of the easiest ways to save money on automotive maintenance. The oil in your car keeps the engine cool and running smoothly. After a while, the oil breaks down and becomes less effective.
Consumer Reports has found that advances in oil and engine technology mean that you can wait to change your oil past the traditional 3,000-mile mark. They recommend an oil change when you hit 7,500 miles or six months, whichever comes first. It is always best to consult your vehicle’s service manual to find out how often your car’s manufacturer recommends between oil changes.
Here are nine steps to guide you through your first oil change:
1.) Gather what you need
Check to make sure you have the right type and amount of oil for the make, model, and trim of your car. It is always a good idea to change your oil filter when performing an oil change, filters are readily available at most auto parts stores. You will also need a drain pan, gloves, a funnel, a ratchet with the correct attachment to remove your drain plug and a way to lift your car safely (ramps or a jack and jack stands).
2.) Raise the car
Chances are there isn’t enough room for you to fit under your car. Use a jack and jack stands or ramps to lift your car. Always remember to engage your emergency brake when lifting your car. Haynes, a car repair authority, recommends that you only lift your car on hard, flat surfaces.
Allow the engine to cool so you won’t be burned by hot oil. You should also take a moment to place your drain pan under your car’s oil drain plug.
3.) Remove drain plug
Use your ratchet to slowly remove the oil drain plug. Adjust the position of your drain pan to catch the oil that is coming out. The oil will come out in a heavy stream at first but will slow as it drains.
4.) Allow oil to drain
Allow the oil to drain from your engine completely. You want to get as much of the old oil out of your car as possible to keep it from gumming up your engine.
5.) Remove filter
Locate and remove the oil filter. Many filters can be removed by hand but some require a special oil filter wrench. Be prepared to catch excess oil from the filter’s fitting with the drain pan.
6.) Prepare & install new filter
When oil has stopped dripping from the oil filter fitting you are ready to install the new filter. Prepare the filter by applying a small amount of oil around the rubber seal of the new filter. This will prevent leaks.
Screw your new filter into place by hand. Do not use any tools to turn the oil filter. You do not want to overtighten the filter, stop turning when the filter feels tight.
7.) Replace drain plug
By now all the oil should have drained from the oil pan. Use your ratchet to replace the drain plug. It is important to make sure that the plug is installed correctly. Most oil pans are made of aluminum. It is easy to damage the threads and create a leak at the drain plug. Slowly tighten the drain plug and ensure that you do not overtighten it.
8.) Add new oil
New oil is added into the top of the engine. Remove the fill cap and use a funnel to prevent spilling the oil. Slowly add the amount of oil that is specified by your service manual. Remember to replace the fill cap when you are finished.
9.) Lower your car and check dipstick
After a quick check to make sure that both the filter and drain plug are not leaking oil, lower your car. Once the car is level, check the dipstick to make sure you have the correct amount of oil. If the oil is below the safe mark, add small amounts until the level is correct.
Dispose of your old oil by pouring it into an empty oil can.