Not all of us can be a master mechanic and perform every service our car needs, but knowing how to perform basic services to maintain your car both saves you money and improves safety. When you know how your car works, you are better equipped to assess issues and possibly fix them without feeling helpless. One of the most commonly performed at-home maintenance services and one of the most important things you can do to keep your car in good condition is changing the motor oil and oil filter. Doing this yourself is relatively inexpensive and easy.
Don't Ignore The Owner's Manual
If you've always wanted to learn how to change your car's oil and filter, this guide can help! Just remember to always reference your car's owner's manual for any vehicle-specific details. The mileage intervals when they need to be changed are listed in the owner's manual. Also in the owner's manual is the grade and amount of motor oil you'll need, as well as any requirements for the filter.
Here's what you'll need to be an at-home mechanic, at least as far as the oil change is concerned:
- Motor oil
- Oil filter
- Socket wrench
- Oil filter wrench, in case you can't loosen it by hand
- Oil pan
- Mat, newspaper, or big, flat piece of cardboard to catch any oil spills under the car
- Cleaning rags
- Drain the old motor oil.
- Start your car and let it run for a minute or two, or drive it around the block so the motor oil warms up, which will allow it drain out smoothly. After the warm up, park your car in the driveway or garage, ON LEVEL GROUND.
- If your car is too low to the ground to slide under, you'll need to jack it up and place jack stands before you get under it (jack stands are a must!).
- Prop up the hood and loosen the cap on the oil tank or else it won't drain well.
- Place your spill mat or cardboard under the vehicle and slide on under with the oil pan.
- Locate the drain plug.
- Place the pan on top of newspaper / cardboard below and slightly ahead of the drain plug (the stream will release farther out when you first remove the drain plug).
- Loosen the drain plug with the socket wrench, turning it counterclockwise, and then remove the plug slowly by hand and let the motor oil drain out. Caution: Oil may be hot.
- Once the oil slows down to a drip, reinstall the drain plug and tighten it with the socket wrench (just a quarter turn clockwise should be sufficient).
- Keep the oil pan under the car and find the oil filter.
- Loosen it with the filter wrench and remove by hand.
- Before installing the new oil filter, apply a little motor oil to the new gasket to optimize the seal and prevent the gasket from cracking or sticking.
- Install and tighten the new oil filter BY HAND.
- Remove the cap of the oil tank, and, using a funnel, pour the new motor oil into the tank in the amount dictated by the owner's manual. When finished, replace the oil cap and wipe away any spilled motor oil.
- Start your engine and run it for a minute to allow the new motor oil to circulate thoroughly.
- Time to check the oil level. Turn off the car and remove and wipe oil off the dipstick.
- Insert and remove the dipstick and check that the oil level is correct. Assuming all is well, screw the cap back on and you're done!
- Pour the old motor oil from the pan into a used oil container and put the old oil filter into a plastic bag.
- You cannot throw your old oil into the trash. Take it to a auto supply store or a lube shop to recycle.
- Write down the date you performed the oil change and the amount of miles the car had so you know when your next change is due.
And you're done!