Easy DIY Car
Maintenance: The Oil Change

Unfortunately, automotive problems are an inevitable part of vehicle ownership. Costly and time-consuming, taking your car to a shop can be a stressful experience. However, with a little know how and some helpful YouTube tutorials, fixing your car from your own garage can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Always remember to make safety your top priority. If you don’t feel comfortable or aren’t sure you can perform a specific repair, take it to a professional.

At Home Oil Change

After every 3,000 or 5,000 miles, most cars require an oil change. This is one of the most common and easy to perform procedures.

Time Requirement: First timers, typically an hour, but about 30 minutes on average.

Materials Needed:

  • Oil (be sure to consult your owner’s manual to find which oil is right for your engine)
  • Oil filter

Supplies:

  • Wrenches – one for the drain plug and one for the oil filter
  • Oil drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Jack and Jack Stands or Car Service Ramps
  • Latex gloves

You can find these supplies at your local auto parts store.

Performing an Oil Change

To start, your engine and oil should be warm - this will make draining the oil easier. After turning off the car, give it a few minutes to cool down so you do not accidentally burn yourself while you work. Most vehicles will need to be raised to provide enough clearance to access the oil filter- a pair of car service ramps elevates your vehicle for easy access. Once your car is ready, locate your oil filter and drain plug. Keep in mind: Newer cars may have an undercover, which can hide the drain plug and filter. The undercover is usually easy to remove, but may require additional tools.

Once you have your car prepared, it’s time to drain the oil. Your oil will drain at a slight angle, so be sure your pan is large enough to catch it. Once your oil pan is in place, remove the oil fill cap. With gloves on, loosen the drain plug using a common size wrench. Slowly remove the drain plug while keeping your hands away from the expected path of the old oil.

While the oil is draining, inspect your drain plug to make sure it’s still in good working condition. If any of the threads appear to be damaged, find a replacement at your local auto parts store. Do not try to reinstall a damaged drain plug. When the oil stops coming out, put the drain plug back and tighten it by hand. It should be easy to turn the bolt until the head is snug against the pan. If you encounter resistance before then, you may have cross-threaded the drain plug. Pull it out and try again. If you continue to encounter resistance, double check the threads on the drain plug and pan for damage.

Once you have hand-tightened the drain plug, you can use a tool to finish the job. Ideally, you should use a torque wrench set to the vehicle manufacturer’s exact torque specification. In a pinch, you can also use a typical combination or box wrench. Tighten the drain plug with an additional quarter to a half turn. Do not overtighten the plug.

Changing the Oil Filter

Once you have drained the oil, you will need to change the oil filter. If you can’t loosen the filter by hand, use a filter wrench (available at most auto parts stores) to loosen the oil filter, but go slowly and switch to unscrewing the filter by hand as soon as you are able. When the filter is loose, oil will start to come out around the perimeter. Hold the filter over the pan to drain it. Then use rags to clean as much oil away as you can, especially around the filter sealing surface, and make sure the gasket hasn’t stuck to the surface. Add a dab of new oil onto your new filter’s gasket. Install the new filter by gently spinning it until the gasket is secure against the sealing surface. Typically the oil filter box will tell you when it’s fully tightened.

Add the New Oil

Don’t forget to add the new oil! Once the drain bolt and filter are both properly in place, add the oil. Consult your owner’s manual to see how much new oil your car will require. Once you’ve added the proper amount, replace the oil cap and start your engine. Keep the engine running for about 30 seconds to let the new oil circulate, then shut it off and check for any leaks under your car. Finally, check your oil levels to make sure it’s fully filled.

Quick, Easy Recap

  • Check the type and amount of oil needed
  • Prepare your vehicle : make sure the existing oil is warm but not hot
  • Locate the oil filter and drain plug
  • Drain the oil
  • Tighten the drain plug
  • Change the oil filter
  • Add the new oil
  • Check the oil level

Once you change your own oil a few times, it becomes a quick easy process, saving you time and money!