Changing your oil is a crucial part of your vehicle maintenance regimen. It’s easy and low risk, so getting a professional to do it just costs more.
There are some tools you’ll need to change your oil that you likely don’t already have. They’re all pretty easy to find online or at your local auto parts store.
Filter Wrench – Your oil filter is fitted pretty tightly so you’ll need a wrench to remove it. If your filter uses a disposable housing you can use a wrench that looks like a set of pliers with giant jaws or one that has a loop on a stick. If it doesn’t have a disposable housing you’ll likely need to use a special socket. Your filter housing is most likely a beer can sized cylinder. If it’s painted it’s probably disposable.
Oil Catch Pan – An oil catch pan is exactly what it sounds like, a pan to catch the oil as it drains. They’ll typically have a spout and many have lids so you can store and transport used oil without spilling.
Funnel – You don’t strictly need a funnel but it does reduce spillage and using a dedicated oil funnel reduces the risk of cross contamination.
To get the supplies to change your oil you’ll need to know a few things about your car. First, you’ll need to know the year, make, model, and engine size, then you should know everything you need to find everything else.
Oil is the simple one. Your owner’s manual should have a “capacities and specifications” section. In there you should find your engine’s oil capacity and the recommended oil type. The capacity will likely be listed twice, once with a filter and once without, you want the amount with a filter. Many manufacturers recommend a specific brand and synthetic oil. Brand is irrelevant unless it’ll void your warranty to use anything else. I’ve heard mixed reviews about synthetic oil, some say it improves performance and others it just costs more. If you want to experiment or ask your mechanic for his opinion then go for it, but I wouldn’t bother.
Next, you pay a visit to your local auto parts store. Get the amount and type of oil your manual specifies then find the filter section. There should be a computer or book to look up what filter you need, or you can ask the staff. You’ll be given a model number which will also be printed on the box. You may be presented with several brands and some will be a better value than others. FRAM is a pretty safe bet and available in most stores.
Now Get to Work
For your own safety, you’ll want to work on a cold engine so park your car with enough clearance under the engine to work and leave it for an hour or two.
The first step is to drain the used oil. Under the engine you’ll find the oil pan. It looks like someone bolted a metal box onto the bottom of your engine. Position your catch pan under what appears to be a pointless bolt in the oil pan, your oil drain plug, then remove the drain plug and hurry up and wait, just make sure you don’t lose the plug. Now, use your filter wrench to remove your oil filter.
If you have a non-disposable filter housing, you’ll also need to remove the old gasket, which is probably a black rubber ring around the housing’s threads. You’ll then install the new filter and gasket into the housing just like the old ones were installed. Now just smear some oil on the gasket to moisten it, used oil is fine, and screw it back into place.
Now it’s time to fill in the new oil. Make sure the drain plug is in nice and tight and start pouring the oil in through the filler neck. When you’re within a litre of capacity, check the level and top it off.
You’re done, it’s just that easy. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to check the oil sooner than usual, just to catch any problems but you should be good until next time. Used motor oil is quite toxic and can cause serious problems if it gets into the water table so you’ll want to dispose of it properly. If there’s an oil recycling plant in your area they may even pay you for it, otherwise your mechanic or local auto parts store should be able to help you.
Now you can help others save money on car maintenance too, especially if there’s a lovely lady who already thinks the world of you.