Owning an automobile is amazingly beneficial. You can get from point A to B with haste and ease, you can avoid troublesome weather, and shopping becomes a breeze; no more carrying all those bags around! Because our vehicles are so useful to us, it’s our duty to care for them as well. Even if cars are indeed an amazing accomplishment, they don’t really “look out” for themselves. Not yet, anyway! When you’re considering a car oil change, you might instantly think about the common knowledge of “once every 3,000 miles is just what you need”. That may very well be true, but just like when it comes to our own branch of business of auto glass repair & replacement, we advise checking your vehicle manufacturer’s exact specifications.
You always have the option to just skip an oil change, of course, but if you don’t go through required maintenance procedures with your car, like changing its brake fluid, checking its tire for air leaks, or regularly calibrating its ADAS sensors, you might find yourself in a difficult position at one point. Besides, it’s really not that hard to change your oil, and your engine really needs its to lubricate all of its moving metal parts and keep them from overheating! Here’s the process, step-by-step.
1. The Equipment You’ll Need
- The correct car oil you need (either conventional or synthetic, depending on your manufacturer’s specifications)
- A car jack and jack stands, or two car ramps
- An oil collection pan
- A long breaker bar, or a ratchet with a pipe over the end (to make it longer, for extra leverage)
- A copper crush gasket
- A big enough wrench for your oil filter
- Rubber gloves
Take into account that type of recommended oil by your manufacturer is intended for an otherwise “normal”, temperate climate. If it’s warmer or colder than the average where you live, you’ll want to take this into account too, and research the aspect accordingly (some manufacturers also cover this in the manual, so always check there first).
2. Hoist Up The Vehicle
For this step, take extra precautions. Whether you choose to lift the vehicle with a car jack, and then secure it with stands, or you choose to go for the car ramps and drive up on them (remember to secure the back wheels & use the hand brake), make sure you’re doing it safely. If you’re not handy with cars, ask someone who is to help you in this regard, because you really don’t want that vehicle to not be seated properly.
3. Heat Up The Oil
If it’s a bit colder outside, you could find it’s a bit difficult to change your oil, because it won’t be flowing as easily when you’re draining it. Simply turn on the engine for about 5 minutes to allow it to heat up, and then make sure you turn off the engine and let it sid for 10 minutes (otherwise the oil will be too hot and you’ll burn yourself).
4. Time to Drain The Old Oil
If you’re not familiar with the underside of a car, know that you’re looking for the oil drain pan. This is going to be a black container that has a somewhat downwards facing bolt on it (the other one, without a bolt, is going to be the transmission drain pan). Another thing to look for is the oil filter, which you’re going to recognize by its distinctive material (compared to the car pieces) and oval-like shape. The container near the filter will be the oil drain pan (however, some car models have the filter under the hood, near the engine; check your manufacturer’s manual).
Once you’ve located the drain pan, place the collection pan underneath it, as it’s time for the car oil change to properly begin. Align the collection pan slightly away from the way the bolt is facing, as the engine oil will come out with a bit of pressure. Loosen the bolt with your breaker bar (counter-clockwise), and then take it off by hand. The oil will start pouring out at this point, that’s normal.
The bolt is going to have a copper gasket on it. These are one-time use, so proceed with replacing it with the new one, or you might experience oil leaks. With the new gasket on, place the bolt back (after cleaning the remaining dripping oil, so you don’t think you have leaks because of it) and tighten it. You mustn’t tighten it too much though, or you’re going to strip the drain plug. Once it’s snug, give it one extra turn, and stop there.
5. Replace The Oil Filter
If your filter is secured too tightly, you’re going to need a wrench to unscrew it (as filters differ in size, the exact wrench you’ll need will differ too). Make sure the collection pan is underneath it, as it’s going to leak oil. Unscrew it all the rest of the way by hand.
If your vehicle has an upwards-facing filter, fill the new filter with oil (this will prevent the engine from running dry for a while once you turn it back on, so it’ll extend its lifetime), and also dip your finger in the oil and lubricate the seal a tad. This will help with unscrewing it easier the next time you do this, and it will also prevent leaks. Measure how much oil went into the filter, this will help you later. A funnel can help with the process.
If your vehicle has a down or side-ways facing filter, do not fill it with oil, as all of it will just spill out while you’re screwing it back on.
6. Refill The Oil Reservoir
This is almost the last step for the car oil change. The reservoir is usually on top of the engine itself, with the traditional oil sign on it (the same as the oil light from your car’s board), or it’ll say something like “engine oil”. Your manufacturer’s manual definitely has this covered.
Regarding how much oil to pour back in, you have two ways to go about it: the safest, surefire way is to check the manual, but keep in mind you also filled the oil filter. Your second option is to make sure that you empty both the oil drain pan, and the old filter, in the same collection pan. Measure how much oil you have in the pan, how much new oil went into the filter, and pour the remaining amount of new oil in the reservoir.
Before taking the reservoir cap off, clean it a bit, so that all the grime won’t mix with the oil and become a problem for the car’s engine. Proceed with refilling the reservoir.
7. Check Everything Is In Order
- Start your car and make sure the oil light isn’t coming on;
- If you’re using the ramp method or less than 4 jack stands, put your car back on the ground, it needs to be on even ground;
- Let the car oil cool down for about 5 minutes;
- Pull out the oil dipstick, clean it of the old oil, and put it back inside all the way;
- Take it out again and check the oil level (you’re looking for it to be between “MIN” and “MAX”, or the two dots; check the tip of the dipstick);
- If the oil level is too low, you’ll need to add more and check again, and if you’ve put too much oil inside, you’ll need to drain it out, because it can cause engine problems.
And you did it! That’s how you change your oil for your automobile. We know it may seem daunting, but all you need is a practice run with someone more experienced, and you’ll be good to go! A final pro tip: store your old oil in any type of container (it can even be a fizzy drink bottle), and bring it to your local auto shop or a place that sells it, and they’ll take care of recycling it.