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Knowing how to change your car oil is one of the most basic skills you should know as an automotive DIYer. Not only does it help you get to know your vehicle better, but it also allows you to check the condition of various components you may not have been able to inspect as often as needed. In addition, changing your vehicle’s oil on your own can save you money, as it requires mostly basic shop tools.

If you’re wondering how to do your own oil change, this guide is for you.

How to Do an Oil Change

It is possible to change your oil hot or cold, although each has its own pros and cons.

If you change your oil while it’s hot, it has a tendency to drain more quickly. However, you must be careful when draining out hot oil as you can burn yourself. Also, around half a quart of oil may still remain in the upper parts of the engine.

oil change
Knowing how to change your vehicle’s oil can save you a lot of money.

If you plan on changing your oil while it’s cold, make sure that it’s cool enough not to burn you and most of the oil have drained into the oil pan before proceeding. Read on to learn more about how to change oil.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4-6 quarts of oil
    (Most vehicles hold four quarts plus ⅓ or ½ a quart for the filter. Check your owner’s manual for the type of engine oil you need, your engine’s oil capacity, and the recommended viscosity.)
  • New oil filter
    (Make sure that its size, threaded opening, and seal diameter are the same as your old one’s. If you’re unsure of the specs, check your owner’s manual.)
  • Replacement drain plug washer (depending on your application)
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Wrench or socket
  • Catch pan that can hold five or more quarts of oil
  • Funnel
  • Clean rag
  • Latex or Nitrile rubber gloves
  • Car ramps or a jack and safety standsContainer, such as an old plastic milk jug
  • Safety glasses
  • Repair manual or access to a repair database (recommended)
  • Torque wrench
    (This is recommended for starting-out DIYers. It will allow you to tighten the plug according to the recommended torque specifications and avoid over-tightening the plug.)

Procedure:

Prepare Your Vehicle

  • Put on your safety glasses and protective gloves. Set the parking brake and raise the vehicle so that you can reach the drain plug on the bottom of the oil pan.
  • Find the filter. It is usually located under the vehicle, though in some instances, it’s found on top of the engine.
  • Position a catch pan under the engine to catch the oil. The oil can squirt a bit, so make sure to position the catch pan in such a way that can accommodate the distance.
oil catch pan
Make sure to place an oil catch pan under the engine.

Drain the Oil

  • Loosen the drain plug with your wrench (counterclockwise) until it’s almost free. Loosen it all the way with your gloved hand and let gravity do the rest.
  • If the drain plug falls into the catch pan, you can take it out with a magnetic grabber.
  • When the oil has finished draining, replace the drain plug and torque it to the manufacturer’s specification. This information can be found in a repair manual or an online repair database.
  • Some drain plugs have gaskets to help maintain a tight seal. You may want to change the gasket if it’s worn. Otherwise, it’s okay to reuse it.
  • If the drain plug threads are severely damaged or stripped, self-tapping repair plugs are available. They are a much cost-effective alternative than replacing the entire oil pan.

Change the Oil Filter

Note: The following instructions are for a traditional, canister-style oil filter. If your car has a cartridge-style filter, the process will be different.

  • Locate the oil filter and loosen it (counterclockwise) using your filter wrench. Spin the filter the rest of the way off. Make sure that the catch pan is positioned under the filter so that it can catch the oil from the filter.
  • You may use other techniques to loosen the oil filter, especially if it’s been over-tightened. Remember that changing the oil filter is important. If unchanged, a blocked oil filter will help accelerate engine wear and can potentially ruin your engine.
  • If possible, fill the filter with some oil so that the engine doesn’t run dry. Place a few drops of oil on your finger and wipe it around the rubber seal of the new filter to help it seal properly.
  • Secure the new filter and tighten it (clockwise) by hand until snug. The filter needs to be turned about ¾ of a turn after the rubber seal makes contact with the engine.
  • Use your filter wrench to tighten it an additional ¾ of a turn more if you can’t do it by hand. Remember not to over-tighten the filter or it will be difficult to remove the next time you need to replace it.

Add the New Oil

  • Find the oil filler cap on the engine, which is usually located on a valve cover. Open it, then use a funnel to fill the engine with the required amount and type of oil.
  • Replace and tighten the oil filler cap on the engine.

Check the Oil Level

  • Pull out the dipstick, wipe it off, and stick it back in. Pull it out again to check the oil level in your engine. It should read above the full mark if you also changed the filter and added the required make-up oil for the filter. The oil level should also be at the full mark if you pre-filled the filter with oil.
  • If you added a bit too much oil, drain the extra oil onto a clean catch pan so you can reuse it.
  • Check the engine oil levels as necessary.
  • Start the engine and let it idle. Don’t rev the engine yet. Let the oil pressure reach normal levels. If the oil pressure warning light illuminates, it might only be for a few seconds.
  • Then turn the engine off and recheck the oil level; it should now be at the full mark on the dipstick. If needed, add oil to bring the level up to the full mark.
checking oil dipstick
The oil level should be at the full mark if you pre-filled the filter with oil.

Final Checks and Tips

  • Look under the vehicle to make sure the drain plug and the filter are not leaking. If there are leaks, shut the engine off and fix the leak immediately.
  • Take note of the date of the oil change, the mileage when you changed your oil, the oil’s brand, and its viscosity. These details will help you figure out your next service interval.

How Long Does it Take to Change Your Oil?

The time it takes to change your vehicle’s oil ranges from about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your automotive experience. If you’re just starting out as a DIY-er, it’s best to take things at your own pace to avoid any mistakes that can lead to personal injury or vehicle damage.

Also, always remember to wear protective equipment like gloves, goggles, and closed shoes.

How Often Do You Need to Change Your Oil?

You should always follow the recommended service interval in your owner’s manual.

For some vehicles, an oil change should be done every 3-6 months or every 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, this may not be applicable to all vehicles. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct interval.

How long can you go without an oil change? The answer to this question also varies depending on your vehicle and typical driving conditions.

Why is it Important to Change Your Oil?

Regular oil changes help prolong the lifespan of the engine and keep your vehicle running well. Engine oil does not only lubricate the moving parts of the engine but also helps cool the engine down.

Motor oil eventually deteriorates, mostly because of the formulation and the high-temperature and pressure conditions inside the engine. It will lose its viscosity and its additives will deplete over time. It could also get contaminated or form a thick sludge that may permanently damage the engine.

How Does Motor Oil Deteriorate?

Motor oils have a lifespan and can deteriorate over time. Here are some of the factors that contribute to the deterioration of motor oil:

Oxidation

Oxidation happens when the oxygen molecules in the air interact with the motor oil, causing the base oils in the latter to break down. This affects the motor oil’s performance negatively and increases the oil’s viscosity.

Sludge and other deposits may also form and damage the engine.

High heat

High heat increases the rate of oxidation for motor oils, especially since modern engines can reach temperatures of up to 235°F or more.

oil change in a car
Condensation inside the engine can lead to contamination, which contributes to sludge formation.

Moisture

Condensation may form inside your engine and lead to contamination, which contributes to sludge formation. Leaving the engine parked for prolonged periods of time or going on quick trips that don’t allow the engine to warm up fully allows water to remain in the oil.

In ideal circumstances, water should evaporate and exit through the tailpipe.

Viscosity Loss

Intense pressure caused by the engine’s moving parts can affect the viscosity of your motor oil. If the viscosity of the motor oil is reduced, it may no longer function as intended.

Dilution

Fuel may contaminate the motor oil and cause it to become diluted or lose its viscosity. If you constantly make short trips, the oil won’t reach its normal operating temperature.

This means that the fuel can’t volatilize and go through the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system.

Frequent fuel dilution can lead to sludging and, in that case, the oil will need to be replaced more often.

Additive Depletion

Motor oils have different additives mixed in with the base oils. They offer various benefits, such as slowing the rate of oxidation, preventing sludge, cleaning deposits, and protecting the moving parts of the engine from excessive wear.

Additives deplete over time and affect the state of the oil, which is why doing an oil change regularly is necessary.

How Should I Dispose of My Old Oil?

You should never dispose of used motor oil on your own because it is a health and environmental hazard. The best way to dispose of used oil is to place it in an empty, clean, and sealed container like an old oil container or an empty milk jug.

You can drop off your old oil at your local auto shop or any place that accepts used motor oil. These places will then take the used motor oil and recycle them or dispose of them properly.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic.

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