Instructions on How to Change Oil

Looking for instructions on how to change oil? Changing your own oil has its advantages: the satisfaction of a job well done, an increase of your knowledge about the car and a chance to keep an eye out for potential problems.

An Oil Change Overview

With the spread of the quick lube franchise, knowing how to give your car an oil change has become a dying art. Here's how to take charge of the job:

  • Stake out. Before you get started, you'll need a level spot where you can work. You'll also need to find a place to drop off your old oil-auto parts stores and quick lube shops (ironically) are a good place to start.
  • Work clean. Make sure you have all of the items you'll need to keep used oil from creating a mess. You'll need: rubber work gloves, a tarp or newspaper, an oil pan or kitchen basin, a funnel, a large Ziplock bag, and some old plastic jugs with screw-top lids (milk or soda).
  • Warming to the task. Warming the oil will help make it drain more completely. Drive your car until the temperature gauge starts to register or you can feel heat blowing from the heater. Park the car in your chosen spot and loosen the oil fill cap.
  • Need a lift? If you can't slide under your car, you'll need to lift it using a jack and jack stands. Block the tires on the rear wheels so the car won't slip off the jack. Jack the car up and place it on the jack stands. Never work under a car using the jack alone!
  • Locate the drain plug. Slide a tarp or newspaper under the car and locate the drain plug. The drain plug should be at or near the lowest point of the engine. It'll be a good-sized nut and the metal around it will be warm to the touch. The transmission drain plug is typically larger and the metal around it won't be as warm. If in doubt, check your owner's or service manual.
  • Loosen up. With a socket wrench, loosen the drain plug until you can turn it with your hand. Don't loosen the drain plug completely.
  • Let it drain. Slide your drain pan under the drain plug, being sure to allow for the flow of oil-a side mounted plug will shoot oil a fair distance. With the pan in place, remove the drain plug and let the oil spill into the pan. Most of the oil will spill out in two to five minutes. Replace the drain plug when oil stops dripping out of the drain.
  • It's the filter's turn. Know locate and remove the oil filter-it's a metal cylinder with a rounded top. You may need an oil filter wrench to remove the part: the wrench is shaped like a dog's choker collar and is available at any auto parts store. Place the drain pan under the filter and remove it from the engine-bet careful, it's full of hot oil! Drain the filter into the pan and set it aside with the open end facing up.
  • Store the used oil. Using a funnel, carefully pour the used oil into as many screw top containers as you need. Set these containers aside for your trip to the recycling center. Place the old oil filter in the Ziplock bag to go out with the oil.
  • The new filter. Prep the new oil filter by rubbing some new oil around the rubber gasket with your finger. Screw the new oil filter into its socket using hand pressure. Use only as much pressure as you can bring to bear using one hand.
  • Add the oil. Add the new oil into the oil fill hole using as many quarts as listed in your owner's manual. Use a clean funnel to insure a no-mess filling job. Check the dipstick to make sure the oil got where it was supposed to go.
  • Clean up. Start the engine and let it run at idle for a few minutes, then check for leaks. Assuming everything's in order, clean up your tools, ground cover and any spills.
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