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The DIY Driver: How To Change Your Oil, Perfectly


Let’s start out by making some assumptions. You know how to safely access the underneath of your vehicle. You are amply equipped with tools and auto parts and your heart is in the right place because you would like to do right by the environment and your neighbors as you change the oil in your car.

Select a flat surface as the staging area of your oil change. This will provide a safe place to support your car. If there is an oil access cover remove it to uncover the oil filter and possibly the motor oil pan’s drain plug. Put the bolts from the cover in a coffee can so you don’t lose them.

Curl up the corners of a piece of screen and put it in the bottom of your drain pan. Position the drain pan under the drain plug and loosen the plug allowing the used motor oil to fall into the pan. Attempt to catch the drain plug as you loosen it and put it in the coffee can. Now move the drain pan under the oil filter and remove the filter and drain the filter into the pan. If it is a canister type filter arrangement you will have to remove the housing to access the cartridge type filter. If your filter is the spin on type immediately check to see that the gasket has been removed with the filter, if it hasn’t reach up to the filter housing and remove the gasket.

 Check the new filter for a gasket and then install it, being sure not to over-tighten; a rule of thumb is to tighten a spin on filter with as much force as you can apply with your bare hand and to avoid using the filter wrench. This prevents contending with an un-removable filter the next time you change your oil.

If the drain plug fell into the drain pan raise the piece of screen to access the plug and replace it, then replace the cover. Depending on the location of the filter you may have to wipe off areas that might have collected used oil during the draining process, this will eliminate the possibility that this errant oil may be mistakenly identified as a leak.

If your car has grease fittings now is the time to apply grease, that’s why they call it a lube, oil and filter. Now move to under the hood of the car, and immediately fill the crankcase to the prescribed capacity. This is not a time to respond to a text since any distraction might result in not filling the engine with oil which can in turn cause a lost engine. It happens to professionals, so it can happen in your driveway.

Now, start the engine and observe the low oil light, which should go out in seconds. Shut down the engine and take one more trip under the car and check for blatant leaks at the filter and the drain plug. Returning under the hood, check each and every fluid and fill to capacity. Besides the obvious this practice is meant to alert you to possible problems that may have developed since you last changed your oil. Low coolant may mean you have a radiator leaking – you get the idea.

Next reset the oil change reminder light if your car is so-equipped or replace the reminder sticker on your windshield with an updated one.  Identify an auto repair facility which heats its shop with used oil and take your old oil there for the most efficient recycling.

Things that are automotive rarely go perfectly, but changing your oil can be a cost efficient and rewarding attempt at perfection.

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