How to Change Your Car's Oil: 7 Simple Steps

Here’s the bummer: Your car needs periodic maintenance, which means, you have to do more than just fill it up with gas every other day and vacuum it out before a big date.

Now, for the good news. The most basic maintenance of all — the oil change — is simple enough for the average car owner to do at home. Whether you change your oil every 3000 miles because you commute or drive a lot of short trips, or change it every 7500 miles of freeway motoring, you can change your oil at home in just about the same time as the quickie-lube shops.

Here’s how:

Gather tools and equipment. Before you get started, make sure you have all the right pieces to do the job quickly and correctly. You’ll need an oil filter, a way to collect the runoff and recycle it (an old milk container works well), and the proper wrench to make removing the old filter easy. You’ll also want the proper oil for your car – check the owner’s manual for the right weights and types. Also, gather a funnel, a regular wrench, and a safe, secure set of blocks or wheel ramps so you can get beneath your car.

Warm it up. Get your car in the mood for a professional-grade oil change by running it for about ten minutes, then shutting it down. The sludge will move out of the engine easier.

Drain it. After the car is raised for easier access, and the parking brake is set for security, you can remove the old oil. Place a pan or container underneath the oil drain plug, loosen its bolt with your standard wrench, and remove the plug, being careful to keep your hands and other vitals out of the way of the stream of hot oil. It should take no more than ten minutes to drain the old oil completely.

Put the oil pan back on. It’s easier to forget this step than you think. Put the plug bolt back in the pan (you may want to replace its washer while it’s off, too), and then screw the assembly back together.

Find the oil filter. Next, open up the hood and find the oil filter — a Coke can-sized object that is usually under the hood, but sometimes beneath the car.

Now, change it. Loosen with the proper size oil-filter wrench, and then remove it, being careful not to drip oil. Replace it with the new one, making sure to rub the new filter’s seal with a little oil and using your hand to tighten it (the filter wrench can exert too much force for this step).

Don't forget the refill. Find the oil cap under the hood of your car, and use the recommended weight and amount of oil for your model of car. Replace the cap, and in a few minutes, check to make sure your oil level falls between the Low and Full marks on the dipstick.


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