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Automobile Maintenance

How to Change The Oil in Your Car

Getting a regular oil change is one of the most important things you can do toward taking care of your car. Not only is an oil change required to keep the engine running well, but it also provides an opportunity to catch other issues that your car might be having before they get out of hand. 

If you’re planning on changing your oil yourself, you want to make sure you know what you’re doing. 

Many Americans don’t know the basics of car care, so by learning these steps for changing the oil in your car yourself, you’ll be ahead of the game:

Changing the Oil in Your Car Starts With Checking the Oil Type

Before you go to the auto parts store, check your owner’s manual to make sure you know what type of oil and how much of it is required to change your oil. If your vehicle calls for 5.7 quarts, for example, you’ll buy 6 quarts. You might be tempted to buy big jugs instead of smaller bottles, but keep in mind that they might be harder to lift and hold steady as you pour. 

You also need to know what type of oil is required. Be careful as some types resemble each other; example: 5W-30 oil vs. 5W-20 oil. 

It’s important that you also check the manual for any other specific requirements. Some vehicles will require only synthetic oil, while it doesn’t matter for others. 

Gather Your Tools

Changing the oil in your car requires the right tools, so in addition to the proper oil, you’ll also need an oil filter, a wrench for removing the oil filter and the drain plug, a drain pan, some gloves, and a funnel. 

You might also need a jack and safety stands in case your car needs to be raised in order to gain full access. The jack that comes with the car might not be stable enough to keep your car raised securely. Make sure you use one with steel ramps. 

Any of these tools can be purchased at your local auto parts store. Be sure to ask for a new drain plug washer while you’re there. 

Make sure you wear clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty since there’s a high chance of getting oil on them and oil doesn’t come out of clothing easily. 

Get Your Vehicle Ready 

Before you get started, you want to make sure the oil in your engine is neither hot nor cold. Run your engine by taking your car for a quick drive, but then let it sit for a bit so that the exhaust system cools off. 

While you’re waiting for the system to cool down, you can work on raising your car if you need to so that you have easier access. 

If you have a newer car, there might be an undercover that needs to be removed. These covers are put into place to keep things clean inside your car’s engine but they can be a pain when it comes to changing your oil. The good news is that most vehicles don’t have one. 

Find the Oil Filter

Finding the drain plug and the oil filter is the next step in changing the oil in your car. Most cars have a bottom-mount filter with a screw attachment. Others have a top-mount filter.

Hold you drain pan underneath before removing the plug and allowing the oil to drain out. You might have to move your drain pan from one side to the other depending on how far apart the filter and plug are from each other. 

Draining the oil

When draining the oil, don’t hold the pan directly under the drain plug. Oil can run out at an angle so hold the pan in such a way to catch the oil as it streams out. 

Carefully remove the oil filler cap and hold your thumb over the opening to control the stream because it will come out quickly. 

Now you can work on removing the drain plug with the help of your wrench and a little elbow grease. Empty the oil into the drain pan and set aside. 

While the oil is draining out completely, install a clean, new drain plug washer if needed and tighten the drain plug with your wrench. 

Change the Oil Filter

Next remove the oil filter keeping in mind that they are easy to remove and once it comes out, so does the oil. There’s really no way to avoid making a mess when removing the filter, so be prepared with lots of rags handy. 

Hold the removed filter over the pan to drain it out, but be careful not to drop it in. Install the new filter using a firm grip which usually doesn’t require more than one full turn. 

Add New Oil

Once your drain bolt and filter are secured in place, it’s time to add fresh oil. Add about a quart less than what is recommended and keep the remainder for later. After you’ve poured in the new oil, replace the oil cap and start the engine. Allow the engine to run for about 30 seconds so the new oil can circulate, and then turn the engine off. 

Clean up your area with rags and check under the car for leaks. Once you’re satisfied with your work, lower the car off the jack stands. 

Learning how to care for your own car, whether it’s the latest model of a popular SUV, or something vintage like this style of vehicle, is worth learning. You can save money by doing basic maintenance yourself while gaining a greater appreciation for your vehicle and how it works. 

Other Helpful Tips

While you’re still perfecting the skills of changing the oil in your car, learn more about what to expect from a good oil change if you take your vehicle in.  

Be sure to browse through our collection of other helpful articles on repairing and maintaining your vehicle yourself.