How to Change a Car’s Oil

You really should change your oil every 3,000 miles. If not to extend the life of your engine, you should do it to at least increase your fuel efficiency, especially with prices jumping up at these ridiculous rates lately.

If you are looking for the steps to getting a car’s oil change here you go:

  1. Look for an oil change coupon
  2. Head to the auto service center on said coupon
  3. Drop off car
  4. Wait for 30 minutes in the waiting room while watching a small TV in the corner of the ceiling
  5. Drink some stale coffee
  6. Get offered several “upsells” by the cashier
  7. Leave by spending more money than you planned on, wondering if your oil was even changed

That is how most people get their oil changed nowadays. Gone are the days when people have the time and know-how to drive their car up on a couple of ramps and drain and replace the oil on your own.

Ever wanted to learn how to perform an oil change on your own? Well this article should help.

Step one: Gather your tools

You are going to need a few tools to get this job done. This is another reason most people don’t change their own oil. They just don’t have the tools needed, it’s not the 1950’s anymore. You can always look for a neighbor or friend to loan you tools, or buy them if you plan to make a habit of doing your own work from now on.

Here are the tools for an oil change:

  • Jack
  • Wrench for drain plug (box end or socket)
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Latex gloves (optional but recommended)
  • Jack stands or ramps (highly recommended as a jack alone could fall)
*I highly recommend this oil change kit so that you can get all of the right parts and have them available whenever you want to do your own oil change.


Other required materials:

  • Oil (duh!)
  • Oil filter
  • Replacement drain plug washer

Step two: Consult your owner’s manual or or Hayne’s Repair Manual

You should read up on your car first to make sure you are using the right type and right amount of oil.

Step three: Jack up the car

Don’t use the flimsy jack that you find in your trunk. There is a good chance that this will fall over and they aren’t build to keep your car in the air for long periods of time. My favorite option is to drive up onto ramps because they are sturdy and no jacking is required.

Step four: Drain the oil

Make sure that your oil drain pan is ready below the car to catch all of the oil. The oil will actually shoot out at an angle at first so be prepared. Put on your rubber gloves if you want to keep from making a mess of your hands. Start loosening the drain plug with your wrench until you think you can use your fingers to unscrew the rest. Slowly unscrew it to avoid oil shooting out too quickly all over yourself. Make sure everything is landing in the oil drain pan! Unscrew the oil filter cap on the top of the engine to get the oil pouring out faster.

Step five: Wait

While you wait for the oil to completely drain out you should inspect your oil drain plug. Wipe it clean and see if the washer needs replacement. If it does, then replace it.

Step six: Replace drain plug

When all of the oil has drained, you need to replace the drain plug. It is embarrassing and messy when people start filling the oil without plugging the bottom.

Don’t over-tighten the plug. Use as much force as you can with the wrench without having to hit it or use an extension for more force.

Step seven: Remove the oil filter

Position the oil drain pan below the filter so that it can catch any oil that might spill. Loosen the oil filter with the oil filter wrench. You should then be able to unscrew it the rest of the way by hand.

Pour out the oil filter into the drain pan and wipe the area down where the filter came out of.

Step eight: Install the new oil filer

Before installing the filter, smear some oil on the new filter’s o-ring to get it to screw on easier.

Tighten the oil filter by hand. Try and tighten it as much as you can without a tool. If you have a weak grip only slightly tighten it more than you can by hand.

Step nine: Add new oil

Here comes the easiest part. After you have confirmed the correct amount of oil that your car needs (from the manual) slowly begin adding the oil to the tank. It is best if you use a funnel to keep the oil from splashing everywhere. If you turn the quart of oil on its side, you’ll notice a much smoother pour without air bubbles shooting the water around.

Step ten: Test it out

Tighten the oil tank cover and get ready to start the car. Turn on the engine and let your car run for about 30 seconds to circulate the oil. When the car is off check the dipstick to make sure that the oil is at the right level and is the correct color.

Also, now is a good time to make sure that you don’t have any leaks. If you do, find the source of the leak and tighten the screw or filter in that area. If it persists, you may have a problem that a mechanic would need to intervene with.

Step eleven: Drive 3,000 more miles

You have done it! Congratulations, you did something that the majority of the population doesn’t even consider doing anymore.

Enjoy the smooth drive that you’ll have for the next 3,000 miles or so. Remember, a great way to check to see if you need an oil change any sooner is to check your oil dip stick every time you pull up to the gas station. While your gas is filling with overpriced gasoline, you have a few minutes to check on your oil level and color.

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