How to Change Your Car Oil

The automobile might also be an object of desire and pride, but at its foundation it remains a complicated piece of machinery designed to get you from A to B. Even to this day, it’s usually the most complicated thing that most people own, and this makes it seem quite daunting at times.
Oil change 6 photos
Bosch oil filterOil Filter WrenchMobile 1 oilJack (Hydraulic)Drainable oil pan
Even changing a light bulb or doing routine inspection seems like quite a big deal for regular people, but it’s really not that bad if you attack the problem with an open mind. After World War I, cars starting being used by people around the world, but owning an automobile was quite complicated. You had hundred of things that you had to lube up every hundred miles or so and you constantly had to pump oil into the engine, sometimes by hand.

See? We don’t have it so bad these days! The trend is for cars, especially the small ones, to never need maintenance in as many departments as possible. For example, the dual clutch gearboxes that are replacing automatics are dry, so you don’t have to worry your transmission fluid is getting dirty.

However, engines will always need oil to run, at least for the foreseeable future. Obviously, we’re not suggesting you change the oil yourself in an expensive BMW or Porsche, so this guide is more for you weekend mechanics out there who want to save a few bucks.

Changing the oil regularly is the single most important thing you can do by yourself to increase the life of your beloved motor, and you could be saving a lot of money by doing it yourself. The equipment you need is no that expensive and will only set you back about the same as five to six professional oil changes. If you buy your own floor jack, jack stands, basic tool kit and oil pan, you’ll be set for life!

Great, now that you have all that, make sure you have as many bottles of the right oil to refill the car. It should be about 3 or 4, but you should definitely check your owner’s manual before buying. After you’re done with your old oil, definitely find a recycling center that takes it and safely disposes of it, because if you just dump it in the sewage, it could pollute a lot of water.

First things first, you’ll need to safely jack up your car. Park it on a driveway that’s level, put the parking brake on and consider chocks behind the back tires so you know it won’t roll away. Some bricks or pieces of wood will work, but you should’t do this alone in case something happens.

Place the jack up against a solid metal point on the frame of the car, not the suspension, making sure you don’t touch anything that’s plastic, like the rocker panels. Don’t raise the car too much because the oil pan will not drain completely.

DO NOT BORROW USED JACK STANDS! Once you’re under the car, your life depends on them, and you don’t want your life to be ended by somebody else’s faulty equipment. They can bend or brake, so be very careful. Again, used sold metal point to place them, and shake your car a bit to ensure it’s stable.

After that, it’s time to open the bonnet. Take off the oil filler cap, because if you don’t the oil will come out very uneavenly, sort of like water coming out an upside down bottle.

Right, time to take out the oil! The oil sits in a pan on the bottom of the engine block and to change it, you have to undo the plug underneath. Depending on the model, this may require anything from a 13mm to a 22mm wrench to undo. First loosen the plug and then undo it by hand to avoid the spills.

The oil stays hot for a while after the engine has been shut off. So let the car sit and to be extra safe wear plastic gloves. Those blue gloves are so cheap you’ll be happy you bought them and don’t have oily finger nails for three days. The reason the oil gets so dirty is that when your fuel burns, it also produces carbon, which causes overheating. In case you spill oil on the ground, make sure you use plenty of rags to clean it up.

Once the oil is drained, put the plug back, but first make sure the washer/gasket hasn’t fallen off somewhere, like into the dirty oil. Tighten it back on and begin filling the car back up with oil.

Right, time to change the oil filter. It’s usually white or black and you should be able to take it off with your hand. Position the oil pan underneath to catch whatever oil is in there. If for some reason you can’t take the oil filter off by hand, you need an adjustable oil filter wrench. If you don’t have that, you can use an old bike inner tire to give you grip.

You should take the same care with the oil filter as you did with the old oil when throwing it away! Take out the new one and fill it to about half way or just under. Most mechanics recommend you rub some oil on the rubber gasket you see at the top, which is supposed to give you a better seal. Put the new filter back on, but make sure the old rubber gasket from the other filter isn’t stuck on. The threads are very fine, so don’t over tighten the filter or they could get damaged.

When filling the car up with oil, don’t overdo it. Too much is worse than too little, so if for example your car takes 3.5 liters, stop and 3 and check your stick. Also, we recommend using a funnel to stop you from making a ream mess in the engine bay, but it’s really up to you to decide if you’re a steady hand. Let it sit for a few minutes and check the level. After that, you need to start the car and check again, just because the oil filter wasn’t full before.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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