How to Do an Oil Change

Tools for an oil change

The basic tools you need to change your oil

Changing your engine’s oil is perhaps one of the most common maintenance items we have to deal with. Long term, it can also be one of the most expensive ones, because, depending on how much you drive, you may need to change it often, at least several times a year. Fortunately, though, it is also one of the easiest ones to do yourself.

Until not too long ago, I would go to one of those quick oil change type places to get it done. Then, I realized that I was paying as much as twice what it would cost me to do it myself. I said, no way!

Yes, it takes 15~20 minutes to do it, but it actually took me longer than that to get to the oil change place, wait for them to do the oil change and then get back on route to go wherever I was going. So unless it is right on your way to work, school or home, you’re probably wasting time as well.

HOW TO DO AN OIL CHANGE

As I said, it is very easy to do an oil chance. If you’ve been thinking about going the DIY route, well, here are the step by step instructions you’ve been looking for. Obviously, not all cars and trucks are the same, but they all are very similar, just take your time to familiarize yourself with your own car or truck and you should be good to go.

STEP 1: GET EVERYTHING YOU NEED, INCLUDING THE OIL AND OIL FILTER

It may sound like you need a bunch of tools and equipment, but no, this list includes everything you need to do your own oil change:

  • Motor Oil (check your car’s manual so you can get the correct grade & quantity for your vehicle)
  • Oil Filter (check your car’s manual so you can get the correct type for your vehicle)
  • Oil Drain Pan
  • Funnel
  • 15mm socket to remove oil drain plug (check your car’s manual for the correct size for your vehicle)
  • Depending on the type of oil filter your car uses, a (24mm in our case) socket to remove the oil filter cap or an oil filter wrench
  • Socket extension (You may not need it, I need it to remove the oil filter)
  • Ratchet
  • Gloves
  • Rags for clean up
Oil, oil filter, oil drain pan, funnel and hand tools

Oil, oil filter, drain pan, funnel and hand tools I use to change the oil

 

Once you have everything, it is a good time to warm up the engine for a few minutes, this will help with the oil flow out of it. If it’s already hot, though, it is actually a good idea to let it sit and cool down a bit to avoid getting burned, motor oil can get really hot.

STEP 2: GET UNDER THE CAR/TRUCK AND LOOSEN THE OIL DRAIN PLUG

This is probably the most complicated step of the process. Depending on your car, you may need to jack it up and put it on stands before you can get under it. In our case, though, I can go right under it without the need of a jack or stands, this saves at least an extra five minutes to the process.

Once I’m under it, I use the 15mm socket and the ratchet to loosen the oil drain plug.

Engine oil drain plug

Engine oil drain plug

 

Oil drain plug, socket and ratchet

Removing the engine oil drain plug with a 15mm socket and ratchet

 

STEP 3: REMOVE OIL DRAIN PLUG AND USE THE OIL DRAIN PAN TO COLLECT THE DIRTY OIL

Once the oil drain plug is loose, I use my fingers to pull it out completely, making sure the Oil Drain Pan is properly positioned to collect the old, dirty oil. You don’t want to mess your beautiful garage floor.

Draining old, dirty motor oil

Draining old, dirty motor oil

 

STEP 4: REMOVE OLD OIL FILTER

While letting the oil drain, I usually go ahead and remove the oil filter. In our case, the oil filter is in the engine compartment. But, in some cases, it is located very close to the oil drain plug, so you may have the chance to remove it right after you remove the oil drain plug.

To do this, I use the 24mm socket, the socket extension and the same ratchet I used on the previous step to loosen the oil filter cap, then just like with the oil drain plug, I use my fingers to pull it out. The filter usually stays attached to the cap, if it doesn’t, just pull it out by hand. It may be a good idea to use a rag to avoid getting the engine compartment all dirty.

Removing Oil Filter cap

Removing oil filter cap

 

Old oil filter replacement

The old oil filter I was about to replace

 

STEP 5: INSTALL NEW OIL FILTER

Once you have removed the old oil filter, you can go ahead and install the new one, using the same tools from the previous step. You also need to replace the O-ring on the cap. Use some of the new oil to lubricate it a bit before you put the cap back in place. If you have a canister style oil filter, it is also advisable to use some of the new oil to lubricate the gasket before you install it.

How to do an oil chance, changing oil filter

The new oil filter, before it was put back in place

 

Twist by hand until it’s tight, then use the socket and ratchet to tighten it a bit more and then torque it.

If you want to do things absolutely right, you will need a torque wrench to complete this step. Our manual says 22 ft-lb for the oil filter cap. Check your car’s manual for the correct torque on yours.

STEP 6: REINSTALL AND TORQUE OIL DRAIN PLUG

At this point, the old oil should be completely drained from the engine, so you can go ahead and reinstall and torque the oil drain plug. Hand tighten it first, then use the socket and ratchet to tighten it a bit more and then torque it.

Oil drain plug torque

Reinstalling and torquing oil drain plug

 

If you want to do things absolutely right, you will need a torque wrench to complete this step. Our manual says 15 ft-lb for the oil drain plug. Check your car’s manual for the correct torque on yours.

STEP 7: USE A FUNNEL TO REFILL THE ENGINE WITH THE NEW OIL

With the oil drain plug and new oil filter in place, it is just a matter of refilling the engine with the new oil. To do this, remove the oil fill cap, which is usually identified with the engine oil sign and the grade of oil required.

Place the funnel in the hole, not too far down as there’s usually some kind of obstruction to prevent damaging internal engine parts, and slowly start pouring new oil. If you do it too fast, it will back up, so take your time. Once you have completely refilled it, put the oil fill cap back on and tighten it.

Doing an oil change, pouring new oil

Pouring the new oil, I use Mobil 1

 

STEP 8: RUN THE ENGINE FOR A FEW SECONDS, LOOK FOR LEAKS

If you’ve used a jack and stands, you can go ahead and put the car back down on its wheels.

Then, start the engine. Check for leaks (although, if you followed these steps, you should not have to worry), if it’s all good, shut it off and let it sit for a few minutes before you check the oil dipstick to confirm the correct oil level.

STEP 9: RESET YOUR CAR’S OIL LIFE MONITOR (IF EQUIPPED)

I’m still not sure how well these Oil Life Monitors work, however, I still make it a point to reset it every time I change the oil. It does not hurt, especially if you are one of those that usually forget to change it. It will let you know when it’s time to do it (even if it’s after more than 10,000 miles). Follow your car’s manual for instructions on how to do it.

Oil life monitor system

Oil life monitor at 25% after more than 6,000 miles

 

Oil life monitor reset

Oil life monitor reset, back at 100%

STEP 10: EMPTY OIL DRAIN PAN IN NEW OIL CONTAINER AND TAKE IT FOR RECYCLING

As a final step, I use the same empty oil containers to put the old, dirty oil. I then take them to the nearest auto parts store for recycling.

Motor oil recycling

Getting the old oil ready to take it for recycling

 

This is it! You are all set!

Readers, do you change your own oil or do you find it difficult and time-consuming?

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