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Oil Change Basics - You Can Do It!

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On: Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 10:43AM | By: Peter C Sessler

Oil Change Basics - You Can Do It!

The oil change is probably the most basic automotive procedure. You may ask, why bother, since it costs only $20-25 at the local service station. And sometimes, it’s even less at some of the big tire places.

Probably the best reason for doing it yourself is saving time. You don’t have to make an appointment or take the time out to drive to a service station. You also have the choice of installing whatever brand of oil filter you want and, just as important, whatever brand and type of oil you want. And once you get into the habit of changing your own oil, you’re apt to take the little extra time to check the rest of the car out.

You’ll need to make a small investment in tools. You need to get something to drain the oil in, a good quality oil filter wrench, and a ratchet set for removing the oil drain plug. Also highly recommended is the purchase of a jack-stand so you don’t have to rely on just that car’s jack.

You may not need a jack stand or the use of a jack if your vehicle sits high off the ground, such as a pick-up truck or SUV. With these vehicles, you can just slide underneath.

Start by raising the front of the car by jacking the car up. When it’s high enough, place the jack stand underneath and let the jack down so that the car’s weight is supported by the jack. Don’t forget to place a wedge or something else behind the rear tires so the car doesn’t slide back as you jack it up. And, of course, make sure the parking brake is on and the transmission is in the "Park" position.

You’ll find that the oil filter is easier to remove if you remove after you’ve run the car (and let it cool down) a bit. The likelihood is that there will be oil spilled as you unscrew the filter, so make sure the drain pan is directly beneath. Use paper towels to wipe any spillage. Next, remove the drain plug. Sometimes these can be hard to remove. While the oil is draining, take the new oil filter, wipe a coating of oil on its gasket and screw it on. Follow the directions on the filter; usually you’ll have to tighten it a given number of turns after it is hand-tight. Don’t over-tighten it.

With some oil filters, it is possible to fill them with oil before screwing them on. Although the typical engine will get enough oil pressure in time after the engine is turned on, filling the filter with oil is a good idea.

Give it enough time so that all the old oil is drained. This is a good time to check the rest of your car’s fluid levels. After the oil is drained, replace the drain plug. Be careful that you replace it exactly the same way so that you don’t cross-thread it. If you do, you may need a larger plug or one of the drain-plug repair kits.

Once that’s done, fill the engine with the exact amount of oil called for in the owner’s manual. Don’t overfill. Start the engine, let it run for a few minutes, and as it is running, take a look underneath the car for any leaks. You’ll soon find out if the oil filter or drain plug isn’t tight enough. Shut the engine off and check the oil level indicated on the dipstick.

Typically, the engine, once started, will run for a few seconds without any oil pressure (unless you were able to fill the oil filter). Your oil pressure gauge or warning light will so indicate. After a few seconds, the gauge should read normal oil pressure or the engine oil light will turn off. If it doesn’t, or if you start hearing strange clanking noises, shut the engine off immediately. This means there’s a problem somewhere, and most likely, you’ve forgotten to put the oil in!

Finally, let the car down and put the tools away. Don’t forget to take the old oil and put it in a suitable container (old milk gallon jugs are great for this) and take it to your local service station for disposal.



RoadKill | 5:28PM (Fri, Aug 26, 2011)

When you change the oil yourself, you know what is going into your motor...I was told by a reliable source that many Quick Lube type places routinely use recycled oils without telling the consumer....


dwalter | 9:10AM (Mon, Aug 29, 2011)

wow. I've never heard that. that's probably how they can price an oil change for less than it'd cost to actually buy your own oil and filter.

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