Projects The Car Engine Oil Change

Skill Level: Intermediate 1:00
This service requires an intermediate level of car knowledge and the proper tools. If you are not sure, have your mechanic perform this service.
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Keeping your Oil Clean

Changing your oil is probably the most common maintenance item that everyone is aware of, and for good reason. The oil in your engine is vital in keeping your engine running in top condition. If your oil is dirty, or if its too low, your engine can be damaged, and in extreme cases it can stop working completely!

This is one of those maintenance items that you can tackle in your garage if you're handy, but it's understandable if you want to let the pros handle this, it can be quite messy.

If you decide to give it a go yourself here is what you will need:

New oil (check on the oil cap on your vehicle for the right weight (eg, 5W-20) or consult your owners manual if it's not printed there)

A new oil filter, most auto shops will have a book indicating which one you will ned

A drain pan to catch the used oil

If you're working on a car or vehicle that you can't easily slide and work under, you will need a jack, jack stands, and tire chocks.

Step 1. Raising the Vehicle (for us car drivers)

Pop your hood before raising your car into the air, sometimes doors won't open correctly with the car jacked up and you don't want to have to lower your car just to pop your hood (it's happened to me). Next you want to jack your car up and place the jack stands on both sides to secure the car. With the front of the car on the jack stands, place tire chocks in front of and behind the rear tires. You do not want the car moving at all while you're underneath. Safety first!

Make sure your vehicle is secure, you don't want it falling with you underneath!

Step 2. Opening up the caps

Once you have the room to work under the car, you will want to open up the oil filler cap and the oil dipstick. This will help the oil drain easier by allowing the air to flow in through these areas and not fight underneath in the drain pan.

Open up both the cap and dipstick to free the air flow.

Step 3. Drain the used oil

With the cap and dipstick open, its time to slide under the vehicle and drain the oil. First you want to locate the drain pan plug. Slowly loosen the plug and have your drain pan ready to catch the used oil. It will shoot out fast at first and then slow down to a trick so place the pan accordingly.

Once the used oil starts draining I usually give it about 10 minutes to drain. The more that drains out the more dirt will come out as well, improving the impact of your oil change.

The drain pan plug on both my Mustang and Highlander. They look very similar.

Step 4: Replacing the Oil Filter

The oil filter is a heavy lifter as it tries to keep your oil clean in between oil changes. These have evolved over the years from the self-contained models (pictured below), to just the paper cores that are in newer vehicles. As for ease of changing, the older ones are easier, while the paper ones are a bit trickier. The benefit of just the paper filters is that there is less waste, which means less in landfills, which I agree with. So a little more work is okay.

When you remove the old oil filter there will be oil that spills out, so make sure that you're drain pan is located in the correct place.

Step 5. Replacing the Oil

Now with your drain pan plug back in place, and your oil filter replaced, it's time to replace the oil. Put in the correct oil and amount based on your owners manual.

For you car drivers out there, you can lower your car before or after you replace the oil, depending on which one is easier for you.

Step 6. Disposing of your oil properly.

Most auto parts stores have bins that you can dispose of your oil for free, so be responsible with it and don't just throw it in the trash.

Now that you're oil is changed you're good to go for another few thousand miles. Don't forget to reset your maintenance data if you have a newer vehicle.


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