Do Your Own Oil Change

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Preparing for Your Oil Change

Oil change stuff.
Gather what you'll need for your oil change. photo mw

Never change your oil while the engine is hot! Let it cool for a few hours as oil can burn you badly. ​Caution! If you drove your car recently, your oil could be very hot. When your engine is warmed up, your engine oil can be as hot as 250 degrees! Allow at least two hours for your oil to cool before you start your oil change. Oil burns are very dangerous.

Be sure you have a safe area to do your oil change. Level, solid ground is a must so that you can safely jack up your car. Consider putting something on the driveway or garage floor underneath the engine in case you spill. Cardboard or a piece of plywood are great for this.
Before you even start to do your oil change, be sure you have everything you need to get the job done.

What You'll Need

  • Ratchet or open end wrench
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil catch/recycle container
  • Funnel
  • New oil filter
  • New oil
  • Clean rag
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Draining the Old Oil

Loosen the oil drain plug.
The plug is at the bottom of the oil pan. photo mw

The first step in preparing your vehicle for an oil change is to get the old stuff out of there. The oil drains out of the oil pan at the very bottom of your engine. The oil is held in by a drain plug that looks like a big bolt at the bottom of the pan.

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Catching the Oil For Recycling

A proper container keeps things clean.
Let the drain plug drop onto the screen. photo mw

Before you remove the oil drain plug, be sure that your recycling container is positioned underneath the oil drain. An oil change is no fun if most of your time is spent cleaning up oil.

When you remove the drain plug, let it drop into the top of the recycling container. There's a screen on top that will keep it from dropping into the muck.

Let all of the oil drain out, then replace the drain plug, tightening it to your cars torque specifications (or "snug but not too hard" if you are sans torque wrench.)

Put the cap on the oil recycling container so you can drop it off at a location that accepts used oil -- most full service gas stations accept it.

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Remove the Old Oil Filter

Try not to spill the oil.
Remove the old oil filter carefully. photo mw

Next, you need to remove your old oil filter. Using an oil filter wrench, turn the filter counterclockwise until it's free. Be careful with it, it's still full of old oil that can spill and make a mess.

Some oil filters can be reached from the top, but for most, you'll have to be under the car.

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Prepping The New Oil Filter

Prepare the oil filter.
Lubricate the gasket on the new filter. photo mw

With the old oil out and the old filter out of the way, it's time to put the change in oil change. But before you install the new oil filter, you have to prep it.

Before you screw the new oil filter into place, lubricate the rubber gasket on the end of the filter with some new oil.

Next, fill the new oil filter with oil to about 2/3. It's ok if you go over that amount; it just means you might spill a bit when you screw it on.

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Installing the New Oil Filter

New oil filter.
Screw the new filter on tightly with your hand. photo mw

Carefully screw the new oil filter into place. Remember, it has oil in it so don't forget to hold it upright. It screws on clockwise.

You don't need a wrench to install the new oil filter. Screw it on as tight as you can get it with one hand. Overtightening the oil filter can strip its threads and cause a leak. Of course, not tightening it enough can cause a leak. Screw it on as tight as it will go with one hand, but no more.

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Refilling the Engine Oil

Refilling the engine oil.
Use a funnel to refill the engine oil. photo mw

Now you're ready to fill the engine with oil. Unscrew the oil fill cap and insert your funnel. I like to buy the 5-quart containers of oil (cheaper) but if you're using single quarts that's fine, too.

Check your owner's manual to find out how much oil your engine holds. Pour a little more than 3/4 that amount into the engine. For example, if your car holds 4 quarts of oil, add 3 1/2.

If you're using a 5-quart container of oil, there is a guide on the side that shows how much oil you've put in.

You're not finished yet so don't drive off.

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Checking the Oil Level

Fill, check, fill, check
Check the oil and add as needed. photo mw

We didn't add all the oil because there may still be a little oil here and there we didn't account for.

Check your oil and add more until you're at the right level.

Be sure to put your oil cap back on! Oil spray can cause a fire.