DIY Oil Change: How to Change Your Car Oil Yourself
Read our expert oil changing tips and learn how to change your car oil yourself in just minutes. Brushing up on DIY car maintenance will save you money and extend the life of your car.
DIY Oil Change: Quick Tips from the Experts
Changing the oil in your car is something that any do-it-yourselfer can do. Although changing the oil might appear rather “duh,” there are still a lot of folks doing it wrong, making it an ugly chore or overpaying for oil changes they could do themselves. Plus, it’s the single most important task you can do to make your engine last.
Changing your own car oil isn’t brain surgery—you probably did it yourself years ago. But with oil change shops charging more and more, it’s time to get back under the car and start saving big bucks. Plus, you won’t be pressured into buying overpriced add-ons (like new wiper blades and PCV valves) every time you go in for a change. We’ll show you how to change your oil fast and painlessly. And we’ll show you some oil changing tips you may not know about.
If you get all your ducks in a row, you’ll be done changing your car oil in about 20 minutes. Start by spreading plastic sheeting on the ground. Then drive your car on top of it. That will eliminate all oil spill cleanup work since you can just toss the entire sheet when you’re done, or keep it for the next change if you’re lucky enough to go spill-free. Jack up the car, set the jack stands in place, and lower the car. If you’re on asphalt, place squares of plywood under the jack stands for support.
Tools you’ll need for a DIY oil change:
• Rubber mallet
• Safety glasses
• Wrench set
You’ll also need an oil filter wrench, a funnel and oil pan.
Materials you’ll need for a DIY oil change:
• Engine oil
• Oil filter
• Oil filter gasket
• Container for used oil
First, a few tips on buying the right oil and oil filter!
Buying the Right Oil and Filter for Your Oil Change
Before you head off to the auto parts store, consult your owner’s manual for the type and weight of oil specific to your vehicle. It’s especially important to follow the car maker’s recommendations for oil viscosity. That’s a big change from the old DIY days. Late-model engines rely on oil pressure to regulate valve timing and apply the proper tension to the timing belt or chain. Substituting your personal preference for the manufacturer’s recommendations can result in engine damage, poor performance and even a “Check Engine” warning. (Here’s what each of those dashboard warning lights really mean.)
Don’t Skimp on an Oil Filter
In the old days, oil filters were all pretty much the same inside. But not anymore. If your owner’s manual recommends extended oil change intervals (every 10,000 kilometres instead of 5,000 kilometres), you must buy a filter that’s rated to go the distance. In other words, don’t fill your engine with expensive synthetic oil and then spin on an economy filter—it won’t last. Check the filter box, ask the store clerk, or check the filter manufacturer’s website to make sure the filter you buy is rated for extended oil change intervals.
There’s a huge difference between an economy filter and a top-of-the-line version. But there’s only a small difference in price. If you use conventional oil and diligently change it every 5,000 kilometres, you can get by with the economy filter (shown here). But if you regularly “forget” and go beyond that mileage or use long-mileage synthetic blends or full synthetic, spend the extra bucks on a better filter. Look at these cutaway filters and you can see why the premium filter is a better choice.
High Quality Oil Filters
There’s a huge difference between an economy oil filter and a top-of-the-line version (shown here). But there’s only a small difference in price. If you use conventional oil and diligently change it every 5,000 kilometres, you can get by with the economy filter. But if you regularly “forget” and go beyond that mileage or use long-mileage synthetic blends or full synthetic, spend the extra bucks on a better filter. Look at these cutaway filters and you can see why the premium filter is a better choice.
A Note on Oil Filter Wrenches
Different oil filter wrenches work best for different cars. Select the one that gives you the most room to manoeuvre.
Step 1: Pull the Plug
Unscrew the plug and quickly pull it out and away from the oil stream. Clean the drain plug and install a new gasket (if required).
Step 2: Remove the Oil Filter
Crank off the old oil filter and make sure the rubber gasket comes with it. If not, peel it from the engine.
Step 3: Add Fresh Oil
Refill the engine using a funnel and recap the bottle (to prevent spills) before you toss it into the recycling bin.
You asked, we answered: “What oil should you use in a classic car?”
Step 4: Recycle the Old Oil
Pour the used oil into a large jug. Fill the engine and run it until the dashboard oil light goes out. Wait a few minutes. Then check the dipstick and add oil if needed.
Some Last Oil Changing Tips from the Experts:
- If the engine is cold, start it and let it run for five minutes to warm the oil. If it’s hot, wait at least 30 minutes to avoid getting burned.
- Never use an adjustable wrench or socket on the drain plug. Use the properly sized box-end wrench, usually metric, for the plug.
- Always use jack stands. Never work under a car that’s supported by a jack only. (Here are more tips on how to use a car jack safely.)
- Use new oil to coat the oil filter gasket before spinning it on.
- Always hand-tighten the filter. Never use a filter wrench.
- Find an oil/oil filter recycling center near you by visiting earth911.com or doing an internet search.
- Line up all the oil bottles you’ll need for the fill so you don’t lose count along the way.