The third installment in our “Road Safety 101: A Weekly Guide to
Staying Safe on the Road” series provides information on how to
change your own oil. Most people tend to go to their auto dealer, oil
change shop, or auto repair shop to get their vehicle’s oil changed,
even though it is a job they could easily do themselves. Changing your
own oil lets you know with certainty the job was done right, as well as
saving valuable time and money.
Items You Will Need
Before you can change the oil in your vehicle, you will need to make sure
you have the specific items, equipment and tools necessary to complete
the process safely. At the very least you should have:
Four to six quarts of the motor oil recommended by your vehicle manufacturer
Oil filter (of the exact specs detailed in your owner’s manual)
Oil filter wrench
Drain pan capable of holding no less than five to seven quarts of oil
Safety glasses or goggles
Ramps or jack stands
Preparing Your Vehicle
While changing your own oil can often be completed in about 20 or 30 minutes,
safety comes first. Never attempt to change the oil or work under a vehicle
when it is supported only by a jack. Use jack stands if you can, or drive
the front tires up onto wheel ramps so the front of the vehicle is elevated,
then set your emergency brake and put wheel blocks behind the rear tires
to prevent rolling.
Oil Change Steps
At this point you should be ready to begin the oil changing process. NOTE:
If you want, you can lay sheeting or a tarp down on the ground underneath
the oil drain plug to reduce any spill cleanup.
Idle your engine for between five and ten minutes to allow the oil to warm,
as cold oil will not drain properly. Switch off the engine when you are done.
Raise the hood to locate the oil cap on the top of your engine, then loosen
the cap to permit the oil to drain easily and completely from the engine.
Place all of your tools and materials on a rag or tray for easy accessibility
when you are under the vehicle. Slide yourself and your supplies underneath the car.
Locate the oil drain plug and put the drain pan directly under it.
Use your wrench to loosen the drain plug. Wear gloves. Finish removing
the plug by hand as the oil will likely be hot. Make sure your face, arm
and other body parts are out of the way.
Allow the oil to drain out.
Carefully remove the oil filter, taking caution to avoid the exhaust pipe
and other parts that could burn you. Slowly empty the filter’s contents
into the drain pan.
Use your finger to coat the new gasket with a light film of oil, which
will act as a sealant.
Put on the new filter and hand-tighten it.
Use a rag to clean off the gasket, oil plug hole and the plug itself.
Screw in the drain plug by hand, then finish tightening it with a wrench.
Get out from under your vehicle and stand in front of your vehicle, near
the top of the engine.
Put a funnel in the oil hole on the top of the engine.
Slowly pour in the recommended amount of oil, no more, as described in
your owner’s manual.
Replace the oil cap and clean off any areas in which oil may have spilled.
Clean up your materials and be sure to dispose of used oil properly. Used
motor oil is harmful to the environment and should never be placed in
a trash bin or washed down a drain. Most auto parts stores accept used
motor oil for recycling, and towns and cities have recycling facilities
in most cases. Read the laws for your area before disposing of any used
Changing your oil on a routine and regular basis can help improve engine
performance, minimize buildup of dirt and allow your vehicle to get better
gas mileage, reduce harmful emissions and extend the overall life of the engine.