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How to Change Your Own Oil

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:

Oil can, how to change your oil, road safety 101Four to six quarts of the motor oil recommended by your vehicle manufacturer

oil filter, how to change your oil, road safety 101Oil filter (of the exact specs detailed in your owner’s manual)

oil filter wrench, how to change your oil, road safety 101Oil filter wrench

drain pan, how to change your oil, road safety 101Drain pan capable of holding no less than five to seven quarts of oil

rags, how to change your oil, road safety 101Rags

funnel, how to change your oil, road safety 101Funnel

safety goggles, how to change your oil, road safety 101Safety glasses or goggles

wheel blocks, how to change your oil, road safety 101Wheel blocks

ramps, how to change your oil, road safety 101Ramps 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.

use jack stands or ramps when changing you car's oil

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 to warm the oil before attempting to change it, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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.

Loosen the oil cap to allow the oil to drain when changing your oil, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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.

Slide yourself and your tools underneath the car when changing your oil, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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.

Place drain beneath oil to drain, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

Locate the oil drain plug and put the drain pan directly under it.

Loosen the drain plug to change your oil, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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 change when changing your oil , Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

Allow the oil to drain out.

Remove the oil filter when changing your oil, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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.

Lightly coat new filter with oil to change your oil, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

Use your finger to coat the new gasket with a light film of oil, which will act as a sealant.

Insert new oil filter, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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 oil plug back on, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

Screw in the drain plug by hand, then finish tightening it with a wrench.

Pour new oil in car, when changing your cars oil, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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 oil cap when changing your cars oil, Goodman Acker Road Safety 101

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 motor oil.

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.