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How to Change Your Oil

One of the simplest car maintenance tasks to handle yourself is changing the oil. Along with replacing the oil filter, your oil change outlay should come in around $25, or typically half the cost of having your dealer or a service center do the work for you.

We’ll take a look at how to change your own oil, including the tools you will need and the environmentally responsible way to dispose of the old oil and the filter. This is a job you can complete within a half hour.

Change Your Oil in Nine Easy Steps

1. Assemble your materials. Your owner’s manual will tell you two matters about motor oil for your vehicle. First, what weight or type of oil to use. Second, how much oil you will need. For most vehicles, a five-quart container is sufficient and cheaper than buying five one-quart cans of oil. You also need to select the correct oil filter — that information should be found in your owner’s manual. Alternatively, you can check the chart at your local automotive parts store to find the right oil filter.

2. Gather your tools. If you do not own the right tools to change the oil, you will need to invest in them or borrow what you need from a friend. You must have a pair of jack stands or ramps, especially if your vehicle’s ground clearance is low. Work gloves, rags, a socket wrench, a funnel, an oil filter wrench and an oil drain pan are essential. Invest in a new drain plug if the old one is stripped.

3. Let’s get started. You want your car’s engine to be warm, but not hot, when you drain the oil. If you’ve just gotten back from a drive, let the car sit for a few minutes. You may come in contact with potential hot spots under the car, and you don’t want your leg to brush up against a scorching catalytic converter. For this reason, some people put on a pair of overalls or a work uniform to thwart injury and avoid getting their better clothes dirty. Put on your work gloves too.

4. Elevate the vehicle. Oil drains more thoroughly if the front of your vehicle is elevated. Place your car on ramps or use jack stands. Ensure that the car is in park, and that the parking brake is engaged and securely in place before you begin to work underneath it. Getting pinned under a car can cause severe injuries or even cost you your life.

5. Locate the drain plug. Remove the oil cap and set it to the side — this will enable the oil to drain from the engine properly. Slip underneath the car and locate the drain plug. Position the oil pan underneath the plug and loosen it with a wrench. Be careful not to strip the plug. If it looks stripped you should replace it with a new one. Tighten the plug once the oil has drained from the car’s oil pan.

6. Locate the oil filter. Position the oil pan underneath the oil filter and remove it with the oil filter wrench. The filter will contain oil and should be allowed to drain into the pan before you set it to the side. Wipe the filter with a rag and make sure that the residual oil does not drip into the ground. Before you install the new filter, apply a small amount of new oil to the gasket on the oil filter. This step will ensure that the filter is flush with the car. Hand tighten the new oil filter, making sure that the gasket makes a good seal. It is at this point in the oil change process that both the new oil filter and drain plug should be securely fastened in place. Carefully remove the oil pan from underneath the vehicle and place it to the side.

7. Add fresh oil. With a funnel placed in the oil repository, begin adding oil to your vehicle. Be careful here — if your car calls for 4.2 quarts of oil and you buy a 5-quart container you will have some left over. On the other hand, if it takes 6 quarts of oil you’ll need to buy an additional quart to get the job done. When you finish, put the oil cap in place and tighten it.

8. Run your engine. With the car still elevated, you need to turn it on and run it for one or two minutes. Look underneath to ensure that no oil is leaking. Once you are satisfied that the job has been accomplished correctly you can lower the car to the ground and turn off the engine. Check the oil dip stick to verify that the proper amount of oil is in your engine. Close the hood and you are nearly done.

9. Dispose of the old oil. Wipe your tools free of oil, and then turn your attention to the old oil. Using a funnel, carefully deposit the old oil into the container that held the new oil. Once the pan is empty, secure the container and wipe out the pan. Place the oil filter in a plastic bag and take it and the old oil to a recycling center. Some retailers will also accept your old oil when you buy new oil from them.

Oil Change Considerations

Once you get the hang of changing your own oil, you may find yourself working on your car more often. Your owner’s manual offers the best guidance on how often to change your oil and the preferred oil for your car. Follow these guidelines and you will save yourself both time and money.

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