I cannot stress how important it is to do basic maintenance on your vehicle. Giving your car an oil change about every 3,000 to 5,000 miles is one of those chores that must be done to help keep your car running smoothly for years to come.
Sure, you can take your vehicle to any number of quickie oil change shops and they will do all the work for you. But doing your own basic maintenance on your vehicle gives you a sense of pride of ownership. More importantly, it is easier on the pocketbook. I have broken down the oil change regimen into the five following steps.
- How often does your car need an oil change? The owner’s manual should give you a good idea of how frequently you must change your oil. It should also give you an idea of what kind of oil filter–and oil–to use. Ideally, a vehicle should have an oil change at least every 3,000 miles. So, get acquainted with your owner’s manual and learn about your vehicle before you attempt to work on it.
- Get your tools ready! A good socket set, or even a plain old crescent wrench is all you need to remove the drain plug from the crankcase at the bottom of the engine. An oil filter wrench can be bought for under five bucks at the automotive department of your local Big Box store or automotive parts store. Get these two tools together as they will be your friends. Also, when you go to the store, be sure to pick up the right weight of oil, such as 30 weight (usually for cars) or 40 weight (usually for bigger, older cars or trucks). Don’t be afraid of salespeople. They are there to help you and have large reference manuals to tell you what is the proper oil and oil filter for your make and model of vehicle.
- OIL CHANGE TIME! Car creepers that you can wheel around on while under your car are ideal but you can also squeeze under there without one (use a piece of cardboard to separate yourself from the ground), and using your fingers, find the drain plug. A cut-off gallon container or, better yet, an oil disposal pan, should be placed under the location from where the oil will flow. Using your socket, or crescent wrench, gently turn to the left (lefty loosy, righty tighty!) and with the other hand, be sure to catch that drain plug, or it will fall into your disposal jug with a stream of dirty oil.
- Let the oil drain for at least a half an hour. After it drains, get your oil filter ready to be replaced. Usually that is on the side and lower part of the motor. Don’t be afraid to feel around in your engine compartment for the filter. When you find it, use the oil filter wrench to crank it off–slowly. Again, lefty-loosy, righty-tighty! Then, get the new filter and lube up the o-ring a bit with some of the used oil. It doesn’t have to be much but you need to establish a seal from filter to engine. Once this is done, use your oil filter wrench and tighten the new filter into the hole. Once it is in, do not overcrank it but make sure the fit is very snug.
- Now, you are ready to put the oil drain plug back in. Using your wrench (crescent or socket), tighten the plug. Begin by hand-tightening it and then tighten it completely with your wrench. It is IMPORTANT to not over-tighten as you can easily strip it or, if it is cross-threaded, you can ruin the hole.
Okay. By now, the filter is in, the drain plug is back on, and it is time to pour your oil into your engine. Do not ever start or run your vehicle during any step of this process, unless you want to overhaul your engine! If your motor uses four quarts, pour quart after quart in until ALL the contents are poured in. Funnels are ideal, but this part can easily be done without one. For a vehicle that takes five quarts, do the same. Put the oil cap back on and wait about five or so minutes for gravity to do its magic. You will need to check your oil dipstick. (Knowing your car’s anatomy is helpful. Again, the owner’s manual is a great start.) If it is on the “full” line, and the oil looks clean, i.e. a golden sort of clear color, all systems are go!
You have successfully changed your vehicle’s oil. Turn the vehicle on and let it idle for about five minutes to allow the fresh oil to lubricate the innards of your engine. This is just one of your vehicle’s many routine maintenance tasks that you can perform by yourself. Make sure you do it routinely and it will become second nature; you will also have a car that may last several more years. Also, keep accurate logs of when you perform routine maintenance such as oil change