When you are on the road day-in and day-out, the cost of oil changes – even at a discounted rate – can add up to a few hundred dollars a year. If you learn how to change your own oil, you only need to pay for materials and invest your time in making sure you do the job right. Certain mistakes made while changing your oil can lead to major mechanical problems and even ruin your engine, so use these tips to avoid disaster.
Buy the Right Oil
Consult your owner’s manual, most recent oil change receipt, or the parts terminal at your local auto store to determine the appropriate oil for your car. Experienced mechanics and car buffs sometimes opt for alternate oils based on personal experience with certain mechanical issues and the local environment, but a newbie to oil changes should follow the book for best results. In fact, any damage that occurs to your vehicle because the wrong oil was added will likely not be covered by your automotive warranty.
Know Your Container
You can’t let your motor oil run freely into grass or street, so when I say “know your container,” I mean the storage container you are going to have ready under the oil drain as soon as you remove the cap. This will allow you to safely drain the old oil from your vehicle for proper disposal. You can pick up a cheap drain pan at most mass merchandisers or at an auto parts store. If money is super tight, you can also use any hard plastic container capable of holding a quantity of oil without spillage, such as a large coffee container.
Double Check the Gasket
When you remove your old oil filter, make sure the old gasket comes off with the filter – never assume that it did. If you inadvertently leave the old gasket on and put on a new filter with a gasket, your vehicle will begin hemorrhaging oil shortly after its next start-up and your engine will be damaged if not destroyed if you can’t stop immediately and redo the entire process with fresh oil and another new filter.
But Did You Replace the Cap?
Great job draining the old oil from your vehicle, and superb work on removing the old filter and gasket. Now you’re ready for a fresh filter and oil…but wait. What’s that nagging feeling in the back of your mind? It could be the oil drain cap. It may seem silly, but I’ve known more than one person who has lost an engine because new oil was added to an open drain. One way to ensure you never do this is to leave your oil pan under the car until you are completely done with the process. When you remove the pan, if any fresh oil appears on top of the old, you have a leak or a totally open drain.
After you drain your oil into the pan, use a funnel and channel it into your emptied new oil bottle, but don’t drop those bottles in any old trash can. Instead, you need to find a local business that can dispose of it for you, such as an auto shop that takes oil collections or a farm that recycles the oil.