While advertisements refer to the money that can be saved by personally changing a vehicle’s oil, the decision to work on your own car is less straight-forward, and ultimately depends on how one wishes to spend time.
Though sales vary the total price of the job, purchasing a replacement filter and four (or more) quarts of new oil tends to cost around $20. If willing to wait for a prolonged period for your car to be serviced, or otherwise wise enough to work around a mechanic’s schedule, many commercial shops offer professional oil changes for around the same $20.
The reason the prices are nearly analogous is because service shops (apart from more expensive “quick lube” convenience stores) rarely seek to profit from changing oil. Instead, the promise of a cheap oil change is used as the gateway to selling a range of more costly services, such as replacing belts, changing the air filter, selling new tires, and servicing brakes.
For some it does make sense to package these services and it certainly makes sense to maintain a car properly. Yet, if already aware of your vehicle’s needs, there is nothing preventing a consumer solely from taking advantage of that low-price oil change. In fact, if catching a promotion or using a coupon, out-sourcing the work is often cheaper than doing it yourself.
However, customers know this can be a slow process. If desiring not to spend hours drinking stale coffee in the lobby, changing oil is relatively simple maintenance that one can do with limited experience working on cars. Though the task may not save much money, it invaluably allows overseeing the work personally, and further to do the task on one’s own timetable.
Here are five necessary components for changing a car’s oil and a look at how each makes this a smooth process, which can save time and money.
Jack stands or ramps: In most shops, professional technicians have underground bays in which to work easily under your car. This is not the case in a driveway and there simply is not enough room to get under a car safely on the ground. Sometimes it is sufficient merely to lift up the automobile with a jack on one side, but the preferable method involves creating more room to work. One way is by using jack stands to lift a car equally on each side after it has been raised. Another popular means to get under the car is to drive the front wheels onto ramps. If doing this, make sure a spotter helps the driver stop at the precise spot, and block the tires in the back to prevent accidents.
Oil drain pan: These products are available cheaply and can literally last for decades. The critical aspect is to use a pan of a material like plastic that will not let seep through to the ground. It is also necessary that one is selected that is large enough to easily capture dripping fluids. Be sure the drain pan is located directly under your car’s oil pan when removing the oil plug with the right sized socket wrench. The drain pan will also be needed when removing the filter, as several ounces of oil are typically still inside the container and must run out.
Filter wrench: When replacing the old filter, generally aim to hand tighten the new one, so it is easy to change in the future. Yet, experience has taught me that the elements tend to tighten these over time. The crowded engine compartment further makes it difficult to get proper leverage for removal. If unable to turn the filter by hand, use a filter wrench, which wraps a circular ring around the filter, and enable turning it with a handle. One final note about removing the oil filter; parts of a small gasket are often left behind when removing. Make sure these are completely taken off prior to installing a new filter with its own gasket.
Funnel: I must confess there have been many times when I added new oil directly from the container without a funnel and quickly regretted the hasty decision. Space is limited when pouring oil into the car’s fill hole. Any oil spilled not only fails to add the correct amount to the engine, but makes a mess under the hood. The spilled oil is difficult to clean and will ultimately burn off. But that process leaves behind black soot that quickly dirties your engine. Simply place a funnel into the top of the fill hole and gradually pour the oil into it.
New oil and filter: Auto parts stores help ensure selecting proper replacements when changing your own oil. These shops typically possess books (or even computers) that allow looking up the part number specific to your vehicle’s make, model, and year. Purchasing the correct filter is essential. When selecting new oil, the car owner has substantially more choice, and this goes beyond mere brand. Synthetic oil is a popular option for many, while others use oil specifically formulated for older cars. But nothing is more important than referring to an owner’s manual for the recommended grade of oil. This measures viscosity when providing lubrication for engine parts. 10W-30 works well for most engines, but the decision depends on engine size, working conditions, and even climate.