Changing your car’s engine oil is one of the most basic of automotive maintenance activities. Your car’s engine is an engineering marvel, no question about that. It’s essentially made of a lot of metal parts that constantly move whenever your engine is running. Because these metal parts rub against each other, they require sufficient lubrication to keep the parts from heating excessively and to make sure everything works optimally. This essentially underscores the importance of changing the engine oil. Instead of bringing your car to the shop, however, you can actually change the engine oil of your car yourself. Here’s how.
1. Check the oil and oil filter that is recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
Before you start raising your car to gain access to its engine oil drain plug, you have to secure all of your materials first. And two of the most important materials you will ever need are the oil itself and the oil filter. While it is easy to simply get the readily available products off the shelf, you have to consult your vehicle owner’s manual first to check the recommended oil and oil filter for your vehicle and make.
However, do take into consideration the environment where you are living since this can have a significant impact in your choice of engine oil. While the owner’s manual will give you a recommendation, know that these are in general terms – with a vehicle in an otherwise normal environment. Unfortunately, if you live in a warmer or even a colder place, then you might have to check the most appropriate engine oil for your vehicle based on environmental temperatures. It’s a good thing some manufacturers already have recommendations for such instances.
In addition to checking your manual for oil and oil filter recommendations, make sure to prepare all the other tools and materials for the DIY engine oil change.
2. Run your engine for about 5 minutes.
In case you haven’t noticed, oil has this unique characteristic to turn into one solid block of fat when the ambient temperature is low. While your engine oil doesn’t have this characteristic, thankfully, there is still a tendency for oil to settle down with metal particles and dirt in case of a cold engine. That is why you need to crank up your engine and let it run for about 5 minutes to allow the oil to become less viscous. This allows the oil to be easily drained.
Once warmed up, don’t drain the oil immediately. Wait another 5 or even 10 minutes to allow the temperature of the oil to slightly decrease. This helps prevent injuries secondary to oil burns. If your car has been running for several hours, make sure to lengthen the amount of time to decrease the oil temperature before attempting to drain the oil.
3. Secure your car in a flat, stable, and even terrain and raise it.
Park your car in a flat, even, and stable terrain. Make sure to put your car in the Park position if it’s an automatic, or Neutral if manual. Engage the parking brake or handbrake, too. Now use an alligator-type hydraulic jack to raise your vehicle. If you have a vehicle trestle, now is the perfect time to use it to support one or two of the lift beams on the underside of your car. You should never use a single jack only as this is quite risky.
4. Drain the old engine oil.
In case your car comes with a splash guard that protects the underside of your vehicle, then you have to remove this first to gain access to the sump plug. To remove the sump plug, you’ll need a wrench to unscrew it. Make sure to have an oil drain pan placed directly under the sump plug so once you remove the plug, the oil will flow straight into the pan. Take this opportunity to clean the sump plug as well. You might also want to change the crush washer to help prevent leaks.
Allow several minutes to completely drain the oil from your engine. Even if there is no more visible oil dripping from the sump, you may still need to wait a couple more minutes to drain it completely. Once that is done, you can screw the sump plug back.
Now if you don’t like the idea of getting under your vehicle and risk getting oil splashed onto your face, you can buy an oil extractor and simply remove the engine oil from the top of the engine. It works more like a suction apparatus.
5. Remove the oil filter and clean the filter compartment.
Here’s the thing about changing the oil filter. If you have a car that comes with an insert oil filter which is typically located at the top of your engine, then it is advisable that you remove the oil filter first before draining the oil. This helps remove oil from the filter and channel it into the engine to be added into the oil to be drained afterwards. If you remove the oil filter after draining the oil, then oil from the filter might still go back into the engine and this means you haven’t completely drained your engine. If your oil filter is the plate type – located at the bottom of the engine – then you can remove it after draining the oil.
To remove the oil filter, you can use an oil filter remover or even an ordinary sand paper to increase your grip on the filter cap. Once removed, clean the compartment of the oil filter using old yet clean rags of cloth. Make sure that no sign of the old oil can be seen from the filter compartment.
6. Place the new oil filter.
Every time you change your engine oil, it is already expected that you’re going to replace the oil filter as well. Also change the O-rings while you’re at it to help ensure a leak-free system. Lubricate the O-ring with the new engine oil you are going to fill your engine with. This helps ensure a perfect seal. Now, put the oil filter and tighten the filter cap. Make sure to apply the recommended torque force when tightening the cap.
7. Add new engine oil.
Always use a funnel to facilitate filling your engine with new oil. The oil cap is located at the top of your engine. This is typically marked with an oil can sign. Before you reach this step, you should already know how much oil you need to put into your engine. If not, make sure you have read your manual first to gain an idea of just how much oil your engine needs. You can also use the dipstick to have an idea of the level of oil that you have already poured. Make sure not to overfill your engine with oil as this can also cause problems in your car. Close and tighten the cap once you’ve filled your engine with the correct amount and type of engine oil.
8. Start your car’s engine and let it run for a few minutes.
Always make it a point to run your engine for a couple of minutes after every oil change. This is to allow the new oil to circulate throughout the engine including the oil filter and the journals. This is also a great chance for you to check for any leaks. If there are, you need to turn off the engine, allow it to cool a bit, and tighten those parts where leak was seen.
9. Check the engine oil level.
Once you have allowed the engine to run for a couple of minutes, allowing the oil to circulate, turn off the engine and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes or so. Next, check the oil level via the dipstick. It should be between the MIN and MAX markings on the dipstick, although some vehicle manufacturers actually recommend the dipstick oil level to be at the MAX. Again, you need to check your owner’s manual.
10. Document the oil change.
This is one step you should never forget. You need to document the oil change that you performed including the mileage that is shown on your vehicle’s odometer. This will give you an idea of when the next oil change will be. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend a change in oil and oil filter every 3,000 miles or every three months, whichever comes first. However, we also have seen vehicles running perfectly okay with 10,000 miles in between oil changes. Again, it’s a guide. Writing down the mileage of the recently-concluded oil change will give you an idea of when you should start checking your oil for a possible change again.
Changing your car’s engine oil is actually easy. You just have to have the correct tools for the job and an understanding of how to perform the oil change and you should be doing great. Perhaps the only thing that will concern you will be getting under your car to access the sump plug. Other than that, it’s a piece of cake.