What You Should Know about Your Car

How to Change the Oil in Your Car

An oil change at a shop could set you back as much as $46—but doing it yourself isn't all that hard, and costs a lot less. Here's how to do your own oil change, step by step.

how to do your own oil change

Ready to do your own oil change? Here's what every woman should know about the oil in her car, and how to change it yourself:

What Oil Does:
Oil helps your car run smoothly by lubricating the engine and keeping the crankshaft and other parts from grinding together and causing friction.

What You Need to Know Before You Change the Oil:
The viscosity (thickness) and number of quarts your car requires (check the owner's manual). Also determine whether the vehicle has conventional or synthetic oil (the latter needs to be changed less frequently). Note: Always follow the specific recommendations and instructions in your vehicle's manual.

Tools:
• Car jack with stand
• Latex gloves
• Rags
• Oil drain pan
• Oil filter wrench or oil filter housing tool required by manufacturer
• Proper-size socket wrenches for your vehicle (see owner's manual) to remove splash drain plug and splash shields
• Screwdriver (typically Phillips head, but check the owner's manual)
• Oil filter
• Gaskets or O-rings for drain plug and oil filter (if needed)
• Replacement drain plug (if needed)
• Oil
• Funnel

 

Prep Steps:
1. Start your car and let it run for a minute. Oil drains more easily if it's slightly warm. (But don't let the engine run until the oil gets hot—you don't want to risk a burn).

2. Turn off the ignition. Lift the hood and remove the oil cap (it's near the top of the engine). That is where you'll put the new oil after you drain the old stuff. Now, locate the oil pan underneath your car (look for a flat metal pan that's close to the engine). It will have a plug or bolt that you'll need to remove so that the oil can drain out. If you're having trouble finding either, check the owner's manual.

3. Slip on latex gloves, then check the oil level by removing the dipstick—usually near the engine—wiping it clean with a rag, then reinserting it. Wait a few seconds, then pull it out again. This time check to see where the oil ends. If the oil doesn't reach the marking on the stick, your oil level is low, and you might have an engine problem that needs to be checked. Set the dipstick aside.

4. Raise the car using the vehicle's jack, according to manufacturer's instructions in the manual.

 

How to Change the Oil:
1. Place the oil drain pan below the drain plug underneath the car to catch the outflow. Using your wrench, loosen and remove the drain plug. Oil should begin to drain into the pan.

2. Locate the oil filter (check the owner's manual). If your car has a screw-on oil filter, carefully remove it with the filter wrench (it might have oil in it that needs to be drained into the oil pan). Screw on the new oil filter by hand. If your car has an oil cartridge, remove it by loosening the filter cap from the cartridge housing, using a tool recommended by the car's manufacturer. There might be an O-ring seal on the drain plug and housing cap; remove them and set aside. Remove the filter, then use a rag to clean the filter cap and housing. Replace used O-rings with new ones, and apply a bit of clean engine oil. Insert the filter cartridge and replace housing.

3. When the oil has drained, remove the pan. Clean and replace the drain plug, making sure it's snug.

4. Add oil, using a funnel to avoid splashing. The amount you need can be found in the owner's manual, but figure on about 4 quarts. Check the oil level with the dipstick, replace the cap, start engine and check under the car for leaks. Turn off engine and recheck oil level. (Once oil circulates through the filter, the oil level should drop, so it's important to recheck the oil after the vehicle runs.)

5. Remove jack and dispose of oil according to your community's requirements. By law, oil-change providers must accept your used motor oil, although they may charge a small fee for doing so.