Changing your oil is important because it improves the life and longevity of your motor by lubricating the parts within the motor. Changing your own oil is not only easy but inexpensive. In this step by step process I will break down the "change" process and all the components needed to complete an oil change.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- OIL FILTER
- OIL DRAIN PAN
- SOCKET SET (SAE & METRIC)
- CAR JACK, STANDS, AND/OR RAMP
OPTIONAL ITEMS BUT USUALLY RECOMMENDED
- RUBBER GLOVES
- PAPER TOWELS OR SHOP TOWELS
Step 2: Warming the Vehicle
First take a few minutes to warm up the vehicle. Make sure your vehicle idles anywhere from three to five minutes. During this time the oil will liquify and become much warmer, in some cases almost too hot to the touch, and will make it easier to drain (later step).
Step 3: Lifting the Vehicle
In some cases (vehicle pending) this step can be Optional:
To properly lift your vehicle look at the instructions and regulations of the type and model of jacks, ramps, and stands you use. All stands and jacks have limits,both, size and placement! Pay close attention to the guidelines and limits of your lifting methods as your safety depends on it.
There are many different styles of jack stands and vehicle lifts. Small jacks include floor jack, two ton jack stands, small hydraulic lift, and roll-up ramps. Large jacks include commercial floor jacks (10 ton), commercial and large vehicle stands, commercial roll-up wheel ramps and hydraulic lifts.
Choose the best method that suits you and follow all the proper instructions and procedures on how to place and lift the vehicle. Find the lift instructions printed on the lift and you can find the proper lift procedures in your vehicles manual. The manual will refer to the best available positioning for the jacks. The most important part to remember when lifting the vehicle is to make sure the vehicle is in park, emergency brake is set, and the wheels have been chocked. Chocking your wheels will be the last line of defense in case the vehicles brakes give or the car moves from the jacks, ramps, or lifts.
Step 4: Tool Placement and Draining the Oil
Now it is time to place your tools and oil drain pan strategically. Placement of these tools can be the difference between an oily flooded garage/driveway and a clean work place and job done easy. Once the components have been placed in position move to the top of the motor where the OILCAP is. When located. Remove. Now move to a comfortable position below the motor.(This will give you the best view of the OIL PLUG and Oil Pan.)
Next locate the flat oil pan on the underside of the vehicle. It is usually located closer to the engine than the transmission. When it is found find the medium sized bolt that is on the backside of the pan (commonly). Before you remove that bolt make sure you have placed theoil drain pan in the proper position to catch the oil (like picture above). Now it is time to drain your oil. Use the proper socket to remove the bolt. Remove at a consistent but fast pace as the oil will rush out immediately upon removal. The oil will come out very warm or possibly hot enough to hurt if it makes contact with the surface of your skin so gloves and shop towels will help in this step. Most vehicle manuals have the nuts and bolt sizes listed within. This may help you save space in your work space if you are working in tighter quarters.
Step 5: The Wait
This step may not seem important but it can almost be the most important in many cases.
You must now wait...and wait some more..... now keep waiting! This may take anywhere from three minutes to ten minutes. During this step it is important to watch the oil and the oil drain pan to make sure you see how much oil you had in the motor and how much oil is going to fill the pan or possibly overfill it. The importance of watching is to prevent any mistakes and messes from being made that can be very hard and nearly impossible to clean up. So sit back and watch as the oil moves from a steady flow to a mild drip!
Step 6: Finding and Replacing the Oil Filter
Now the oil is mildly dripping..you have found your way to the next step which is finding and removing the oil filter. The filter can come in many sizes and various colors. Now the filter is usually located on the backside of the motor. It is a cylindrical shape like picture above. When found it can be hard to get to so refer back to your vehicle manual on easiest access location for this specific part. It may vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle. Some filters call for tools such as sockets, wrenches, pliers, or even a specialty filter tools which can also make it easier to remove. Once the oil filter is accessible remove it carefully as there is still hot oil within the filter cavity. It should drain right to the oil pan even though it may be more elevated but it is always smart to have extra rags or shop towels down just as a precautionary back-up.
Now that you have removed the oil filter drain the rest of the oil in the old filter into the drain pan. Grab the new filter and a quart of oil. Open the quart of oil and use your finger to get a touch of oil out so it may be used to lubricate the gasket of the filter. The picture above points to the black gasket that needs the lubrication. It is okay to use your bare hands as you will not sustain any injuries from this step but gloves are also an option if you don't like to get dirty. Once the filter has been greased it its time for new filter installation. How tight the filter is put on in this step matters because if its too loose it will leak oil but if its too tight it might not filter enough oil so it is imperative that the filter is just barely over hand tight not allowing the vibrations of the motor to rattle it off.
Step 7: Prepping and Adding the Oil
You have now successfully completed the setup process, the draining step, and the oil filter has been changed out and installed. The next step is to button up all your loose parts and and add the oil. BEFORE you start tightening bolts grab the quart of oil you used to lubricate the filter gasket and dump it through your motor. The use of a funnel can create a mess free environment. (REASONING: this should clean up some of the metal fragments that did not come out during the initial drain and it will clean up some of the old buildup that could not quite make it out with out that extra "nudge" of oil. Adding a quart and allowing it to run through is personally recommended but optional. If you ran the extra quart, great,if not, then continue on to the next part where you start to tighten the bolts and close off the oil pan below by re-inserting the oil plug. Once the plug is in you can grab your funnel and place it in position to start adding the quarts of oil. Before adding oil it is always smart to go back through and check all your nuts and bolts to reassure everything is closed up. Finally everything has been checked off and now you are ready to add oil. You can refer to your vehicle owners manual to find out the recommended number of quarts your vehicle will accept. It may also give you a recommended type of oil to use as well. This may not be the case for all vehicles. After the quarts have been added it is always smart to make sure you have added enough oil to your engine. The best way to check is using your dipstick. It is usually located somewhere on the engine block and it comes with a finger loop that is easy to grab and remove. They come in many colors such as white, black, yellow, orange, red, sometimes green, and occasionally an off brand color. This will also be located in the vehicle manual. Once you have checked the dipstick make sure are in the "green zone" (pictured above). If not add oil until you are within that zone but if you added too much it should be okay. It will just take longer for your vehicle to warm up and it may burn that extra oil off much quicker. I recommend starting off by adding three quarts and then checking your dipstick to find out where the oil level is but remember sometimes you will have to dip the stick more than once to get a proper reading. Now that you have added your oil and it is within operating levels you can take the funnel out and put the oil cap on. You have now successfully completed an oil change on your motor vehicle!
Step 8: Cleaning Up
It is finally time to pick all your tools up and clean the area of any obstructions. Remove the oil drain pan, rags/towels, tools, and anyone who may have been around or helping you. Now that nothing is in the way you can safely lower the vehicle and begin to remove the jacks, ramps, stands, or lifts you used. Once the vehicle has been safely lowered you may remove the wheel chocks (if used) and now the vehicle should be fully operational. It is okay to turn your vehicle on to run it so the oil warms up and circulates.
Step 9: Recycling Used Oil
THIS STEP IS OPTIONAL
Many people have their own ways of reusing their spent oil but if you have no idea what to do with it no worries there are always ways to recycle your oil. The most common way to recycle your oil is by taking it to the store you bought your oil from. There they will have a spent oil bin you may dump the oil in that will go through a treatment process that turns it back into useful oil. I have found this to be the closest to home in many cases and it is completely free of charge. Also, other places such as local tool stores, auto parts stores, and service centers will usually take your oil free of charge. The landfill will take it but it may cost you. Button up your oil drain pan and recycle it close to home.
Be smart, play it safe, and recycle your oil
Step 10: Congratulations
You have finally completed every step of the oil change process successfully! You now know all the proper tools, techniques, and ways of going about changing the oil in your personal vehicle. You may have experienced taking more time reading about doing it than physically doing it but repetition always makes it easier the next time and even faster the time after that. Now you know. It is best to complete this process once every three months or every three to five thousand miles depending on the age of your vehicle and the recommended specs that the vehicle manual reflects. Keeping consistent maintenance on your vehicle will ensure the best possible performance out of your motor and promote a longer life for your motor. Changing the oil and doing preventative maintenance will always leave you with a reliable vehicle! Congratulations on the oil change!