How to change the oil in your car or truck

Picture of How to change the oil in your car or truck
I made did it at TechShop. http://www.techshop.ws

Tools needed:
Car ramps, or jack with jack stands, or vehicle lift (available at TechShop)
Wheel chocks
Wrench (open, boxed end or socket)
Oil filter wrench
Rag or paper towel
Safety glasses
Rubber or latex gloves (optional, but recommended)

Materials needed:
Motor oil (refer to your owner's manual for quantity and type)
Oil filter (refer to your owner's manual or use a look up table)

As with all instructables, read all of the directions completely, before starting your project.
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Step 1: Raise the vehicle

Picture of Raise the vehicle
In order to drain out the old oil, you will need to gain access to the underside of the vehicle. This can be done by driving the vehicle up on car ramps, or even better, you can use the vehicle lift at TechShop. The vehicle shown here is a 1994 Corvette, and is loo low to the ground to be able to use car ramps. Thank you TechShop!

Whether you use ramps or a lift, be sure to set your vehicle's parking brake, and use wheel chocks to secure it.

Step 2: Drain the oil

Picture of Drain the oil
Locate and remove the oil filler cap (generally marked 'ENGINE OIL' or 'OIL FILL'). This will break any vacuum by allowing air to flow in, and the old oil to flow out easier.

Find the oil drain pan plug, on the bottom of the engine (this will be a hex head bolt), and determine the proper size wrench to use. I prefer a combination wrench, but you could also use a socket or adjustable wrench. The advantage to using a combination wrench is that it can be a one handed operation. If you use a socket wrench, it will not ratchet after the bolt is loosened. It will take several turns to remove the bolt, so you will need two hands to ratchet the wrench.

After selecting your weapon of choice, position your drain pan under the drain plug. Loosen the drain plug by turning it counter-clockwise. (Remember, lefty loosey, righty tighty?) As soon as the plug is loose, oil will start leaking out. This is normal. Just keep going. Some folks will recommend that you don't let the plug fall into the pan, but honestly, if you try to hold onto it while you are un-screwing it, hot, dirty oil will run down along your fingers and hand, and down your arm. Just go ahead and let it drop into your drain pan. You can retreive it later, and is easy if you use the type of drain pan I have shown in the first photograph.

Notice that the stream of old oil will probably not be straight down, but rather angled, based on its location on the oil pan. Adjust the location of your drain pan accordingly. Also note the as the stream turns into a trickle, it might actually change direction (based on your engine's geometry and surface tension) and especially if you are doing this outside, with a stiff breeze blowing!

Step 3: Remove the old filter

Picture of Remove the old filter
You may be able to remove the filter by hand, but if it is on tight (or it is hot), you'll need to use an oil filter wrench. There are several styles available, but a plier style wrench will fit all filters, fit into any space, and allow you to grab hold of the filter.

Make sure your drain pan is under the filter, and go ahead and loosen it (again, lefty loosey, righty tighty). As soon as it is loose, oil will start to flow out of the engine, at the mounting location. I like to pause for a minute or two to let it drip before completly un-screwing the filter. Remember that when the filter comes loose, it will be full of oil, and should be placed in the drain pan.

Step 4: Install the filter and plug

Picture of Install the filter and plug
While you wait for the oil to finish dripping from the oil pan, go ahead and pour some new oil into the new filter. Pre-filling the filter will allow your car to have proper oil pressure when you first start it up after the oil change. Be sure to pour the oil into the center opening, and allow it to soak into the filter elements inside. (You probably want to use a funnel for this). It doesn't need to be completely full (that might make it harder to install anyway), but 3/4 full is pretty good. You also need to apply some of the clean oil to the rubber gasket (your finger is fine for that).

Spin the new filter back on to the engine. (Righty tighty) When you feel the filter go all the way on and stop, continue tightening by hand, an additional 1/4 to 3/4 turn. It may actually be more depending on your filter, so check the directions on the package.

Retreive the drain plug and re-install it in the oil pan with your wrench. It should be snug, but not overly tight.

Wipe off any drips with your rag.

Step 5: Add the oil

Picture of Add the oil
Carefully check your owner's manual to determine the proper amount of oil to add. DO NOT RELY ON THE DIPSTICK.

Using a funnel, pour the recommended amount of oil into the crank case. One of the worst things you can do is add too much oil, so I like to hold back about 1/2 quart to start with.

Replace the filler cap.

Start your engine, and give it a few seconds for the oil to start flowing before backing the vehicle down off the ramps or lift. Park on a flat area, and look for drips which may be coming from the oil filter or drain plug.

After a day of driving, check the level of the oil, by pulling out the dipstick and wiping it off with your rag. Insert it all the way back in the tube, then pull it out and check the level of the oil against the marks on the dipstick.

Step 6: Clean up

Picture of Clean up
Used motor oil should never be thrown down the drain, but should be taken to an approved recycling center. Many auto parts stores and service centers accept used motor oil, and you can also find a facility near you. Many centers will accept the used filter too.

One of the easiest ways to transport your used motor oil is to simply pour it into your empty oil bottle(s). Be sure to mark the bottle 'Used Motor Oil'.

You may have noticed a plastic file box in the photos. This is a handy way of keeping all of your oil changing supplies and extra oil in one place. (You could also use a 5 gallon bucket with a lid.) Because it is plastic, oil dripping from your funnels and wrenches is not a problem, and it keeps away all the sawdust and debris that might be floating around your garage! I also keep note cards with the different wrench sizes needed for my various vehicles, along with instructions on how to reset my 'CHANGE ENGINE OIL' light.

About lime3D

I have been designing products in the automotive, aerospace, medical, defense and consumer products industries for over 30 years. I am an "Inventor for Hire", so if there is something you need designed or built, just send me a message, or stop by http://www.lime3D.net, and maybe we can do business!
f5mando3 years ago
You don't need to fill the filter with oil. Run the engine for a couple of minutes after the filter and oil change. The filter will now be full of oil. Engine off, let the oil drain for a minute before checking the dipstick before adding the amount of oil that (by the dipstick) went into the filter.
lime3D (author)  f5mando3 years ago
It certainly doesn't hurt anything to do this step.
Very well made! One question though, what if you oil filter go in verticaly? I have never heard of filling it with oil before installing it. So, how would i fill the filter even 3/4 way full if i have to tip it sideways?
lime3D (author)  RocketPenguin3 years ago
Did you mean to say 'horizontally' instead of 'vertically'?

If you have to turn the filter completly on its side for installation, you could try filling the filter, and let it sit for several minutes, to let the oil soak into the paper elements inside. Then pour the oil out, into the funnel, and into the engine.

The filter may not be 'full' of oil, but at least the paper elements will be completely saturated.

This step is not critical, but it is beneficial when you first start your engine after the oil change.
Oops. Ya, i meant horizontally. my brain is on a vacation. Ok. so just soak, then dumb the oil out. I take it as it is more acurate and you have to add less oil ounce started?
lime3D (author)  RocketPenguin3 years ago
It is not so much about how much oil you need to add after it is started, as it is about the engine oil pressure.

If you put in 5 quarts, but with a dry filter, your engine has to pump oil into the filter when it is first started. This means that other areas of your engine are momentarily starved of oil.

Again, this step is not critical, and I am sure some people will say that it is completely unnecessary, but it certainly does not hurt to do it if you can.

Just be sure to check your oil level again, after you've driven for a day.
I usualy do check the oil after day, i just never heard of putting oil in the new filter... I will keep it in mind though, and try it out on the next oil i change!