Regular motor oil and filter changes can minimize engine wear and prolong the life of your engine. Oil gets dirty over time, and can form engine-damaging sludge if it is not changed.
For optimum protection, the oil and filter should be changed every 3 to 6 months or 3000 miles, whichever comes first, or according to the recommended service schedule in your owners manual. If you do a lot of short trip stop-and-go driving, especially during cold weather, change the oil every 3000 miles. If you drive a diesel or a turbocharged engine, change it every 3000 miles. If you do mostly highway driving, you can safely extend the oil change interval to 5000 miles. Personally, I would NOT recommend pushing the interval beyond 7,500 miles under any conditions even though some auto makers recommend 7,500 extended oil change intervals.
* Four, five or six quarts of oil (most vehicles hold four quarts, plus 1/3 to 1/2 a quart for the filter. See your owners manual for the engine oil capacity and recommended viscosity).
* New oil filter (make sure the size, threaded opening and seal diameter are the same as your old filter)
* Oil filter wrench to loosen the filterAssorted oil filter wrenches
* Wrench or socket to fit the drain plug on the bottom of the oil pan
* Catch pan that can hold five or more quarts of oil
* A funnel for adding oil to the engine
* A clean rag
* Latex or Nitrile rubber gloves (recommended to minimize skin contact with used oil, which can be carcinogenic)
* Car ramps or a jack and safety stands to raise your vehicle.
* A container to hold the used motor oil (for recycling). An old plastic milk jug works fine for this.
You can change the oil hot or cold. The advantage of changing it hot is that it drains more quickly. But you have to be careful not to burn yourself, and up to half a quart of used oil main still remain in the upper parts of the engine. The advantage of changing the oil cold is that there's no hot oil to burn you, and the engine has sat long enough for almost all of the oil to have drained down into the oil pan. Personally, I'd rather change the oil cold than hot.
1. Set the parking brake, and raise the vehicle so you can reach the drain plug on the bottom of the oil pan and the oil filter. The oil filter is typically located on the front, end or back of the engine block.
CAUTION: DO NOT crawl under the vehicle unless it is adequately supported on car stands, or supported with a pair of safety stands, never just a jack alone.
2. Position your catch pan under the engine so it will catch the oil as it drains out of the engine. Oil will usually squirt out several inches if the drain plug is located on the side rather than the bottom of the oil pan, so be sure to position your catch pan accordingly.
3. Loosen the drain plug with your wrench (turn it counterclockwise). Then back it out until it's almost free. Protect your fingers with a rag if the oil is hot, then quickly twist the plug the rest of the way out. Gravity will take care of the rest.
TIP: If you accidentally drop the drain plug into the catch pan, you can fish it out with a magnetic grabber.Draining the old oil from the engine's oil pan
4. When the oil has finished draining, replace the drain plug and tighten it (turn it clockwise). Make sure the drain plug is tight enough so that it will not come loose, but not so tight that it will strip the treads or be difficult to remove the next time the oil is changed.
NOTE: If the drain plug leaks and the threads are damaged, self-tapping repair plugs are available in most auto parts stores. This is an easier fix than replacing the entire oil pan.
5. Locate the oil filter and loosen it by turning it counterclockwise with your filter wrench. Make sure your catch pan is repositioned under the filter, then spin the filter the rest of the way off. Try to hold the filter upright as it comes off so the oil inside doesn't spill out. Oil may also dribble all down the side of the block, on suspension or drivetrain parts depending on the location of the filter, so try to catch the oil where ever it falls.
NOTE: If a spin-on filter was overtightened the last time the oil was changed, it may be difficult to loosen. You may have to try a different style of filter wrench to get it loose. Another trick is to spear the filter with a screwdriver and use the screwdriver like a lever to twist the filter off. Another method is to place a chisel against the bottom rim of the filter and use a hammer to loosen it (be careful not to damage the surface where the filter mounts on the block!).
CAUTION: The one thing you should never do is skip changing the filter because it is too hard to remove. If the filter plugs up, oil will bypass it and circulate unfiltered through the engine. This accelerates engine wear tremendously -- and can, if the bypass valve fails to open, completely ruin your engine.
6. Place a few drops of fresh oil on your finger and wipe it around the rubber seal on the new oil filter. This will help the seal seat properly when the filter is installed. Then spin-on the new filter and HAND TIGHTEN it clockwise until it is snug. The filter should be turned about three-quarters of a turn after the rubber seal makes contact with the engine. You can use your filter wrench to final tighten the filter if you can't turn it 3/4 turn by hand. Just don't over-tighten it or it will be difficult to remove next time.
CAUTION: Be careful not to cross-thread the filter. Also, if the filter does not want to screw on easily, sticks or jams, back it off and check the treads for proper fit and damage. Make sure you have the correct filter for your engine.
TIP: You can't do this with a sideways mounted oil filter, but if the filter is mounted vertically, you can add some fresh oil to the filter before it goes on. This will reduce the time it takes to fill the filter with oil and build oil pressure after the engine is first started.
7. Find the oil filler cap on the engine (usually located on a valve cover), open it and add the required type of oil and number of quarts to refill the crankcase to its normal full level. The brand of oil does not matter as long as it is a good quality product and is the correct viscosity for the application.
NOTE: Most engines take four to five quarts of oil to properly fill the crankcase. But some engines may require six, eight or even more quarts of oil. Don't guess! If you don't know how much oil your engine holds, look up your engine's oil capacity in your Owners Manual. Overfilling the engine with too much oil can cause oil leaks. If the oil level touches the crankshaft, the crank can whip the oil into foam causing a loss of oil pressure and lubrication (which result in expensive engine damage!).
8. Replace and tighten the oil filler cap on the engine.
9. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it off, stick it back in, then pull it out again to check the oil level in your engine. It should read ABOVE the FULL mark if you also changed the filter and added the required make-up oil for the filter. If you did not replace the filter, the oil level should be at the FULL mark. The level should also be at the FULL mark if you pre-filled the filter with oil.
9. Start the engine and let it idle. Don't rev it up because it takes a few seconds for the oil to pump through the new filter and come up to pressure. The oil pressure warning light will probably remain on for a few seconds until oil pressure reaches normal.
10. Look under your car or truck to make sure the drain plug and filter are not leaking. If you see oil dripping onto the ground, shut the engine off, locate the leak and fix the problem.
11. Mark down the date, mileage, brand and viscosity of oil you used to change the oil so you'll know when to change the oil again.
12. Dispose of the used oil by pouring it into a sealed container and taking it to an auto parts store, repair shop or other facility that accepts used motor oil for recycling. DO NOT dump it out back someplace, or pour it down a storm sewer as it will contaminate soil and ground water.
13. If you didn't wear gloves, wash your hands with GOOP, GO-JO or a similar hand cleaner to remove all traces of oil.
SHOULD YOU SKIP ALL OF THIS AND JUST TAKE YOUR CAR OR TRUCK TO A QUICK LUBE SHOP, REPAIR SHOP OR DEALERSHIP FOR AN OIL CHANGE?
If you are not trying to save money by changing your oil yourself, having the oil changed at a service facility is a heck of a lot easier and faster, and it eliminates the problem of getting rid of the old oil.
For a standard oil change on a common car, a shop may charge you $24.95 to $39.95 or more (more oil, a special type of oil such as a synthetic, and/or a special filter will cost you more). If you drive a high priced luxury car or an exotic car and take it to a new car dealership, be prepared to pay A LOT MORE! Do not ask why because I do not have an answer. Ask the dealer why they charge so much for a relatively simple service procedure.
I have no qualms about having my oil changed at an independent repair shop or a new car dealership, but I do have some reservations about quick lube shops.
Quick Lube shops make their money on volume, which means they have to do a LOT of oil changes every day to turn a profit. Most quick lube shops are reputable, well run and have satisfied customers. But there are also a lot of true horror stories about people who have had their engines ruined by a slip-shod oil change.
One of the problems with quick lube shops is that they hire minimum wage employees to change your oil. It is a temporary job for most employees, so there is a lot of turnover. The oil changers are typically high school kids or dropouts who have minimal automotive knowledge or training. They might have been flipping hamburgers last week at a fast food restaurant. The on-the-job training they receive may be minimal.
If the person who changes your oil does not take their job seriously, or is careless about how they tighten the drain plug on your oil pan or your oil filter, they can cause real problems for you and their employer. I have heard too many stores about somebody forgetting to put the drain plug back in the oil pan, or not getting the plug tight enough, or not getting the filter tight, and the oil leaking out of the engine. If you lose oil pressure, the engine will seize and self-destruct. A new engine these days typically costs $3500 to $5000 or more plus installation. And if the quick lube shop will not pay for it (the burden of proof is on your shoulders). You are stuck for the repairs.
Dishonest employees and managers are also a problem in some shops. Again, I want to stress that most shops are honest and well run. But there some bad apples out there who will cut corner, lie, cheat and steal to pad their own pockets. I have heard of dishonest employees who steal oil and filters by taking the oil and parts that were supposed to go on your car and taking them home for their own use, their friends or to resell.
Dishonest shop managers and oil distributors can increase their profits by using cheaper grades of oil instead of quality name-brand oils. It is an easy switch that is virtually impossible to detect when the oil comes out of a bulk dispenser. The proof if when the bearings or rings in your engine wear out from lack of proper lubrication some point down the road.
Then you have the employee who apparently does not know his own strength. He over-tightens the drain plug or filter and strips the threads, or he puts these parts on so tightly they are nearly impossible to remove the next time you try to change the oil yourself.
There is also the idiot who does not know how much oil to put in the engine. If he automatically dumps four quarts into every engine he works on, he may underfill a lot of engines. Likewise, if he dumps in too much oil, he can create lubrication problems and leaks. Quick Lube shops are supposed to have service guides that list oil capacities for all makes and models of vehicles, but that does not mean the employees always look up the information.
Another issue is that of oil quality. The American Petroleum Institute (API) did a nationwide survey in 2013 to check the quality of oil being sold by quick lube facilities. Oil samples were taken from bulk dispensers in quick lube shops and analyzed in a laboratory to see if they meet API quality standards, OEM performance requirements and SAE viscosity grades. The survey found that 1 out of 5 samples FAILED one or more of these tests! In other words, a lot of quick lube shops are selling poor quality oil that does not meet minimum service specifications or is not the correct viscosity grade. For more information on this issue, see Motor Oil Matters.
That is why I continue to change my own oil. I have been doing it a lot of years, and I know what I am doing. I do not have to worry about somebody intentionally or accidentally sabotaging or damaging my car. I do not have to worry about the quality of the oil I am using because I buy a brand name off-the-shelf motor oil. And I do not have to worry about overfilling or underfilling my engine's crankcase. The only part I do not like is having to lay on my back on my garage floor to change the oil.