How to Change the Oil in Your Car

This is a guest post provided by my (Aaron) 17 year-old step-son, Haäkin – who is enrolled in auto tech classes at school, loves riding motocross and is a “Thrifty Guy in Training”.

haakinDoing an oil change yourself is an easy way to save money. First off, you will want to have a set of common wrenches, an oil drain pan, elastic gloves, set of ratchets and a simple funnel (easiest way to create a cheap funnel is to cut off the top of a water bottle).

Next – of course – is the oil. Look at your vehicle's manual to see your if your car requires a certain kind. Usually it will be 5W-30. 

After you get the oil, you'll need an oil filter. Again, check in your manual or ask a person at your local parts store what kind you should get.

Now that you have all the supplies, make sure your engine is not hot. It can be warm – but hot is bad. Also, stone cold is not good either.

You may need a floor jack to raise the car so you can get underneath it. Next, put your drain pan underneath the drain plug (fig 1), then unscrew the oil filler cap (fig 2). Use a wrench that fits the oil drain plug to loosen it. Do not unscrew it all the way! Loosen it until oil starts to come out. Let it drain into the pan for a few minutes, then unscrew the plug all the way (make sure you have gloves on). Let the oil get to a drizzle, then unscrew the oil filter (fig 3). It may take some force, so you may want to use an oil filter wrench.

They are easy to find at your local parts or hardware store – even WalMart.

drain plugfiller capfilter

Once your oil is at a slow drip, screw back on  your oil drain plug. Make sure it is tight so it won't loosen, then take your new oil filter, dip  your finger in your new oil and lube the outside (the part you screw on). Once on – put your funnel where the oil filler cap would be and start filling it up with all the oil!

Screw back on your oil filler cap then check your oil dipstick. If the oil goes to the safe mark, you're good – and you are done!

You should change your oil every 3000 – 4000 miles, depending on what the bottle of oil says. This whole job should take 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on your experience.

Do you change your own oil – or leave it to the mechanic?

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  1. I do change my own oil, but I don’t do it in my prius (I’ve been scared too since it take synthetic. I’d love to see a follow-up article on how to change a hybrid’s oil, and if there is any “one off'” suggestions that differ compared to a standard car.

    Also another helpful tip is that I make sure I use a 6 point socket wrench head. Twice I’ve stripped the head off my oil pan screw because I used a 12 point socket head. 6 points are hard to find, but are especially important if the previous people that changed your oil was a Jiffy Lube or Car Dealer. It alway seems like they screw them on with an impact wrench! Dang dealers!

    Great job, Haakin! I was wondering if you were going to suggest dipping your finger in the oil and lining the rim of the screw with oil! Great suggestion. My dad and grandpa alway suggested that too me when I was young! Keep up the good writing!

  2. I go to the mechanic only when I have a discount voucher. Around my area it’s only $10 for an oil change. It worth it when I factor in my time and effort. In the winter time it’s much better to use synthetic oil, hence I change it myself because there is a markup on the oil at the shop. What is your thought on synthetic vs. non-synthetic oil?

    • synthetic oil is better for your vehicle and you might be able to go a while longer without having to do an oil change. but after you do synthetic you cant go back to non-synthetic (just a warning)

  3. The first time I changed my car’s oil I had no idea what I was doing. I watched a YouTube video to learn the basics, then I jumped right in. It took me over an hour the first time, but the next few times I reduced it to about 30 minutes.

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