How to change your oil

    Changing your car's oil yourself is not only a money saver; it's also a lot easier than it sounds! However, it's important to remember that when it comes to automotive maintenance, safety always comes first. So whether you're a first timer or an old hand, The Expert has put together this step-by-step tutorial to show you the safest and most efficient way to perform this simple task!

    What you'll need


  • 4 to 6 quarts of Castrol motor oil. (Check your owner's manual for the proper SAE viscosity, API performance and quantity required for your engine.)
  • A new oil filter. Most cars use a "spin-on" oil filter available in various shapes and sizes. (Check your owner's manual for the appropriate type and size.)
  • A drain plug socket wrench or open-end wrench (exact size) and an oil filter wrench.
  • A large drain pan, at least 5 to 7 quarts in capacity
  • A rag
  • Hand cleaning solution and/or disposable latex gloves
  • A funnel
  • Safety glasses

    Your owner's manual for your vehicle should recommend a certain grade of oil to be used under normal driving conditions as well as the number of miles that you can drive your vehicle before changing your oil (maximum drain interval). However, if you drive under severe conditions such as extreme temperatures, frequent short trips, stop and go traffic or towing and hauling, the extra strain on your engine will necessitate more frequent changes. The average driver generally doesn't realize it but the vast majority of their driving falls into this category, which is why most mechanics will refer to and change oil by the shorter drain interval recommended by the manufacturer for use in "severe" driving conditions.

    As a general rule of thumb, change your motor oil and oil filter every 3,000 miles or every 3 months, whichever comes first. This strategy will provide superior engine protection and long engine life. (Be certain to check your owner's manual for special conditions and do not exceed warranty recommendations.)



    Always be certain to consult your owner's manual for specific safety precautions before climbing under your vehicle.

    Never use a bumper jack to hold your vehicle up - it is simply too unstable. Portable wheel ramps are ideal and much safer. Wheel ramps will tilt the car just enough to allow you to slide underneath. After making sure that you are on level ground, drive your vehicle up onto the wheel ramps so that the front tires are elevated. Set your emergency brake and brace both rear wheels with wooden blocks to prevent the vehicle from rolling. Put your vehicle in first gear if you have a manual transmission and in Park if you have an automatic transmission. Cold oil will not drain properly so idle your engine for about 5-10 minutes to bring it to normal operating temperature (never start your engine without oil). Then switch off the engine and raise the hood to locate and loosen the oil sump cap to avoid creating a vacuum. This will allow the oil to drain from the bottom more freely.



    Locate the oil drain plug on the underside of your vehicle. It should be located at the bottom rear end of the engine sump or oil pan. Be sure not to loosen the automatic transmission drain plug by mistake. (It is usually located a bit further back.)

    Place the drain pan underneath the drain plug and slightly toward the back. Using your wrench, turn the plug counterclockwise until it rotates freely. Finish removing the plug by hand. At this point, be careful of the oil since it may release rapidly and is likely to be rather hot. Try not to drop the plug into the pan, but don't worry if you do!



    Next, loosen the oil filter - which may be warm - by turning it counterclockwise with a filter wrench. Complete the removal by hand, taking care not touch the hot exhaust manifold. The oil filter may be filled with oil and feel slightly heavy, so carefully ease it down and away from the engine and tip its contents into the drain pan.



    Take your rag and wipe in and around the filter seat on the engine. Then take a new filter and use your finger to apply a light film of oil (new or used) to the gasket (the circular edge of the filter itself). This film will act as a sealant. Now gently screw the new filter onto the threaded oil line, turning it clockwise. If it's aligned properly, the filter should thread on easily. Hand-tighten the filter approximately ½ to ¾ of a turn after the gasket makes contact with the mounting surface. Make sure the filter is mounted snugly, but be gentle, Hercules; you don't want to over-tighten.


    Be sure to clean the copper gasket and the oil plug. Use a paper towel or rag to clean old oil or road dirt from the area on the oil pan near the oil plug hole before re-installing the drain plug. Then align and replace the plug. Screw it in by hand, but finish tightening it with your wrench. Tighten the oil plug to the proper torque recommended in the owner’s manual to prevent under- or over-tightening.



    On the top of the engine you will find a cap that says "Oil." Unscrew the cap and proceed to fill the engine with the required quantity of oil, checking with the dipstick to assure proper fill level. Use a funnel to pour the new oil into the filler hole on top of the engine (oil spilled onto the engine or exhaust system will stink up the engine; oil spilled onto the exhaust system can even potentially be ignited). Then replace the cap and wipe off any spillage. The oil light should go out as soon as the engine is started. Run the engine for several minutes, then switch it off and check the dipstick once again to assure proper oil level. Last, but not least, check under the vehicle for leaks.
    Easier than it sounded, right? Be sure to keep a written record in your glove compartment of the mileage and date for each oil change. That way, it will be easy to keep track of when your next change should take place. Also, should you decide in the future to sell your car, verification of regular oil changes will increase it's resale value.

    Now you can take off your dirty latex, and discard soiled clothing or wash them separate from other family member’s clothes. Exposure to used oil has been linked to skin cancer and other skin disorders, so be super-careful!



    Thought you were finished? Not quite yet! The final, and in some ways, most important step to your oil change, is the proper disposal of the used oil that you have drained from your vehicle. Used motor oil is highly toxic to the environment and it is of the utmost importance that it is disposed of in a safe fashion. Transfer the used oil to sealed container and consult your local garage about options for safe disposal. Chances are that a garage in your area will take the oil off your hands and arrange for it to be recycled or safely disposed of. If, by chance, you are unable to find a garage in your vicinity willing to take your used oil, your state should have an environmental agency that can direct you towards an alternative option.
    For more information on the destructive effects of improper oil disposal and a list of state agencies with information about the safe disposal of used oil in your area, consult The Expert's ALL ABOUT OIL.