Changing Motor Oil

Even though changing a car's motor oil is a simple process, millions of people choose to pay others to perform this task. Here are tips for those who would rather save time and money by doing it themselves.

Even though changing the oil in a car is a fairly simple process, millions of people prefer to pay others to perform this task for them. Here are some how-to tips for those who wish to save both time and money by doing their own oil changes.


The first step in doing an oil change is to make sure that all safety precautions are strictly adhered to. Efforts to save a little time or cut corners can prove disastrous. Here are the most important safety considerations:

(1) Make sure that the car is placed on a flat surface--concrete if possible.

(2) The car should be well-supported so that movement underneath the car will not cause it to fall. For safe support, two jack stands should be used.

(3) Jack stands should always be used when a car is raised. No one should ever get underneath a car that is supported by a jack only.

(4) Always use gloves when changing the oil in a vehicle since the oil and the oil plug may be very hot and could cause serious burns.


It is important to have the proper tools at hand before beginning the oil change. This will cut the time needed to complete the process and will eliminate unnecessary trips back and forth underneath the vehicle. Generally, the following are the only tools that will be needed:

(1) car care handbook-this is very important to have on hand to consult for specific information about the weight and type of oil required to fit a particular car

(2) motor oil

(3) drain pan

(4) new oil filter

(5) oil filter wrench

(6) ratchet set

(7) gloves

(8) socket set

(9) cleaning rags

(10) container for disposal of old oil and filter

(11) funnel

(12) two jack stands

(13) jack


(1) While assembling all the needed equipment for the oil change, start the car engine and keep it running for at least ten minutes before beginning to drain the oil. Then, move the car to the area where the oil change will be done and engage the parking brake.

(2) Jack up the car and make sure that it is properly supported. Safety precautions should also be taken when jacking up the car. Make sure that the car is in "park" (first gear/reverse for manual transmissions). If only the front wheels are being raised, place a brick behind the two back wheels.

(3) Be sure the jack is resting on a flat cement surface since any other surface may not properly support the weight of the car.

(4) Consult the owner's handbook for the location of the drain plug. It is generally near the center underside of the car close to the front.

(5) Be sure that the oil drain pan is in place under the drain plug before opening the plug. Using a socket wrench, loosen the plug with a counter clockwise motion. When loose, remove the plug, remembering that there may be a flood of hot oil when the drain is opened.

(6) Allow all the oil to drain out and clean the drain plug and plug opening with a rag. Replace the drain plug gasket, if needed, and replace the plug by hand first and then tighten with a wrench. Do not overtighten since this could strip threads in the plug opening, causing an oil leak.

(7) Locate the old oil filter, usually on the side of the engine, and use the oil filter wrench to remove the old filter. Check the seal of the filter and add a thin film of new oil to coat the seal. Install the new filter and tighten by hand.

(8) After work is finished underneath the car, open the hood and remove the oil filler cap on top of the engine. Insert the funnel into the opening. Pour in new oil in the required amount, according to owner's handbook. Replace cap and wipe up any excess or spillage with rag.

(9) Start car and let the motor run for a few minutes. Then check the oil level with the dipstick and add more oil if needed.

(10) Check for leakage around the oil drain plug and around the new filter. If leakage is present, tighten until no spillage appears. Note that if you find you have to repeatedly add oil to maintain the required level, this indicates that there is a leak. This could mean very expensive repairs or a ruined engine if ignored. Oil leaks will not seal themselves and should be attended to as soon as they are discovered.

(11) Put old oil and oil filter into a container with a lid and dispose of them at a recycling facility. Do not dispose of them in any type of drain or by putting into regular trash receptacles.

It is always good practice to note the date of all oil changes on the inside of the auto owner's handbook or some other conspicuous place. Oil should be changed every 3000 miles or every three months, whichever comes first. If the car is used in extreme temperatures, changing the oil more often may be necessary.

To maintain an automobile in good working order, also check levels of all fluids--coolant, power steering, transmission, brake--whenever changing the oil. At the same time, make sure that belts and hoses are in good condition. These are small and inexpensive items but they can cause immeasurable inconvenience if not replaced when needed. This may also be a good time to check battery wires and cables.

© High Speed Ventures 2011