Getting your oil changed can be the most irritating preventive maintenance for your car. You might be thinking, is it better to do this yourself or have your mechanic do it for you?
If you do this yourself, you will no longer have to wait 20,000 hours to finally get your oil changed. But, before we get into the dollas, let’s first talk about what is needed to change your oil and the process.
Tools and Parts Needed
- Jack and Jack Stands
- Oil Filter (type can be found in owner’s manual or parts store)
- Oil Pan
- Oil (Check owner’s manual for the amount needed)
- Plenty of shop towels
- Oil Filter Removing Tool (optional)
- Safety glasses
Changing your oil is fairly simple but can be pretty messy! So, don’t wear your Sunday clothes for this job. Below are the steps to getting the job done:
- Jack Your Car Up
Of course, the first step is to get your car in the air. If you have a lift, I am super jealous; but, if you are common folk like myself, then you will have to use a good ole jack. I suggest using a hydraulic jack.
If you have a front engine car, your oil pan is located in the front so, please, be sure to jack the front end of your car. Place the jack underneath the jack points under your car. This is usually a piece of metal running down the side of your car.
Once you have the car in the air, I always use jack stands to keep the car elevated. Hydraulic jacks are not to always be trusted. They do malfunction sometimes and you do not want to be under the car when this happens. Make sure to place the jack stands on a sturdy piece of metal preferably the frame of the car. If you are unsure if the area is safe to rest the car on the you should probably consult with someone before continuing. I would rather be safe than sorry in this situation.
- Prep Car to Drain
Ok, now you are halfway there and it is time to really get your hands dirty. Before you begin draining your oil, open your hood and remove the gas cap so the oil to flows better during draining. This is very similar to when you have a spigot on a water jug and have to put a hole in it to allow the water to flow.
Note: Before you drain your oil, it is best to drive around a bit to heat the oil. This helps the oil flow much smoother.
First be sure to put your safety glasses on. Its not fun having debris or even oil get in your eye.
Underneath your car, towards the front, you should see your drain plug. You might have to search around a bit but it isn’t too hard to spot. It is usually attached to a pan like part under the car.
- Start Draining!
Before you begin removing the drain plug, don’t forget to place your oil pan beneath it. If you have an oil pan container that has a plug at the bottom, DO NOT FORGET TO UNPLUG IT. I did that once and made a huge mess!
Once the pan is positioned under the drain plug you can, then, begin to unscrew the drain plug with your wrench. If you took my earlier advice and warmed your oil by driving prior to draining, be careful not to burn yourself.
When the plug is removed you should have nice flow into your pan. Don’t be alarmed when you see your oil is fairly dark. This is completely normal. Now if your oil is clumpy and is flowing very irregular then you probably should change your oil a little more often.
You might also have to reposition the pan to ensure you are catching all the oil.
It takes a while to drain all the oil, depending on your car, so just consider the wait to be relaxation time.
After about 10-15 minutes, your oil should be done draining. You will never get ALL of the oil out of your car so, usually, when the oil begins dripping slowly you are good to put the plug back.
You can use the wrench used to remove the oil plug to reinstall it.
- Oil Filter Removal and Install
Depending on its orientation, the oil filter can hold up to a quart of oil. In most cases, it is located under the car, not too far from the oil plug (see illustration in previous picture for an example). On some cars, the oil filter can be removed in the engine bay.
Position the oil pan underneath the oil filter once you have located it.
Next, begin to unscrew the oil filter. It should only be hand tight but can, sometimes, be difficult to remove. If this is the case, you should use your oil filter removal tool.
You can immediately install the new oil filter once the old filter has been removed. Afterwards, you need to tighten the oil filter hand tight. It should be pretty snug.
Note: Before installing the oil filter it is best to rub a little oil around the seal of the filter (rubber ring). This prevents the seal (gasket) from sticking, cracking, or causing an oil leak.
- Lower Your Car
Finally, you are on the home stretch of this amazing oil change experience (a little sarcasm in that statement)! You can now remove the oil pan, oil filter, and tools from underneath the car. If any oil spilled underneath the car or on the car, this is also a great time to do some cleaning.
After you have double checked that everything is back on the car and all tools are removed, you should jack the car up high enough to remove the jack stands. Once the jack stands are removed, you can now let’er down (In my best Alabama accent)!
- Fill It Up!
Now it’s time to add some fresh oil to your car. First, make sure you are adding oil to the oil fill area. There should be a picture of a dripping oil can and the type of oil required on the cap.
Place the funnel in the opening and begin pouring the oil into your engine.
After you have filled your engine with the specified amount of oil, you will need to check your oil level with your dipstick. But, not so fast! If the level is good you aren’t finished just yet.
Since some car’s oil filter can hold up to a full quart of oil. You will need to start your car to get the oil circulating, turn your car off and, then, check the level again.
If the oil level is good at this point, then congrats you have just successfully changed your oil. Some cars can reset the oil life. If you have this feature, then now is a good time to reset this parameter in your car.
Congrats you have just completed a full oil change but was it worth it and did you really save?
Let’s first break down the cost of the tools. I will use amazon as my trusty source for this information.
Hydraulic Jack $51.45 – I priced a low-profile jack for more versatility when it comes to jacking different types of cars.
Jack Stands $36.94 – The jack-stands I priced were the highest-rated jack stands on amazon and have tons of great reviews.
Oil Pan $14 – Oil pans are fairly standard and are usually not too expensive.
Wrench $20.87 – I priced a socket set that can be useful for any other future DIY activities. This is actually a great price for a set of tools to begin building your tool collection!
Funnel $3.35 – Funnels are pretty standard; but, you can’t beat 3 funnels for only three bucks!
Shop Towels $9.95 – These by far are my favorite shop towels; so, I might be a little biased to this brand.
Oil Filter Wrench $24.22 – This is also a standard tool; but, as I stated earlier, this is optional.
In total, you are spending $160.78. In my opinion, the tools are an investment and will only be purchased once. So, don’t let the price of tools deter you from taking on this task.
But what about the parts???? Let’s look at standard pricing for the oil and oil filter.
5 Quarts of 5W-30 $35-$45
Oil Filter $6-$15
In total you are spending approximately $50 for oil and an oil filter. On top of that, it has taken you at least 45 minutes to complete the draining, install, and refill.
Routine oil changes can be as low as $15. Even though this is much cheaper, you lose the peace of mind that the oil was changed properly. In my personal opinion, doing it yourself is the surest way to get the job done exactly the way you would like it.
Remember you get what you pay for. If you decide to get a $15 oil change don’t be surprised if you get $15 worth of parts and service.
On the other hand, if you truly trust your mechanic, then taking it to him or her is not a bad thing either. It’s always good to have options.
If you have any questions or comments drop them below or send us a message here. We’d love to hear from you. And remember – knowledge is the key to a fair repair.