How to Change Oil: Your Ultimate Guide to Get It Right

Changing your vehicle’s oil periodically is a key part of maintenance that will help your car run better and last longer. Neglecting to pay attention to oil levels can lead to disasters such as oil sludge buildup or a blown engine, which can be an expensive mistake. Luckily, changing your oil does not take too much time or energy.

Here are steps on how to properly change your oil whether you do it yourself or have it done professionally at an auto body repair shop near you:

Oil Maintenance
Check your vehicle manufacturer’s manual to make sure you are putting the proper type of oil into your vehicle. The manual will also give you recommendations on how often you need to change the oil based on mileage. For many modern vehicles, this cycle is about every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Usually your oil light or gauge will indicate when your vehicle is low on oil.

Necessary Tools
If you plan on changing the oil yourself, make sure you have all the essential tools. If you do not, your best bet is to rely on professional help from a mechanic at an auto body repair shop. The following tools and materials are standard for all vehicles:

  • Gloves to keep your hands clean
  • Ratchet for removing oil plug
  • Large pan to catch the old oil
  • Tools for removing the oil filter
  • Funnel for pouring in new oil
  • Can of new oil
  • New oil filter
  • Paper towels or rag for clean up

Inspect Your Vehicle
Many times when you take your vehicle into an auto body repair shop for an oil change, the mechanic will inspect other items as well. While this check does not have to be thorough like a tune-up, one essential thing to check is whether or not your vehicle has an oil leak. Unchecked leaks can lead to the same type of damage as never changing your oil. Check to see if there is any oil on the ground or if you see any drips coming from the oil pan.

You must know where your oil filter is located since an oil change often involves replacing this unit. Many times the oil filter is under the hood not far from the engine. The oil cap is also under the hood near the engine.

Preparation
The first step after putting on protective gloves is to unscrew the oil cap underneath the hood and let a little air in. Then, place the container for catching the oil underneath the oil pan and remove the oil plug, letting oil drain into the catch container. As you’re waiting for the oil to drain, remove your oil filter, which typically takes one crank with a ratchet and the rest can be done by hand.

Use your finger tip to gently spread oil from the old filter onto the ring of the new oil filter. This technique will create a secure connection. Then, install the new oil filter and use your hand to tighten the connector. After a few minutes, you can check to see if the oil has been completely drained into the catch container. Then, put the oil plug back on. Do not make the plug too tight, so that it will be easy to remove next time.

Related Post: Why Your Car Needs Frequent Oil Changes

Pour in New Oil
Take the oil cap underneath the hood completely off. Use a clean funnel to pour the new oil into the crankcase and then place the oil cap back on. Use a clean dipstick to check the oil level. It should be covered with oil for at least a few inches up to the hole in the middle of the dipstick where it indicates “max.”

Start the engine and let it run a few minutes before shutting it off and starting it again. Watch your oil pressure gauge to make sure that it increases. Afterward, check the dipstick one more time to make sure that the oil level still covers the dipstick up to the hole.

Importance of Proper Oil Change
While changing oil is a simple task, it’s still possible to cause damage by skipping steps. Make sure you use the correct oil weight, although lighter oil weight generally leads to less wear and tear. The purpose of oil is to keep metal from touching other metal in the engine. Oil must circulate throughout the system without any clogs in the fuel line or oil filter.

If you need to learn more, contact a mechanic at an auto body repair shop near you.