Changing your engine oil is one of the single most important vehicle maintenance acts you can perform. Over time the oil breaks down and no longer performs its job the way it did when it was new. Your engine’s oil helps absorb heat from the engine and lubricates moving metal parts that would otherwise grind together. As you drive, the oil pump circulates oil within your engine and the oil filter catches the deposits that build up over time. The oil filter performs its own type of car maintenance by keeping the oil clean.
But as the oil gets older, the number of deposits in the oil continues to build and the filter is unable to extract all of the material. When this happens, the color of the oil changes and it indicates the oil should be changed. To check the clarity of your oil find your oil dipstick, pull it out and check the level of oil and its color. If the oil is a dark-brown or black color, like Coca-Cola, then your oil needs to be changed. However, if it appears to be lighter, like the color of a cup of tea, then you still have some time before it needs to be changed.
Before you can drain the oil, there are few steps you need to take to get ready for this minor auto maintenance process. The first is making sure you have the right tools and equipment on hand. To drain the oil, you’re going to need a socket wrench, oil filter wrench and an oil catcher or recycling container to catch and store the old oil until you dispose of it. It’s also a good idea to have some rubber gloves and rags or shop towels on hand. Some vehicles, like pick-up trucks and SUVs may have enough room for you to get under the vehicle to work, but most sedans and smaller cars won’t.
When you take your vehicle to an automotive maintenance shop, they can use a hydraulic vehicle lift to easily get underneath. But if you need the extra space, just drive the vehicle onto a set of car ramps or use a sturdy pair of jack stands. Locate the oil drain plug under your vehicle. It’ll be a large nut at the very bottom of your engine’s oil pan, usually the closest thing to the ground. If you’re unsure where it is, check your owner’s manual or ask your mechanic to show you the next time you’re in for vehicle maintenance. Use the socket wrench to loosen the nut.
All of the oil should drain out in about two minutes. It’s a good idea to keep your shop towels hands because when you loosen the nut on the oil pan oil will start to drain and run down your arm. The next important step in changing your oil is replacing the oil filter. Remember, the oil filter holds all the excess sludge and grime that the oil catches while lubricating the engine. Changing the filter is vital to car maintenance because without a new oil filter in place, new engine oil will be passing through the old filter, making it dirty and less effective.
You can check your car’s manual to find out which size filter you’ll need. When you’re under the vehicle draining the oil, locate the oil filter. It will be cylindrical and may be blue, white, black or orange depending on the brand. Use the oil filter wrench, available at any automotive maintenance shop, and turn it counterclockwise to loosen the filter. When removed place it on top of the recycling container for the oil and let the old oil drain out before you throw it away.
Before installing the new oil filter, first take a little bit of clean oil and rub it around the rubber gasket of the new filter. This will help the new filter fit snugly onto the engine block. For good vehicle maintenance, it’s also a good idea to use a rag to clean off any excess oil around the area where the filter screws onto the engine. Take the new filter and screw it on the engine block by hand. Once it’s snug, tighten it with the oil filter wrench. It should take about a half to three-quarters of a turn to get it firmly in place.
Remember, you want the filter on tight, but don’t over-tighten it either; you could damage the filter and cause it to leak. When filling the engine back up with clean oil, check your vehicle’s owner’s manual or reference a service manual at your local automotive maintenance shop for the type of oil that’s recommended and how much you should use. Typically, most engines take between 4 and 6 quarts. Use a funnel to channel the oil to keep it from spilling out onto the engine. Once you’ve added the correct amount of oil, lower the car off of the ramps or car jacks.
It may take a few minutes for the oil to reach the bottom of the pan because it’s cold and moves slower than hot oil. The oil level should be just below the “full” mark on your dipstick. Once you’ve determined that you have the correct amount of oil added to your engine, turn the car on and run it for about five minutes to allow the oil to circulate. Once you’ve done this, check for any oil leaks before you clean up. That is how you change your oil a simple process that saves you money and keeps your car running for as long as you need it.