How to Do Your Own Oil Change

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Changing your oil can get dirty but it's an essential part of your car's maintenance routine to prevent unnecessary repair bills or trips to the mechanic. Being able to change your car's oil and oil filter is a doable DIY to save money and to extend the life of your car by thousands of miles. Your first time might take around an hour but once you've done an oil change a couple of times and are familiar with your car's features, the job would take less than 30 minutes.

Tools required

(consult your owner's manual for the appropriate sized wrenches)

  • Common end wrench
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Jack and jack-stand or ramp

Materials required

  • Fresh oil
  • New oil filter
  • Gloves
  • Plastic sheet
  • Container to dispose old oil

How to Do Your Own Oil Change

Steps for changing your oil filter


1. Oil comes in different weights and types for different cars require different amounts; the information on the weight, type, and amount of oil can be found in your owner's manual. Make sure the oil you buy meets or exceeds the manufacturer's OE requirements and the oil filter has a life expectancy equal to the oil.

2. After gathering your tools and materials, run your car for a few minutes to lightly warm up your engine and its oil.

3. Drive your car onto a plastic sheet to catch unexpected oil spills, and safely raise your car for better access. You can place your rear wheels on wheel chocks and use jack stands to raise the front or you can use a weight-bearing ramp.

Safety tip!

Don't work under a car supported by a jack alone, use jack stands. Make sure you are lifting your vehicle on a flat surface.

Oil should be warm before changing, if your car is hot or has been running, let it cool for about 30 minutes because you don't want hot oil to burn you.

Most cars use similar steps, but can vary, it's good to reference the owner's manual for more specific information for your car type.

Draining the Oil

4. Locate the oil filter and drain plug, and drain the oil. Each car is different, so if you're unsure where any of these are located, review your owner's manual.

5. Place the drain pan under the drain plug but more to the side and not directly because the oil will flow from the side and not vertically, and remove the oil filler cap.

6. Use your wrench to slowly remove the drain plug to release the oil.

Tightening the Drain Plug

7. While your oil is draining, inspect and clean your plug and plug gasket. Replace if necessary.

8. Wipe down the area around the oil drain plug, then screw it back until tight, don't over-screw the plug because it can cause damage.

Removing the Oil Filter

9. Remove the oil filter by slowly unscrewing it by hand because it shouldn't be tight, but if it is, lightly use a filter wrench to loosen it and then switch to using your hands. Remember to do this step slowly because if it's done too fast, oil will gush out all around the perimeter.

10. Hold the filter over the pan to drain it but make sure to not drop it in.

11. Clean as much oil as you can, especially around the filter seal and remove the old filter's O-ring if it's there because a double stack won't properly seal and cause oil to pump out and ruin your engine.

Changing the Oil Filter

12. Now, to install your new filter, hand-screw it on gently until the O-ring is in contact with the sealing surface. Generally, oil filters are tightened no more than three-quarters of a turn to a full turn beyond the point where the O-ring first is in contact with the sealing surface. It's important you do not over-tighten.

Adding the New Oil

13. After the drain and filter are secure, pour the current amount of new oil using a funnel, and make sure to not overfill.

Checking the Oil Level

14. Once everything looks good, lower your car back down and check that the oil is full. To do so, you should remove the dipstick, clean it, put it back in, and then remove it again to check the oil level.

15. Then replace the oil cap and start your engine and let it run outdoors or in a well-ventilated area for a minute to allow the new oil to circulate and check underneath for any leaks.

16. Shut off the engine and wait about 15 minutes and check the oil level again making it sure it reaches the 'full', 'max' or upper hash line, if not, top off more oil until it does.

Safety tip! Pay close attention to the oil's color. It should be brown or black but if it has a light, milky appearance to the color, then coolant might be leaking into the engine. If you see this or if you see any tiny metal particles in your oil, get your car to a mechanic for further diagnosis.

Cleaning Up

The final step is to properly dispose of the old oil and filter. Transfer your used oil into a closed container and drop it off at an auto parts store or to any household hazardous waste drop off locations in your area.

Why Do You Need to Change Your Oil?

Clean engine oil is engineered to absorb heat produced by all the moving metal parts in your engine as a way to help keep it cool. If the oil gets polluted, it will no longer effectively absorb heat, which will overheat the engine, making it work harder. As the contaminants build up, the oil degrades, and the oil will become less like a liquid and more like sludge which will clog your engine. Unfortunately, engines are expensive to clean and the bill to replace its parts are astronomical compared to the minimal cost of maintenance.

Another important thing you would need to change is the oil filter. This filter is what keeps a lot of the contaminants from circulating inside the engine, but once it's at capacity, it can no longer keep the contaminants out of your motor oil.

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

The old motto is to recommend getting your oil changed every 3,000-5,000 or every 3 months but it ultimately depends on the type of oil your car needs, what type of car you have, how often you drive, and in what conditions. This is where your owner's manual can be your saving grace. Different websites, mechanics, and even fellow DIY'ers will have varying answers based on preference and past experiences but a lot of your questions can be accurately answered in your owner's manual. This manual should be your car maintenance bible because with constantly evolving technology, cars will have continuously changing requirements to fit its needs. But it is semi unanimously recommended that oil should not be left for more than one year, no matter the mileage. So even if you drive fewer miles than your manual suggests, you should still be getting your oil changed at least twice a year.

Find Affordable Car Insurance

Does Auto Insurance Pay for an Oil Change?

Auto insurance companies do not typically pay for an oil change because oil changes are considered to be a component of routine vehicle maintenance. Maintenance doesn't fall under the umbrella of collision, comprehensive, or liability auto insurance coverage but there are repair programs that are not technically car insurance but acts as an insurance plan. Repair programs work by having you pay a monthly premium so that the company will pay for your repairs but it's much more expensive than going to a local mechanic or DIY at home.

Auto Insurance Rates Help You Save

Instead of saving money skimping on oil changes, get your car insurance rates as low as they can go. To do so, you'll need to compare car insurance rates from several different auto insurance providers. SmartFinancial makes this easy to do. With SmartFinancial's help, you'll be comparing cheap car insurance quotes from insurance companies near you in no time. SmartFinancial has access to more than 200 insurance companies so you are bound to find the coverage and low price that you want.

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