Most people think that servicing cars is a complicated process. Mechanics, in this instance, are seen as savants with obscure knowledge the average person cannot understand. That isn’t true. All one needs is practical sense and a willingness to try.

One of the easiest and cost-saving activities you can do to your car is service it yourself. This article is a part of a series of do-it-yourself (DIY) guides that teach you to “fish” and save you money.

Getting started

Changing oil is so easy, you will kick yourself wondering why you give up your hard-earned money to let a mechanic do it.

You need a few things handy:

Fresh motor oil – make sure you choose the correct oil rated for your car. You can find this out by checking the user’s manual or asking the manufacturer’s service center.

New oil filter – when you change the oil, change the oil filter as well to clutter your brain less and to keep the oil run cleaner for the duration of the oil’s life cycle till the next service period.

Adjustable wrench – use this tool to remove the drain plug.

Drain plug gasket – some oil filter packages come with these so check with your auto parts seller. Some cars do not require a gasket, usually the tapered ones. You can check the first time you remove the drain plug to see if something comes with it taken off.

Oil catcher – you can use a tray with a garbage bag on top that can hold 5 gallons to catch the oil that drains off the oil pan.

A funnel! – yes this handy kitchen device will save you tons of concentrating to pouring the oil through that hole on top of the engine.

Rags – to wipe the spillage, and they do spill.

Work lights – they help you see better. Working in a well-lighted and well-ventilated environment can save your health and eyesight.

All set? Here we go!

Follow this procedure in sequence:

1. Start your engine for 3-5 minutes. This gets the oil all ready to flow and with it to bring all the muck and goop that built up all this time inside.

2. Look for the drain plug under the car. This is usually a large nut at the bottom of the engine.

3. Unscrew the drain plug using the wrench until its ready to drop at the last turn. This is to prevent oil from spilling all over you. Once you’re positioned, make sure the oil tray is under and a bit forward of the drain plug, then release the plug. You can let it drop into the tray since you can retrieve it. If the plug is too hot, leave it to cool for a few minutes.

4. Remove the cap from the oil filler on top.

5. Unscrew the oil filter by hand. If it’s too tight you may have to use a rag for traction or worse, you need an oil filter wrench if it’s beyond your arm strength.

6. Open the new bottle of motor oil. Take the wrapping off the new oil filter.

7. Dip a finger in the motor oil and moisten the oil filter gasket. Then screw the oil filter back in. Turn it in until it starts becoming tight, then turn a final three-quarter turn to seal.

8. Use rag to wipe the drain plug hole.

9. Replace the drain plug and use the wrench to tighten it. If your car uses a gasket, make sure it is inserted with the drain plug before tightening.

10. Fill the engine with new motor oil via the oil filler hole on top. Use the funnel for convenience.

11. Replace oil filler cap and start the engine. Let the engine idle for 30 to 60 seconds and check for leaks in the drain plug and the oil filter. Do not REV the engine at this time. Let the oil circulate.

12. Check the oil gauge indicator for an okay.

13. Turn off engine. Wait 5-10 minutes for the oil to settle back into the oil pan.

14. Pull out the oil dipstick and wipe it with the rag. Re-insert the dipstick in the engine and pull it out again. Check the oil level on the dipstick. Keep adding more oil and use the dipstick to check until it reaches the “FULL” indicator. Do not overfill.

15. Take away the oil tray and set aside.

16. Start the car and drive around the block twice. Then park and recheck the dipstick and oil gauge indicator. Refill if necessary.

And you’re done.

Post-oil change, take the oil filter and old motor oil to a service station for disposal. Never throw away these items in normal trash or dispose of the dirty oil in the drain. This is TOXIC WASTE.

There you have it. Simple steps to change your oil. Easy and low-cost. 

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