Do you know how to change your car’s oil?

Disclaimer:  I am not an auto mechanic and I’m not responsible if you get yourself into trouble because of my DIY.

I changed my Toyota 4Runner’s oil again last week after not having done it in years: wow, what a trip.  Let me start out by saying being able to change your oil is the trait of a well rounded individual -in my opinion- and a great trick for parties.  That being said, today it can cost you twenty five bucks all inclusive to have your oil changed by a mechanic or about fifteen bucks and an hour or more if you do it by yourself, so it’s not a huge savings.  I do it because I’ll need to be able to change my oil in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Let’s get started. You’ll need:

An Oil Pan. An oil pan is a large flat wide bucket for catching oil.

Oil Filter. An oil filter can be purchased at just about any auto parts store.  These aren’t generic so make sure you get the correct kind for your car by asking the parts clerk.

Oil. Take a look in the owner’s manual or on the oil cap to see what kind of oil your car takes.  I’d buy in bulk here because most cars have a significant oil reservoir of over several gallons.

Oil Disposal Location. DO NOT pour oil down any drain or in the backyard.  If you’ve ever considered the Earth a nice place to live you won’t dump hazardous material where you’re not supposed to.  Most states also come with strong fines for dumping oil.  Just drop your oil off at an auto mechanic and they can dispose of it for you, usually for free. If you have trouble finding a place, Mobil’s website can find one for you if you put in your zip code.

Tools. I’d recommend having a full set of wrenches or a socket wrench and sockets for changing your oil.  You also may want an Oil Filter Wrench, but I do it without this.

OK, here’s your steps:

Beforehand:  Take some oil, smear it on your hands to test for polymer-lubricant-density-factors.  Test a little by smearing some on your shirt as well… Ha!  Now you’ve got oil all over you already and you won’t be a timid little child (read:bitch) about getting dirty doing this, right?

1.  Engage the parking brake on your car.  You most likely don’t need to jack up your car — at least I don’t.  If you’ve never jacked up your car before, please don’t, you can kill yourself if it falls on you.  We don’t want the car going anywhere while we’re under it.

2.  Let’s loosen the oil filter before we remove the oil.  We wouldn’t want to empty the oil then not be able to get the filter off now would we?  The filter is located on the side of the engine block, next to the oil tank.  It’s not easy to find, so don’t give up easily.  Crawl under the car and look around for it, or check your car manual, it might tell you.  Once you’ve found it give it a good twist, it’ll be a bit of a struggle most likely, but don’t give up! Remember “Righty tighty, lefty loose-y.”  Just loosen the filter, we’ll remove it after we drain the oil.

3. Once you’ve loosened the oil filter, drain the oil tank.  The oil comes out through a drain plug on the bottom of the oil tank.  This tank is located on the very bottom of the engine in the front and is accessed from under the car.  So crawl in there and find it!  It’s a large tank with one bolt at the very bottom.  Place the oil pan below the drain plug (it’s a bolt) before you take the plug off, oil will start raging out like Niagra Falls immediately.

4.  Now we can go back and remove the oil filter.  Make sure the rubber seal comes with it, sometimes they stick to the engine.  If you’re not sure the seal came with it compare the old filter to the new one, which comes with the seal on it.

5.  Lubricate the seal on the new filter by putting some oil on your finger and rubbing it around the seal.  This will ensure a snug fit when you screw the new filter onto the engine.  No need to put any oil in the filter, it’ll fill when we fill up the oil tank with new oil.

6.  Climb back under the car and screw in the new oil filter. Don’t tighten it too tight though.  If you tighten it about as tight as you can get with one hand that’s perfect!

7.  Screw back in the oil tank bolt. Again, not too tight. And make sure the gasket (flat metal ring) is still on the bolt.  Don’t forget to do this, we wouldn’t want the new oil draining right out the bottom.

8. ADD NEW OIL TO THE CAR. Once, I did all the other steps and almost forgot this one.  Your car would be seriously toasted if you drove anywhere without any oil.  Your engine block would overheat, cease up, and your whole car would be roasted.  (Though the radio would still be good, which is important).

9.  Finally, test the oil levels with the oil dipstick to make sure you have the right amount of oil in the car.

Wow, wasn’t it a good feeling changing your oil, even if it took you two hours?  Now you can tell your friends;  they’ll lie and say they’ve done it too, but they probably haven’t.  You can prove it after the apocalypse when you ask them to change the oil and they say ‘what?’. Good job, you amateur mechanic, you!

Ted Dillon As a Renaissance Man of the modern age, my thirst for knowledge and insight is unending. I recently graduated from Boston College having studied Film, so know a little bit about everything and a lot about movie making. I dabble in sailing, rock climbing, and hunting, all while actively blogging, site building, Tweeting, and writing full length screenplays. Twitter: @evdillon

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2 Responses to “Do you know how to change your car’s oil?”

  1. Todd

    Hi Ted,

    Very good and informative post.

    You mentioned an Oil Filter Wrench as a tool to help with your oil change. Being in the quick lube oil change business for over 15 years, the Oil Filter Wrench makes the job so much easier.


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