Changing Your Oil: A Step by Step Guide

Vehicle Maintenance

It is important to maintain your vehicles in order for them to continue to run properly and last for a long time. With the cost of cars these days, it is much easier on your pocketbook to take care of your cars through regular maintenance rather than let things go and end up with a costly repair bill. One of the most important tasks to complete as a part of a regular maintenance schedule is to have the oil changed in your car.

What kind of oil and oil filter should I use?

When selecting the correct oil and filter for your car, be sure to consult your owners manual. This will provide you with all of the specifications for your particular vehicle. If you no longer have the owners guide, call your local dealership to ask a certified mechanic. Be sure to have the make, model and year of your car ready to tell the dealership.

Supplies for an Oil Change

The oil filter, correct oil for your vehicle and brake cleaner are all needed for the oil change.  A oil filter wrench is helpful but not necessary.
The oil filter, correct oil for your vehicle and brake cleaner are all needed for the oil change. A oil filter wrench is helpful but not necessary. | Source

When and why should I change the oil in my car?

It is recommended that you change the oil in your car every 3 months or 3,000 miles. For some vehicles, manufacturers are now stating that you can wait for as long as 5,000 miles if you do not drive in harsh conditions.

There are many places that you can have your oil changed and it can cost you around $20 + tax for a standard oil change. If you choose to use synthetic oil, it can run as much as $100 for a full synthetic change. By doing the oil change on your own you can save about $5 on a standard change and up to $70 for a synthetic oil change. The savings are really great if you have even a little bit of mechanical knowledge. However, even beyond the savings, you are ensuring that the oil has been replaced in your car and the bolts and filters are properly removed, cleaned, and replaced. If you have never tried to change your oil on your own, here is a step by step guide to help you. This is a generic guide that will work for most standard vehicles.

Important Safety Tip

Never rely solely on a jack to hold the vehicle up while you are underneath the car working on it. It is never safe to be under a car without a secure and reliable support holding the car in place.

Step by Step Guide to Your Oil Change

  1. Drive your car up onto ramps. This method is preferred but you can use jack stands if you need to. Be sure that whichever you use, that you have enough clearance to get under the car.
  2. Identify the oil pan and drain bolt. This bolt will not be an attaching bolt. It will usually be found in the lowest part of the pan.
  3. Remove the bolt from the oil pan allow the used oil to drain into a catch pan that you have placed on the ground under the oil pan. Wipe the bolt down to remove any oil. While you do this, check for any damaged threads on the bolt. If you have a bolt that has a magnetic tip, be sure that you remove any metal shavings that may have accumulated on the top before replacing the bolt back in the oil pan.
  4. Take off the oil filler cap that is located on the valve cover. Leave it on a paper towel on top of the valve cover so that it is visible. Removing the cap allows air to flow and thus releasing more of the old oil.
  5. Next you will remove the old oil filter. This is the colorful canister. Use the oil filter wrench to loosen the filter. You can then remove it the rest of the way by hand. Check the oil filter pad (where the oil filter was located) to be sure that the seal (a rubber O ring gasket) was not left behind.
  6. Use the brake cleaner to spray the oil filter pad in order to clean it.
  7. Fill the new oil filter about 3/4 of the way with new oil. Then dab your finger in the oil and run your finger along the O ring to lubricate the seal (O ring). Then spin the oil filter back on. The directions for replacing the filter will be on the side of it. However, the general rule of thumb is spin it on until tight and then give it a half turn with a wrench.
  8. Put the drain bolt back in and properly tighten. This is done by hand tightening plus a turn with the wrench.
  9. Pour the recommended amount of oil back into the place where you removed the oil cap. Consult your owners manual for the proper amount. Then replace the oil cap.
  10. Start the engine and remove your car from the ramps. You may get a quick flash of an oil pressure light. This is normal for a few seconds as the oil begins to re-circulate the engine. Any longer than that, immediately turn off the car because you have done something incorrectly.
  11. Shut the car off and allow the engine to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Then use the dipstick to check the oil levels to make sure that the levels are correct.

Congratulations! You have just changed the oil in your car!

Step by Step Photos for Changing Your Oil

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Be sure that the car is secure on the ramps.Make sure that there is enough space for you to work underneath the car.Using a creeper is an easy way to maneuver yourself under the car.Identifying the oil pan drain plug.Clean the drain plug and and check for damaged threads.Locate the oil cap on the valve cover and remove.A closer look at the oil cap.Place the oil cap on top of the cover so that it is easy to find.Oil filter is a colorful canister.  The arrow is pointing to the front of the car.Using an oil filter wrench, loosen the filter.This is the oil filter pad after the filter has been removed.It is cleaned and ready for the new filter.Replace the oil cap.Check the dipstick for correct oil levels.
Be sure that the car is secure on the ramps.
Be sure that the car is secure on the ramps. | Source
Make sure that there is enough space for you to work underneath the car.
Make sure that there is enough space for you to work underneath the car. | Source
Using a creeper is an easy way to maneuver yourself under the car.
Using a creeper is an easy way to maneuver yourself under the car. | Source
Identifying the oil pan drain plug.
Identifying the oil pan drain plug. | Source
Clean the drain plug and and check for damaged threads.
Clean the drain plug and and check for damaged threads. | Source
Locate the oil cap on the valve cover and remove.
Locate the oil cap on the valve cover and remove. | Source
A closer look at the oil cap.
A closer look at the oil cap. | Source
Place the oil cap on top of the cover so that it is easy to find.
Place the oil cap on top of the cover so that it is easy to find. | Source
Oil filter is a colorful canister.  The arrow is pointing to the front of the car.
Oil filter is a colorful canister. The arrow is pointing to the front of the car. | Source
Using an oil filter wrench, loosen the filter.
Using an oil filter wrench, loosen the filter. | Source
This is the oil filter pad after the filter has been removed.
This is the oil filter pad after the filter has been removed. | Source
It is cleaned and ready for the new filter.
It is cleaned and ready for the new filter. | Source
Replace the oil cap.
Replace the oil cap. | Source
Check the dipstick for correct oil levels.
Check the dipstick for correct oil levels. | Source

Changing Your Car's Oil

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Comments 22 comments

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

This is a truly awesome guide. I feel like I could actually change the oil in my car if I had to. Your photos are a really big help.


David Campeau Jr profile image

David Campeau Jr 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

If you pour oil into the filter like you suggest, you have to be sure you don't add the full recommended amount afterwards. The oil in the filter is part of the recommended amount. If you put too much oil in, you can cause stress to the seals and cause a leak with too much pressure.

Other than that note, great Hub!


kelleyward 4 years ago

Great pics and information! Great hub! Voted up! Thanks for sharing, Kelley


Doc Sonic profile image

Doc Sonic 4 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

I've been saying for years that I was going to learn to change my own oil to save a few bucks. This may actually get me to do it. Nice hub, voted up and useful.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

This guide is AWESOME!!! The video, safety tips, step-by-step walkthrough, and photos are so helpful. I always hate when I think of a process in cloudy, vague terms, so it feels GREAT to know what "getting one's oil changed" actually means! :D


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Cara-I loved hearing the voice of 'the man under the car!' haha. Great hub including the arrows pointing in the 'right' direction. Voted up/useful.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois

I agree with your mom re: Alex. Good info here. Would you believe I've never changed the oil in my car? Flat tires yes, oil no. Will have to give it a try sometime.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Great topic for a hub! My husband has always changed the oil in our cars. I love that we save money and get to use better oil. I'm sure that this will be a great resource.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks Marlene. I'm so glad that you found it helpful. Thanks for reading and commenting.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Yes David, you are absolutely correct. I guess I did not make that part explicit enough and will do back and add that, thanks. I appreciate your comments and am glad that you stopped by for a read!


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Glad you found the information helpful Kelley! Thanks so much for your votes up.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

I am very lucky that my husband knows his way around an engine and he's been changing the oil in our cars for years. We have saved thousands of dollars over the years in car repairs! Thanks so much for stopping by Doc Sonic.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

So glad you enjoyed it and thought it was clearly laid out Simone! Glad to have you stop by. :)


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Haha, you are too funny! Glad you found it useful!


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Well now you have a step by step guide to do it! Thanks for reading and commenting.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

I agree randomcreative! It's so nice to have a handy guy around. I don't think that I can even begin to figure out how much money we've saved over the years on car maintenance and repairs!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

What a great hub to write about and so useful. I have not had to do this, but it will certainly be very helpful if needed. Voted up.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Glad you have it for a reference if you need it teaches! Thanks for stopping by.


mjkearn profile image

mjkearn 4 years ago

Hi cardelean,

great guide to changing oil. Great pics and video, thanks for sharing,

MJ.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

You are so welcome mjkearn! I'm glad you found it all very useful.


Howard S. profile image

Howard S. 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas, and Asia

I have a set of those plastic ramps and they (mine) are absolutely useless and somewhat dangerous. There is no way I can drive onto them without having them slip and go shooting out in front of the car. It doesn't matter whether I am raising the driven wheels or not. I have to brace the rammps against a concrete lip or something, which makes rolling a creeper underneath nearly impossible. Jackstands work better.

A better guide for tightening the oil pan drain plug would be to check the owner's manual for the torque spec. Too tight can strip the threads, and not tight enough can leak. It isn't critical to buy a torque wrench, however, if you use common sense. If it calls for 29 ft/lbs, that would be a force of 29 lbs applied to the end of a 1 foot (12") wrench, 58 lbs on a 6" wrench, etc. If you don't know what 29 lbs. (or whatever) feels like, go push on the bathroom scale. That should get you close enough.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks for your additional perspective Howard S. I appreciate your input.

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