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Is a DIY Oil Change Worth It?

Updated on July 28, 2016

'I need an oil change!'

Your car engine may need one, too. If you are looking for bargains, you may find a DIY oil change worth it in terms of cost. But is it -- when those quick-type lube shops offer specials?

Sample items for this project

5 quarts of motor oil
Filter for my car
Prices based on Advanced Auto Parts database.

Items you might not have

2-ton bottle jack
2-ton jack stands
Filter wrench
Drain pan
Inexpensive items needed for a do-it-yourself oil service to a car weighing less than 2 tons. A small hand tool set is also needed.

DIY oil change cost

Materials are the biggest expenditure for a do-it-yourselfer.

You might be able to watch newspaper ads for deals and buy oil on sale at automotive parts stores. Some chain auto parts stores often have a coupon code or rebates on their website that offer a discount.

Other than lube and a filter, there are a few one-time purchases: A filter wrench, jack stands, jack, funnel, floor dry for the oopses, a drain pan. The correct size box wrench or a rachet and socket is also needed to remove the drain plug, but most people have one of those.

After materials, the only other price is time. Many people argue that this procedure doesn't take long.

They are right about the service part, but the time-consuming part is finding deals, buying a filter, disposing of the used motor oil, cleaning up your mess, taking a shower afterwards, and doing laundry.

From my own experience, I can say that this is an hour job from start to finish. But this is usually done over a week's time. I buy the parts when I'm out and about and do the project on a different day.

Health warning

California Proposition 65 (Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986): This product contains the following chemical(s) known to the State of California to cause birth defects and/or other reproductive harm.

Used engine oils, while not a component of this material, are on the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer.

DIY oil change disposal

Used motor oil contains heavy metals and toxic chemicals, including lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, dioxins, benzene, and polycyclic aromatics.

As long as this is disposed of correctly, it doesn't pose a large threat.

Dumping it in the grass or tossing it out with the trash or releasing into the environment in any other way causes problems -- even when it gets spilled.

This substance also sticks to everything when spilled. And face it: Gravity will drain five quarts of this fluid pretty quick if you are not ready. (Experience talking here!)

If you do make an oops, absorbent material will pick it up, but that needs to be disposed of properly.

If you don't clean it up, animals, plants, and humans -- as well as your drinking water -- can be contaminated with this substance.

Nobody wants to be tarred and feathered

Although a home mechanic's five quarts won't coat a bird like the 2007 San Francisco Bay oil spill did to this one, the effects of oil contaminating soil and groundwater are a possibility if it's not disposed of or drained properly.
Although a home mechanic's five quarts won't coat a bird like the 2007 San Francisco Bay oil spill did to this one, the effects of oil contaminating soil and groundwater are a possibility if it's not disposed of or drained properly. | Source

$19.99 Oil Change Deals

These get-in, get-out 10-minute oil change shops usually take a little longer than that, especially waiting for service. You're probably looking at about 30 minutes from start to finish.

Prices vary at quick lube shops and can range from a $19.99 oil change special to about $35. Most places offer discounts. For example, I visit a local oil change place. Because I've used them frequently, I always get a coupon in the mail from them.

You, too, can find rebates. Many rebates may bring the cost down to about $30 for a standard service procedure.

If you only go to local auto shops, you might be able to ask to get on their mailing list when they send out deals. Another value of local auto shops: Most of the time their mechanics, who do the oil changes and more advanced work, are usually ASE certified.

ASE certified mechanics

The biggest criticism of oil change chains is the mechanics at these places may not take the best care of your car. Most of the time, they are not ASE certified.

If you do the service yourself, you have control over what happens to your car, and you even have control over the parts you use. You also get a chance to check under the hood and make sure everything is in good working order.

Time + Cost = Value?

Changing your own motor oil will cost about an hour of your time and about $25 if you use conventional -- slightly more for synthetic fluid.

If you don't have the correct tools, you'll spend considerably more. But going out and buying the tools probably is not worth the cost, especially when you consider that this might be a learning experience for you.

You'll save about $10 by a do-it-yourself oil change. Over the course of a year, that's $40 -- assuming you drive 12,000 miles a year and change the oil every 3,000 miles. But to save that money, you have spend twice the amount of time that an auto shop could do the procedure in.

You may find that a worthwhile savings. A more effective saving technique would be find coupons for deals at a local shop -- one in which you trust the work of the mechanics.


Learn how to do the service

Tips for a do it yourself oil change

  • Account for wind when draining oil: The used lubricant drains fast at first, but once it starts trickling, you have to be careful of the wind blowing the small streams. That makes a mess, otherwise.
  • Have rags ready when removing the filter: When the filter is taken off, whatever oil in it typically slops everywhere.
  • Coat new filter o-ring with a dab of fresh oil: This keeps the o-ring lubricated
  • Add a little fresh oil in the new filter: This makes sure your engine is not completely starved for lube when you start it.

Where do you get your oil changed?

See results

No value for me

As for me, it costs me more money to do it myself than to have a local oil change place do it.

But you may find just the opposite: That extra time requried for you to do it yourself, the small savings, or the satisfaction of a job well-done with a DIY oil change is worth it.


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    • andrewdavidlowen profile image

      Andrew Lowen 6 months ago from Fallbrook, CA

      Great hub, thanks for writing. I change my own oil, but honestly, for myself, it has nothing to do with saving money. I just like to be able to do things on my own I think. life skills...

    • profile image

      bachi 4 years ago

      sometime its fun to do

    • tamron profile image

      tamron 4 years ago

      Nice hub on oil changes. I use to do my own oil changes but where I live your not allowed.

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