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Tips for Basic Vehicle Maintenance: Oil Change

Updated on April 4, 2019
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Alex has taught at seven public schools, been accepted into three honorary societies, and traveled the Americas and Europe. He has his BS.

Notice that this person has taken off the oil drain plug (and is holding it in one hand), and there is a stream of oil pouring out of the bottom of the oil tank here in this picture.
Notice that this person has taken off the oil drain plug (and is holding it in one hand), and there is a stream of oil pouring out of the bottom of the oil tank here in this picture. | Source

Beginning Notes

Well, now that you know how to change some spark plugs, you may naturally feel ready to perform a maintenance oil change. Oil changes can be even easier than changing one's spark plugs, believe it or not. The procedure can be simplified, depending on the current height of your vehicle. More on that in a jiffy.

What Will I Need?

Before getting started, you will need a regular-sized socket wrench. You can search and search to find the right grip, but for an item that is generally as loose as an oil drain plug; I often stick with a 'Gator Grip' socket. Of course, make sure that you have a wrench that is the correct size to fit the socket. You will most certainly want to have an oil pan ion your person. I would recommend an oil pan with a screw on cover/lid. I also suggest an oil pan that is relatively large. You'll want new oil. This oil should be in conjunction with your vehicles requirements in her individual manual. A jack for your car, van, or truck could also be necessary. Last, you should put on some old clothes that you don't mind getting permanently stained. Oil can be cleaned out, but I'm being hyperbolic in this area just in case other variables are in effect which could do great harm to one's clothing.

The First Steps

Before anything else, make sure that your vehicle has been turned off for a great deal of time (leaving it off over night may be recommended). Don;t forget that your oil can get very hot, and you will come into contact with the oil during this whole process. Now, look underneath your vehicle. You may need to apply for jack here. Make sure that when you use your jack, that the jack is lifting a place under the vehicle that it was meant to. That is to state, if the jack lifts certain areas, those areas could crumble under the jack's pressure. There will hopefully be a fairly obvious metallic indent indicating where the jack should go. If you are still unsure, you can always talk to your local mechanic. Now, my 1995 Mercury Villager van is so far off the ground normally, that I don't need any lift at all, so long as I have the right oil pan on me. Hopefully, the vehicle will have been lifted on the correct side. Once the vehicle has been lifted, ensure that she has been lifted stably before proceeding to go under her. I will usually place a significant number of cinder blocks beneath the vehicle at this time ads an added precaution.

The Oil Change

Have you ever done an oil change by yourself before?

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Continuing With The Procedure

Once you are ready to go under your vehicle, you may do so with the intention of finding your oil tank. The owner's manual may be wanted at this time if one is unsure which side the tank is on. Regardless, it should be near the front of the car, van, or truck. The tank can be partially identified by what looks like a bolt (about the size of an American quarter) stuck to it. You'll want to make enough space to place the oil drain pan beneath this "bolt", which is actually the oil drain plug. Place your socket into the socket wrench, and use these tools to remove the oil plug. Be sure that the oil pan will catch the oil, and expect to get old oil on your hands.

Once all of the oil has been drained, screw in the oil plug once more. It doesn't need to be too tight, but you definitely don't want it in too loose either. As for disposing of the oil, this does not have to be done right now. The oil pan can be covered, and placed in the back of your car. Abide by state laws when disposing of your oil, and note that many locations can recycle oil many, many times over with the right equipment. After the oil has indeed been emptied, you will be ready for the final and simplest part. Pour the appropriate amount of the correct kind of oil into your tank. You can always check your manual or talk to someone form a local automotive parts store, if you're still not sure of the oil kind and oil quantity to be used. Of course, you should make certain that nay cinder blocks have been removed from underneath the vehicle, along with the jack at some point. Be very careful when lowering your jack, as mine lowers incredibly quickly and could be dangerous to someone not expecting this. The finality of the last of the last may just be a nice warm bath or shower. You may want to place your filthy clothes in the hamper, once all of your tools are put away accordingly. Dirty aged/used oil may not wash off easily, so taking some extra time in the tub can be your special treat and reward for success. It is finally time to relax for a moment.

Concluding Remarks

It is very important for all of us to become self-sufficient in a number of ways. It is true that social structure are becoming more complex, arguably at an exponential rate. And, different people serving each other in differing ways can be a good thing. Regardless, if your hard on cash and want to feel more empowered, learning your vehicle can be the step in the right direction.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Alexander James Guckenberger


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