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  • Writer's picturejianmei huang

Planning to Change Your Car's Oil? Are You Doing It Right?

Updated: Mar 19

Changing the oil in your car is a crucial maintenance task that directly impacts its longevity and performance. This guide delves deep into the process, highlighting why regular oil changes are essential for your vehicle's health. By understanding each step, from preparation to completion, you'll gain insights into how this routine procedure can extend the life of your engine, improve fuel efficiency, and ensure smooth operation.

Tools and Materials Needed 

The right tools and materials are essential for a successful oil change. You'll need a high-quality oil drain pan to catch old oil, various wrenches to loosen the drain plug and remove the oil filter, an oil filter wrench for a secure grip, a funnel to prevent spills while pouring new oil, and rags for cleanup. Selecting the right oil and a compatible oil filter is crucial; consult your car's manual for specifications. Gloves and safety glasses are recommended for personal protection.

Preparation for Oil Change 

Proper preparation ensures a smooth and safe oil change process. Begin by parking your car on a flat surface to prevent oil from pooling in the engine. Allow the engine to cool down to avoid burns from hot oil. Engaging the parking brake and using wheel chocks prevents the car from rolling. Prepare your workspace by laying down newspapers or a tarp to catch any spills and keep your garage clean.

Draining the Old Oil 

Draining the old oil is a critical step. Locate the oil drain plug under your car – it's typically at the lowest point of the oil pan. Position your oil drain pan beneath the plug, then use a wrench to carefully loosen and remove the plug. As the oil drains, observe its condition for any signs of metal shavings or unusual color, which could indicate engine issues. Wait until the oil flow slows to a drip before moving on.

Removing the Old Oil Filter 

The oil filter removal can be challenging. It’s often located near the engine block. Use an oil filter wrench to loosen the filter, remembering it will still be full of old oil. Have your drain pan ready to catch any spills. Inspect the filter's seal to ensure it hasn't stuck to the engine, which could cause leaks with the new filter.

Installing the New Oil Filter 

Before installing the new filter, lightly coat its rubber seal with new oil for a better seal. Screw the filter into place by hand – avoid using tools as they can overtighten and damage the seal. Ensure it’s snug but not over-tightened to avoid issues with future removals.

Adding New Oil 

Pouring in new oil requires precision. Check your vehicle’s manual for the recommended amount and type of oil. Use a funnel to pour oil into the engine's oil tank, preventing spills and ensuring a clean process. After adding oil, wait a few minutes for it to settle, then use the dipstick to check the level. Add more if necessary, ensuring you don’t overfill.

Post-Oil Change Checklist 

After the oil change, double-check your work. Ensure the drain plug and new filter are tightly secured to prevent leaks. Start your engine for a few minutes, then turn it off and check for any leaks around the oil filter and drain plug. If all is well, clean up your workspace and properly dispose of the old oil and filter at a designated recycling center.

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Common mistakes include over-tightening the drain plug, using the wrong type of oil, not replacing the oil filter, and neglecting to check for leaks post-change. These can lead to oil leaks, engine damage, and reduced performance. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines and double-check your work.

Benefits of Regular Oil Changes 

Regular oil changes keep your engine clean, reduce wear and tear, improve fuel efficiency, and prevent engine overheating. Clean oil ensures smooth engine operation and can prevent costly repairs in the future. Consider this maintenance as an investment in the longevity and reliability of your vehicle.

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Completing an oil change is a rewarding DIY task that enhances your understanding of your vehicle while ensuring its optimal performance. Regular oil changes are a cornerstone of vehicle maintenance, crucial for preventing engine problems and extending the life of your car. With the right tools, knowledge, and a bit of time, you can efficiently perform this essential task, ensuring your vehicle remains in top condition.



How often should I change my oil?

Typically every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but check your vehicle’s manual for specific recommendations.


Can I use any type of oil for my car?

No, use the type specified in your car's manual. Different engines require different oil types for optimal performance.


What should I do with the old oil?

Take it to an auto parts store or a recycling center that accepts used oil. Never dispose of it in the trash or down a drain.


How do I know if my car needs an oil change?

Common signs include the check engine light, oil appearing dark and dirty, and engine noise.


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