Changing out a car's oil — according to the guys in white lab coats who designed the engine — is the key to a long and trouble-free life. Better even than super engine longevity is becoming mechanically familiar with one's automobile. Dropping out the oil and swapping the oil filter takes but about an hour, but can mark the beginning of a lasting friendship with your car's underbelly. You really don't want those underpaid malcontents at the local Meth-o-Lube laying hands on your hoopty anyway.
Changing Your Oil
A thin film of oil molecules is all that keeps moving parts from grinding themselves into overengineered scrap metal. Another equally important function of engine oil is to keep those same parts and the inside of the engine clean. Modern engine oil does a most excellent job at both tasks, but only for so long. Oil and filter can only contain and suspend so much crud and combustion by-product that, before long, the balance of lubrication shifts away from trouble free motoring and toward engine wear.
The best advice to follow concerning oil and filter changes comes from the folks who manufactured your vehicle. This same information is often in the owner's manual, as well as online. Here you'll also find how much and what type of engine oil to use. If all else fails, every 3000-5000 miles or three months is a general target. Remember that stop-and-go city driving or regular lead-footed behavior may qualify as "severe duty" when it comes to maintenance schedules. In these cases, more frequent maintenance may be required.
Stuff You Will Need
· Ramps or a jack and jackstands
· The biggest drip pan around
· Container to catch and store used oil
· Wrench for the drain plug
· New drain plug gasket
· Some manner of oil filter removal wrench
· Recommended oil and oil Filter
· Cheepo disposible gloves
· Rags, and lots of them
Go for a spirited drive to warm up the engine. Warm engine oil will drain faster and more completely. Support vehicle safely on jackstands or on ramps. Position the drain and drip pan to catch every last drop of oil. Pull the drain plug, being careful not to drop it into the drain pan. That's right ladies, I'm available.
Reposition the drip pan and catch container under the oil filter. Use whichever oil filter removal tool works best to remove filter. Be prepared for a mess of more dripping oil. Engine shown removed for photographic clarity.
Recalcitrant oil filters can be removed with the trusty screwdriver stab-and-twist method. Stab the point of a larger screwdriver through the outer shell and twist off filter. Lefty loosey. Righty tighty. Presto!
Dip your finger into fresh oil and lightly coat the oil filter gasket. This will help the gasket to seat correctly as the filter is installed. Pouring a bit of oil into the filter can also help with startup lubrication.
Thread on the filter until the gasket seats, then tighten 3/4 of one turn after that. No tools! Hand-tighten only. Don't go Gorilla Monsoon screwing on the oil filters. Overtightened oil filters will not come back off without a fight. Worse is that the base gasket can pooch out and cause larger problems like sudden and catastrophic loss of oil pressure.
Install drain plug. No ex-wrestler action here either. Stripping out the oil pan threads is really bad news. A dripping drain plug can be fixed with a new gasket or grommet.
Add only the recommended amount, viscosity, and type of oil. This information as it pertains to your vehicle is in the owner's manual and even on that interweb. Start vehicle and check for leaks.
Bringing back the old oil to where you bought the new stuff is why spending 10 bucks on a container that doesn't leak all over the trunk is good thinking. Bring them the filter too. Always recycle used oil and filters properly.
And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Parts: Using Car Ramps [internal]