The regular change of motor oil and filter is one of the best things you can do to help your car, truck or bike live a long and fruitful life. It’s also one of the easiest maintenance tasks a shade tree mechanic can tackle. And I’ve found one way to make it even easier.
At last count I had seven cars clogging my driveway and garage. Some of those, like my Austin Healey Sprite and Jensen Healey are project cars that, admittedly, don’t get the love and attention they deserve. The rest are all drivers and all of those require regular oil changes.
I think we can all agree that oil changes are one of the easiest ways to maintain your engine’s health and wellbeing. Still, unless you enjoy the opportunity of a shady place to catch a nap, having to raise the car up to undo the drain plug and let the black shade flow is kind of a hassle. And don’t get me started on trying to catch those last tendrils of oil in the drain pan on a windy day. That stuff tastes nasty.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be like that. I have invested in an oil extractor, and after having used it a couple of times, I can say with certainty that I don’t ever want to have to scuttle under an oil pan for the task ever again.
If you’re unfamiliar, here’s how its works. The extractor is comprised of three main components: an extraction tube that snakes down the oil dipstick tube; a six-liter reservoir; and a vacuum pump that attaches to that reservoir.
The pump extracts air from the reservoir, creating negative pressure inside. The atmospheric pressure pressing down on the oil in the engine’s oil pan is then greater than the pressure in the reservoir and pushes the oil out the long tube and into the jug as a result.
An attachable spigot makes emptying the used oil into transportable containers a pretty simple matter. I bought a fairly cheap unit online, but fancier ones that use compressed air to pull the oil out are available.
The benefits of draining the oil this way are manifold. I already noted that it can be accomplished with the car on the ground. That makes it all the easier to change the oil when the engine is warm, and that increases the oil’s urge to purge. You also avoid issues with wear on the oil pan drain plug, as well as with the pan itself which on many modern cars can be made out of plastic.
On the downside, you may not extract all of the oil this way. Also, some modern cars lack a dipstick making the whole endeavor somewhat of a challenge.
They’re not expensive, either. Prices range from about $20 to over $100, depending on what you need. There’s a ton on Amazon to choose from.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—this is all well and good for draining the oil, but what about the filter? Well, luckily for me, the EA-888 in the latest Volkswagens sits on the top on the engine, housed in a little plastic damsel tower. That’s super easy to change, and pretty much mess-free as the filter drains down.
Not everybody has it as easy as I do. In fact, if you’re an owner of a Bugatti Veyron, the whole oil change process can be a day-long ordeal. Sucks to be rich.
There was also some scuttlebutt that the new Ford Ranger required body-off oil changes, but that seems to have been refuted by the Blue Oval folks.
I have it pretty good. My old Audi has the filter down low, but with a bit of a stretch it is reasonably accessible from above. The filter on my S30 Datsun sits proudly off the side of the straight six, encouraging you with its ease of access.
Other cars in my motley fleet are a little more challenging. Our CRV’s filter sticks down from under the engine, but it’s reachable without any effort at all. I would like to thank Toyota personally for putting that razor sharp heat shield right next the the filter on the Sienna’s 3.3-liter V6. Still, it’s accessible from above, so I’ve got that going for me.
For all of you—less you Veyron owners—even if you have to raise the car to get to the filter, there are still benefits to taking the oil out from above. Either way, it’s always a good thing to learn to tackle yourself.