Changing Your Own Oil

Feb 27, 2023

Even relatively simple vehicle maintenance such as an oil change can seem like a daunting task at times. However, changing your own oil can be less expensive and more convenient than taking it to a local service shop. You may even find that working on your vehicle is fun!
While you should refer to the technical specifications or the service section of your owner’s manual for vehicle-specific questions, the process of changing your oil is virtually identical no matter what type of car or truck you drive!
Step 1: Jack it up and open it up
You’ll want to use a hoist, ramps, or jack stand to lift your vehicle high enough to work underneath it. Never work under a vehicle that is held up only by a floor jack. Most vehicles are fitted with a plastic undertray to protect vital components on the underside of the engine and improve aerodynamics. You must remove this cover to access the oil pan and oil filter. Basic hand tools are often sufficient to perform this task as the undertray is likely held on with a mixture of bolts, screws, or plastic clips. Before moving on to the next step, inspect the area for any leaks, in which case you may want to consider taking your vehicle to a professional mechanic.
Step 2: Unplug it and drain it
            Situate a bucket or oil drain pan under the engine in such a way that the oil will drain into it rather than pouring all over the ground. Keep in mind that most vehicles have at least a gallon of oil in their crankcase, and some have a lot more. Remove the drain plug by unscrewing it with the proper wrench. Hold onto the drain plug as you pull it away because the oil will immediately start pouring out. Allow the engine to drain until the flow of oil has slowed to a trickle — often around five minutes.
Step 3: Take off the old filter
            The oil filter is the softball-sized cylindrical component screwed onto the engine. Loosen the filter with an oil-filter wrench until the oil starts to pour out of the top and drip into your drain pan. Wait until the flow subsides and then remove it completely. Before you attach your new filter, verify that the old oil-filter gasket — a thin, rubber O-ring — wasn’t left behind. If it is not removed, the new filter won’t seal properly and can cause a major leak.
Step 4: Replace drain plug and filter
            Replace the drain plug and tighten it until it’s snug, but do not overtighten it as this can cause damage to the oil pan and plug. Then, take your new oil filter and apply a light coating of oil around the rubber gasket on top of the filter, which will help to create a proper seal. Follow the same rules for tightening the filter as you did for the drain plug — don’t screw too tight, but rather turn it until it’s “hand tight” and then just a bit more to ensure it’s snug.
Step 5: Fill it up
            Once you’ve replaced the oil filter and drain plug, it’s time to reinstall the undertray and lower the vehicle back to the ground. Open the hood and remove the oil cap. Using a funnel, fill the engine with the amount of oil specified in your owner’s manual. Wait a few minutes to allow the oil to settle in the pan, and then use the dipstick to verify that your oil is at the proper level. Start your vehicle and check for any leaks under the engine and around the oil filter.
Keep your vehicle properly maintained with car care essentials from your local Co-op. Many of our locations offer an auto service shop as well for those tasks that are a little over your head. Reach out to your store for more information!
For more content like this, check out the latest issue of The Cooperator.

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