If your car looked like your body, engine oil is just as important as blood. You don't want to think about what would happen if you suddenly didn't have one. Without engine oil, none of the internal parts would be properly lubricated for long-term operation, which means that most cars today can drive hundreds of thousands of kilometers without a major problem. Engines contain a significant amount of oil that is contained in a sump (or in a separate feed tank in a dry sump). It is then pumped through the engine to lubricate everything from the crankshaft to the valvetrain.
Because engine oil is a crucial fluid, it is important to ensure that it is kept fresh and is replaced at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer. Due to constant use and time, oil degrades and becomes dirty and loses part of its ability to keep things smooth.
Generally, modern vehicles require you to change your oil every 7,500 miles or every few years (3,000 miles is still valid for older models). The factory sets the precise interval, so if you are not sure, scroll through the user manual. How often you need to change your oil also depends on the type of driving you do and whether you use traditional organic "dino" oil or artificial synthetic oil. Synthetic usually lasts longer than "dino" oil and is usually preferred in most cases.
Changing the oil in your car can be a dirty task to say the least. For the same reason, many people simply collect the extra money and have a mechanic or an oil change shop arrange the dirty work for them. However, by taking on the task yourself, you can save a lot of money during the life of your vehicle and it is added to your list of acquired life skills. Let's start. First you have to buy a sufficient amount of oil, a new oil filter and some other simple tools if you don't have them yet.
You will need:
- Car jacks or floor ramps [1
- An oil filter wrench
- A ring for the drain plug
- A pair of rags or a roll of paper towels
- Rubber or latex gloves to keep your hands clean
- An oil drain pan
- A clean funnel
Determine the type of oil required for your engine; this information is usually found in the owner's manual, although some new cars have stamped it directly on the oil cap. A common type of oil is 10W-30.
You must then purchase an oil filter and a drain plug ring at your local car parts or other store. They often have special aisles for engine oil and associated filters. A buyer's catalog is usually available next to the oil filter boards. There you can look up your vehicle, find the oil filter part number and find the item on the shelf.
Step 1: Park your car on a level surface with enough space to work
Unless you have a car with a lot of ground clearance, such as a Jeep Wrangler, you will most likely have to raise the end of your vehicle where the engine is. You want a lot of space to work and you need to make sure your car is on a flat surface so that it doesn't roll when you jack it up. Allow the engine to cool sufficiently before draining the oil. Bear in mind that parts such as the exhaust become extremely hot.
Step 2: Raise the end of your vehicle where your engine is located
The engine is at the front in a vast majority of cars on the road today . It's in the middle of some sports cars, such as the Porsche Boxster, and it's occasionally positioned in the back (for example, in a Volkswagen Beetle).
Although many SUVs and trucks under their frame have enough free space to perform an oil change, most smaller vehicles have minimal free space and need to be raised – using a ramp, lift or jack – before you can start. If you use the latter method, make sure the vehicle is safely on a flat surface before climbing under it. It is a good idea to place blocks behind the wheels that stay on the ground. See our guide on how to jack up our car here.
Step 3: Locate the oil pan and drain plug
Now that you are under the car, the next step is to locate the oil pan and the drain plug. Below is the location of the oil drain plug at the bottom of the engine of our 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL restoration project. It needs a 14 mm Allen key to be removed. The size of the drain plug varies from car to car.
Place your oil drain pan directly under the drain plug and place it ready to collect the oil directly below and a few centimeters in front of the plug. Remove the engine oil cap from the top of the engine so that the engine can drain its oil more easily by moving the flowing oil with air.
Step 4: Open the oil pan drain plug and drain the oil
Turn the plug counterclockwise (remember: right, fairly loose) with the right one connection or bit.
It may take a few minutes for the engine to completely drain, but when the steady oil flow has become a sporadic drop, you are now ready for the next step. Screw the drain plug back in place clockwise and tighten securely. Do not forget to replace the drain plug washer.
Step 5: Remove the old oil filter and replace it with a new one
Once most of the oil has drained from the engine and the pan plug has been replaced, find your engine oil filter. It is normally a cylindrical component that extends from the side or bottom of the engine block. On some cars, such as on certain Subaru models with a flat engine, the oil filter is accessible from the top. However, it is important to note that it varies greatly per car and the type of engine that comes with it. It is much easier to simply identify what an oil filter looks like so that you can find it on every engine.
Unscrew the oil filter from where it is (again: strong, grease-free) using a pair of wide grip pliers or an oil filter wrench. Be sure to place your drip pan below the location of the filter, as the oil will leak into it.
After applying a little oil, install the new filter on the rubber ring around the edge. This helps to create a better seal and makes it easier to remove during your next oil change. And do not over tighten the filter; You run the risk of removing the threads on the filter housing, which can cause a major problem. Hand-tight is fine in most cases.
Step 6: Add the new oil
Calm down, the most difficult part is now behind you. Remove the oil cap from your car, get out of a funnel and pour the required amount of oil into the engine. Ensure that nothing is leaking from the drain plug or the oil filter housing. If this happens, tighten the components if necessary.
If your engine needs seven liters, don't forget to add only seven liters! Too much or too little oil can mean the premature death of your engine and turn your car into a very expensive paperweight. Oil is sold in one-quarter containers or in five-quarter jugs. So if you need seven liters, you can buy seven separate containers or two five-liter jugs that are equal to 10 liters. Buying the five-quarter jugs is usually cheaper, and you have something left over if you have to supplement it in between oil changes.
Both types of oil containers have a scale that allows you to keep track of how much oil you pour in.
Step 7: Check the oil level, tighten the engine oil cap and start the engine
After pouring in the correct amount of oil, leave your car for a few minutes sit while the oil drips into the crankcase. Then check the level with the engine dipstick. It is usually on the side of the engine with a loop that is often painted yellow or red. Wipe the dipstick, place it back in its housing and remove it again for an accurate measurement. Ensure that the level between the indicators is in the dipstick. If it is too low, slowly add more oil until you reach the right level. If you have applied too much, you want to drain it slowly until you reach the right level.
You are now ready to start the engine. Let it idle for a minute, turn it off, let it stand for a few minutes, and check the oil one last time. It is also important to check the oil pressure gauge in the instrument panel (if you have it) while it is running. Also pay attention to warning lights on the dashboard. If all is well, wash your hands and give yourself a well-earned pat on the back.
Don't forget to recycle your used oil. Pour it into a sealed and transferable container and take it to your local auto parts store or mechanic. Someone will throw it away safely and hopefully for free.
Recommendations from the editors