Most mechanics recommend changing your motor oil every three months or 3,000 miles. Follow this recommendation and your car or truck will perform better and last longer. Knowing how to change your oil is a great skill to have.
If time permits you to do it, changing the oil on your vehicle can be an easy way to save a little bit of cash. If you don’t know how to change your oil, follow these step-by-step instructions and you’ll be a pro in no time at all.
How To Change Your Oil: Step-by-Step
Step 1. Prepare your vehicle.
Begin by starting your engine. By doing this, you will be able to reach a normal operating temperature for the oil, making the oil easier to drain. Once your car or truck has been running for a few minutes, drive it onto some automotive ramps or use a floor jack and jack stand to prop up the vehicle. You’ll also want to make sure your car or truck doesn’t roll by setting your parking brake and placing wheel chocks behind the rear wheels. Turn your engine off before moving on to the next step. If you don’t know how to change your oil, don’t be afraid. It’s simple once you try it.
Step 2. Drain the oil.
First, lay your tools out so you can reach them easily. To drain the oil, put on your work gloves and position yourself under the vehicle. The drain plug should be located on the large, metallic crankcase on the bottom of the engine. Once you’ve located the drain plug, position a drain pan under the engine to catch the oil.
Using a wrench, unscrew the drain plug and let the hot oil drain into the pan. Don’t let the oil touch your skin. It may be very hot and could burn you severely. While it’s draining, check the plug. Dirt and debris can be cleared away, but cracks or excessive wear mean the plug needs to be replaced. Once the oil has fully drained, screw the plug back into the oil pan and tighten securely with the proper wrench. Do not over-tighten the plug. Over tightening the plug can damage the threads and cause an oil leak that might destroy your engine if you don’t catch it in time.
Step 3. Remove the old oil filter.
Although the oil filter location varies from vehicle to vehicle, it is typically located near the oil pan. Most often, the oil filter will be on the front side of the engine. Locate the filter on your car or truck and place your drip pan under it. Remove the filter with an oil filter wrench, turning it counter-clockwise. It is normal for the loosened oil filter to leak oil. Check the bottom of the filter to make sure the rubber gasket is still there. If it’s not, check the filter port you unscrewed it from. If the gasket is stuck there, remove it and dispose of it. Place the old filter in the drain pan or a separate container and allow it to completely drain before you discard it.
Step 4. Install a new oil filter.
When installing your new oil filter, dip your finger in some fresh motor oil and rub it onto the rubber gasket at its base. This helps to create a seal. To install your new filter, simply hand-tighten it until you can’t turn it anymore. We recommend tightening the filter by hand instead of using a filter wrench. This avoids over tightening, which can cause oil leaks and make the filter virtually impossible to remove at the next oil change.
Step 5. Add fresh motor oil.
Refer to your vehicle’s owner manual or the oil filler cap on the top side of your engine for the proper grade of motor oil to use. The owner’s manual will tell you how much oil to use. To add the new oil, remove the oil filler cap, often clearly visible on the top side of the engine and labeled “engine oil.” Next, place a funnel in the opening on the valve cover and pour in the fresh motor oil. Continue doing this until the oil pan’s capacity is met. Remove any dirt and debris from the oil cap, examine it for excess wear then put the oil cap back on the valve cover. If need be, replace the oil filler cap with a new one.
Step 6. Lower your vehicle back down.
Step 7. Check your oil level.
Now, on a level surface, you will want to check the oil while it’s at operating temperature. Let the car or truck run for a minute or two, allowing the oil to drain back into the crankcase. Turn the vehicle off, remove the oil dipstick, wipe it clean and replace it, seating it firmly. Remove the dipstick again and hold it horizontally to prevent oil from running and dripping. The oil level should read between the “add” and “full/safe” marks. If your motor oil is not reading above the “add” line, add more and recheck the oil level until it’s over the line.
Step 8. Clean up.
Be sure to place the used drained oil and filter in a proper container for disposal and clean your tools. Any spilled oil should be properly cleaned up using an oil absorbent. Be sure to check your oil level regularly, either at each fuel stop or once per week.
If you didn’t know how to change your oil before, you do now.
If you have no idea how to change your oil, or if you just don’t have the tools or the time, stop by one of our Automotive Service Centers, where our trained and friendly technicians will gladly change it for you. If you enjoyed this guide that shows you how to change your oil, check out the other great articles in our Automotive Blog.