It’s that oil change time again and you’re dreading the next visit to the mechanic. What is he going to say this time around? That you also need more coolant? Or worse, that you need extensive repairs? Each time you object, he raises safety issues. Something could happen if you don’t pay him to fix it now. Your gut says it’s unnecessary, but you end up paying anyway. What else can you do? He might be correct…
Take charge, that’s what! You can do it! Changing the oil in your car is a simple process, and saves time and money. I showed you what parts and tools to purchase in Part I, now I can show you oil changing action in Part II.
Money saved: About $25 to $75.
Time: First time around, between 1 and 2 hours. After that, 30 minutes.
Tools required and tips to keep clean: (From Part I). For a quick reference, expand the “view tool list” and “keep clean list.”
• Oil filter wrench (recommended)
• Oil (amount is vehicle-dependent, consult your owner’s manual)
• Crescent wrench (or a socket or combination wrench of the correct size)
• Oil pan
• Protective eye-wear (recommended)
• Funnel (recommended)
• Repair manual for your car (recommended)
• Newspaper, cardboard, or rags to collect oil drips and spills
• For a vehicle that is not raised: either ramps, or a jack and jack stands
• Bandana or hat
• An old long sleeve shirt and long pants
• A large cardboard box to use as a mat
Before I get started, I like to have my repair manual ready to reference (in addition to my owner’s manual). I find it much easier to perform maintenance tasks with this book on hand, especially when doing things for the first time.
Rock n’ roll, let’s begin!
1. Warm the oil in your engine. Oil drains better when warm. Why? Higher temperatures lower the viscosity of oil, making it flow easier (much like warm maple syrup flows better than cold) . Careful not to let the engine get too hot (remember, hot oil can burn you). If you just parked the vehicle, wait for it to cool from hot to warm. If it has been parked for some time, turn on the engine and let it run until warm.
2. Raise the front end. If your vehicle does not have enough clearance for you to slide underneath it, you will need to lift at least one side to access the drain plug. I use a jack and jack stands as demonstrated below:
With this jack, I simply pump the handle.
When the vehicle is raised, I can easily slide a jack stand underneath to hold it in place.
It’s not always necessary to raise both sides of the vehicle, but I like more room. So I quickly use the jack and another jack stand to raise the other side.
3. Place the oil pan. Always consider the angle of the drain plug when positioning the drain pan. On this car, the drain plug is 90 degrees to the side.
Here is how the drain plug looks from directly below (looking straight up towards the sky):
Once the drain plug is removed, oil will shoot out to the side and not straight down. Therefore, I offset the oil pan by several inches, instead of placing it directly underneath. If you are outside (and not in a garage), you’ll need to consider any wind as well.
I also like to cushion myself with cardboard and have easy access to rags in case I need to wipe any small spills.
4. Remove the drain plug. If you have not already, put gloves on now. I prefer the hex end (closed) of a combination wrench to perform this task. Turn counter clockwise (lefty loosey) to loosen the bolt (unless your oil drain pan has a built in strain like mine, don’t completely remove it just yet).
Using your fingers, completely remove the bolt. And now here’s the trick: If there is no strain on your oil drain pan, you need to catch the bolt (or keep a grip on it as you remove it) so that it doesn’t get lost for a swim inside your pan. Once removed, used oil will immediately stream into the pan. If the bolt and washer slipped into the pan, you can fish them out after the draining is complete.
Clean the drain plug while the rest of the oil drains (it doesn’t hurt to let it drip for a few minutes while taking care of other tasks). Once the flow of oil has stopped, put the drain plug and washer (if in good condition) back in place. If the old washer is not in good shape, replace it with a new one. I use the closed end of a combination wrench for this task, but a torque wrench with a socket is a better choice if you have one available. A good rule of thumb is to tighten until “snug” and then tighten another one-quarter turn. Always tighten by hand! Never tighten with a hammer or any other tool for extra leverage. Over tightening can strip the bolt or cause other damage.
5. Remove the oil filter. On this vehicle, the oil filter is most accessible from underneath the car on the driver side (on other vehicles, you can access it from the top by popping the hood). Place the oil pan directly underneath the oil filter.
I am not strong enough to loosen the oil filter by hand, so I use an oil filter wrench.
There are different types of oil filter wrenches. I bought this one because I find that it is easy to use and works well in tight places. The handle easily moves left:
When using the wrench, I place it around the oil filter as shown:
and turn the handle counter clockwise (lefty loosey). The wrench will automatically tighten around the filter and the handle provides leverage for loosening.
Once the oil filter has broken loose, I unscrew it the rest of the way by hand.
Do your best to keep the oil filter upright so it doesn’t leak everywhere. Once removed, check that the oil ring is still on the used oil filter. On a rare occasion, it will stick to the sealing surface. If this happens, the new oil filter will not seal and oil will leak. If oil levels drop low enough, engine damage may occur.
Leave the filter open side down on the strain of the oil pan to allow it to drain.
If you don’t have a strain, you can hold the used filter over the oil pan and allow it to drain for a minute or two. After draining, keep it upright in a box to transport later to a recycling center (more details toward the end).
6. Put the new oil filter in place. Remove the new oil filter from the box. Be sure that the black o-ring is on top of the filter. It will not seal well without it.
Dab some new or used oil onto the o-rings with your finger or with a clean cloth.
Wet o-rings will seal much better than if they were dry. They are technically on the outside of the filter so dirty oil is OK to use for this purpose.
If you prefer to mark the filter with today’s date and/or mileage, now is a good time.
Clean the oil filter sealing surface with rags. Screw the new oil filter into place as tight as you can by hand. (As the engine runs the filter will tighten naturally). Do NOT tighten with the wrench or other tool! Only use a wrench if there is not enough room for you to tighten by hand. In this case, be very careful not over-tighten!
7. Add New Oil.
Pop the hood if you have not done so already and remove the oil cap.
Check the owner’s or repair manual for the type and amount of oil to use. My repair manual indicates that I should only use 5W-30 or 10W-30 with appropriate certifications.
Pour approximately one quart less than the recommended amount. My owner’s manual recommends 4.5 quarts, so I pour 3.5 quarts to start.
Remove the dipstick.
Wipe the dipstick with a clean cloth. Re-insert the dipstick completely and then pull it out once more. Check where the oil is located in reference to the two dots or lines on your dipstick (please view instructions on photo):
If the oil surpasses the first line or dot, there is sufficient oil to obtain a more accurate reading. Be sure that the oil is at least above the first point on the dipstick before moving forward.
Replace the oil cap and start the engine. Allow it to run for about 30 seconds, shut it off, and then inspect for leaks underneath the oil plug and oil filter. If all looks good, then it is time to lower the car (if it is raised) so that you can check the oil level. The vehicle needs to be parked on a flat surface in order for a proper reading.
Remove the dipstick again to check the oil level.
Add oil until the level almost reaches the top hole.
Do NOT over-fill. Too much oil can cause serious engine damage.
8. Dispose of used engine oil and filter. Auto parts stores that sell oil will accept your used oil and filter for recycling and proper disposal at no charge. I really like this oil drain pan because it seals nicely for transport.
Another option is to pour the used oil from the oil drain pan into empty oil containers for transport.
It is illegal to dump old oil in the trash and really bad for the environment, so please take it to a place that can dispose of it properly!
And we are done! See how simple that was? The next time it will go much faster. After three or four times, you might even break 30 minutes. Now you can take advantage of oil and filter sales and stockpile them in your garage. You’ll save time and money doing this task on your own. Most importantly, you will gain confidence to do more as other maintenance tasks will suddenly seem within reach. Just like it did with me, it may take you by surprise.
I took my car to the mechanic and he told me that my coolant levels were low… I found myself thinking, “I got this one on my own!”
Was this post helpful? Is there something that I did not cover or should have covered in more detail? Did you decide to change the oil in your car? Please let me know!
And yeah, the Civic I worked on likes to go undercover as a Tacoma sometimes…