Well, it has been 2500 miles since the last oil change, so does it go to the dealer or can it be done in the driveway at home? The answer is simple, do it in the driveway if there is a free afternoon. It shouldn’t take more than one hour to complete the entire job. Check the owner’s manual for recommended parts such as oil filter and oil weight. Go to the auto parts store and purchase the filter and oil. The list below contains other supplies that will be necessary to complete the change.

  1. To protect the driveway, use a painter’s plastic, disposable drop cloth or a large piece of cardboard. A black trash bag cut open flat will even do the trick.
  • Ramps might make this job easier, but a curb can be used in a pinch. Don’t use a car jack, as they may not be sturdy enough if the oil filter is screwed on very tightly. Some people may not need any type of increase between the ground and the car.
  • Oil collection vessel. These can be purchased for under $10.00 at most auto part stores, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc. Usually, there is a large round hole at the top to collect the oil, with a screw-on cap. There is another, smaller funnel device built into the side of the vessel with a cap on it. This funnel is to pour out the collected oil into a disposal unit, usually the old oil bottles or an old anti-freeze jug.
  • New oil filter. Again, check the owner’s manual or the catalog at the auto parts store to be sure the correct filter has been purchased.
  • 4-6 quarts of new oil. Check the owner’s manual, talk to the auto parts store associate, or just buy what you prefer.
  • Safety goggles to guard against oil splash while under the car.
  • Latex or rubber gloves, if the person changing the oil does not want to risk getting dirty hands. Just be sure the gloves are tight enough on the hand to ensure a good grip.
  • Oil filter wrench. This tool can be purchased for under $10.00 at most retail outlets and is very handy. If no extra money is available for this tool, a screwdriver can be substituted, but it is very messy because using it involves punching a hole in the side of the filter and oil drips and splatters everywhere.
  • Socket wrench to remove the oil pan.
  • A funnel is optional for refilling the crankcase with the new oil at the end of the job. Most oil bottles today have a tapered neck that eliminates the need for a funnel.
  • A few paper towels to check the oil dipstick before and after the oil change.

Armed with these supplies, the car owner is ready to proceed with the oil change.

Step one: Checking the oil

If using gloves, now is the time to put them on. Raise the hood and remove the dipstick from its holster in the engine, it will have a gauge that shows how much oil is in the engine, and the color of the oil will be very apparent. Using a paper towel, wipe off the dipstick to clean it, and replace it into its holster. Pull it out again to get an accurate reading. If the oil is clear, it may be possible to wait for another 500-1000 miles before completing the change.

If the oil contains metal bits or dirt, there may be internal damage, which will have to be investigated further, and an oil change may or may not solve the problem. If the oil is a mustard color, stop. Mustard oil usually indicates a blown head gasket or engine head-this could mean that water has been introduced into the system. If this is the case, consult someone that can make that determination before wasting time and new oil. If the oil seems normal, put the dipstick back into the holster.

Step two. Elevation of the vehicle

If the oil is going to be changed, now is the time to decide if ramps are necessary. If so, place the ground covering where the car will rest. Place the ramps on top of the covering. Drive the car up onto the ramps. If no ramps are used, drive the car directly on top of the covering. Let the car sit at least 15 minutes to cool back down, nobody likes to be burned when changing the oil!

Step three: Draining the oil

Put on the safety goggles to protect eyes from splashing oil. Crawl under the car and locate the oil pan. This should be near the front center of the underside of the vehicle. Take the socket wrench and unscrew the nut that holds the pan to the car; some model years have a plastic or metal screw that pops out, so no wrench is necessary. Be careful when the last few threads are being unscrewed; grab the oil pan so it won’t drop. As soon as the oil pan is loose, place the oil catching unit under the pan, some oil will run over, some will make it into the pan. Let as much of the oil drain into the vessel as possible. Once the oil has stopped dripping, replace the oil pan with its bolt and reattach it to the car. Remove the oil collector and place it under the oil filter.

Step four: Changing the oil filter

To remove the old filter, there are two possible methods: one is to use an oil filter wrench which fits around the filter itself and simply twist it off; the second method is a bit dicey but can be used in a pinch. Take a Phillips head (star) screwdriver in one hand and the filter in the other, pierce the side of the filter with the screwdriver and twist it off. The second method is by far the messiest and labor-intensive but does work. There will be some oil leakage, so be sure to have that collecting vessel underneath this work area. Once the oil has stopped dripping, usually only a few seconds, take the new filter and screw it into place by hand until it fits tightly. Remove the oil collector and stand up.

Step five: Refilling the oil

Open the crankcase of the engine, which usually has a large-cap on it and pour into the number of quarts that the owner’s manual advises, or until the crankcase looks full. Some cars will not take 5 full quarts; others may require up to 6. When the crankcase appears to be full, it is time to check the dipstick again. Put the cap back on the crankcase and remove the dipstick, which should indicate oil level, as full and the oil should look clean and clear.

Step six: Clean the repair area

Back the car down off the ramps, and away from the drop cloth or cardboard that is on the ground. Take the oil-collecting vessel and fill the empty oil bottles with the old oil. An empty anti-freeze jug holds conveniently more oil and works just as well. Once the oil has been transferred, take the paper towels, and clean the oil filter and socket wrench. Fold up the drop cloth or cardboard towards the middle and either tape it shut or put it into a plastic trash bag of its own.

Store the collection vessel in the garage for next time. Call the city recycling center for further disposal instructions because it is illegal to put oil in the trash in most communities. Many cities have a phone number to call that will have city personnel come pick up the used oil, filter, and drop cloths at the curb.

Now the oil and filter have been changed correctly, the repair area cleaned, and the oil disposed of properly. The only cost involved was the price of oil and a filter, and it only took an hour. The car is ready to drive another 2500-3000 miles with fresh, clean oil and a smile on the owner’s face.

Now the oil

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