One of the most basic – and yet most essential – car maintenance activities you should do is changing your car’s engine oil. Needed to keep everything running smoothly in your car’s engine, frequent engine oil changes serve to increase the performance and lifespan of your vehicle, so it’s easy to see why it’s such an important task.
With so many metal parts moving against each other, your engine needs plenty of oil to keep everything from overheating, while also ensuring that it performs optimally. That’s where engine oil comes in, protecting and lubricating all moving parts.
While you can take it to a mechanic, carrying out the process yourself is straightforward, and can save you a decent chunk of money as well. Although, it’s always worth checking your warranty conditions before you get started (if your car is still under warranty, changing the engine oil yourself could invalidate this). If it is still under warranty, we would always recommend taking your car to a registered garage using approved parts to ensure the correct servicing schedule is maintained and to keep your manufacturer's warranty in tact.
Here, we’ll guide you through how to properly change the engine oil and filter of your car…
When should I change my engine oil?
The longer oil stays in your vehicle, the less effective it is at protecting your engine. At the same time, the oil filter which captures particles of dirt and debris, becomes clogged.
You can put your car’s performance at risk the longer you leave old oil in there, so when is it necessary to replace this oil?
Vehicle manufacturers recommend service intervals for each of their models, specifying which tasks should be carried out and when, including changing the engine oil and oil filter. You can find the exact intervals in your vehicle handbook, but generally, between once every six months or 3,000 miles up to once every 24 months or around 20,000 miles is the accepted time frame.
What you’ll need to change your engine oil
Before you start with the task at hand, make sure you have all the right supplies and equipment. Here’s what you’ll need:
- The proper amount and grade of motor oil (you should be able to find the correct amount and weight in your car’s owners manual)
- A high-quality oil filter (any automotive product retailer should be able to help you find the correct one for your car)
- A socket wrench
- An oil filter wrench
- A funnel
- Hydraulic jack
- Two car stands
- Something to catch the old motor oil, like an oil pan or bucket
How To Change Your Engine Oil
Park on a flat surface
Make sure your car is on flat, even and stable terrain. If your car is automatic, put it in the park position; if it’s manual, make sure it’s in the neutral position. Engage the handbrake and use a hydraulic jack to raise your vehicle.
Two vehicle stands would come in useful here too. You should never use a single stand on its own as this is quite risky.
Run your engine for about five minutes
Oil that’s settled down in a cold engine over time becomes rife with metal particles and dirt. This is why running your engine for around five minutes is a good idea to start with as it allows the oil to become thinner, and easier to drain as a result.
Once it’s warmed up, don’t drain the oil immediately. Wait another five or 10 minutes to let the temperature slightly decrease to prevent oil burns.
Drain the old engine oil
Remove the sump plug (found under the car) using a wrench to unscrew. Keep an oil pan handy and place it directly under the sump plug to catch any oil flowing out.
Allow several minutes to let the oil drain completely – even if there is no more visible oil dripping from the sump, you may still need to wait a couple more minutes. Once you’re confident it’s drained, screw the sump plug back on.
Remove the oil filter and clean the filter compartment
Remove the oil filter using the oil filter wrench or sandpaper to increase the grip on the filter cap.
Once removed, clean the compartment of the oil filter using clean rags or cloth, make sure there are no signs of the old oil seen in the filter compartment.
Place the new oil filter
Changing the engine oil also means replacing the oil filter too. Changing the O-rings (the small, rubber, circular donuts that sit between components to reduce leakage) is a good idea too as it ensures no leaking takes place.
Lubricate the O-ring with the new engine oil to ensure a perfect seal. Place on the oil filter and tighten the filter cap, making sure to apply the recommended torque force (this is printed on most oil filters) when tightening the cap.
Add new engine oil
Use a funnel to facilitate filling your engine with new oil. The oil cap is located at the top of the engine – typically marked with an oil can sign.
You should know at this point how much oil you need to put in your engine. If not, look at your vehicle manual first to get an idea of how much oil your engine needs. You can also use your dipstick to see how much oil you’ve poured and avoid overfilling too.
Close and tighten the cap once you’ve filled your engine with the correct amount and type of engine oil.
Start your car’s engine
Allow your engine to run for a couple of minutes after every oil change to allow it to circulate throughout the engine.
This also lets you see if there are any leaks too. If there are, turn the engine off, let it cool for a bit and tighten the parts that are leaking.
Check the engine oil level
Once you’ve let the oil circulate, turn off the engine and let it cool for about five minutes.
Check the oil level using the dipstick; it should be between the MIN and MAX markings on the dipstick, though some vehicle manufacturers recommend the dipstick oil level to be at MAX.
Check your owner’s manual for clarification.
Make a note of the oil change
An essential step that you shouldn’t forget is documenting oil change, including the mileage shown on your vehicle’s odometer. This lets you know when the next oil change will be.
Writing down the mileage of the recently completed oil change will give you an idea of when you should start checking your oil for a possible change again.