Changing Your Engine Oil: What to Avoid, What to Do

car engine

My father had recently taught me how to change the oil on the family car a few months previous: “Now, don’t try this on your car until I can be there to help you,” he cautioned me.

“Aw, it’s OK, I know how to do it now,” was my cocky teen response.

“I’d still rather you wait until I can help you, just to make sure you got it,” he said.

Of course I didn’t listen. I was a teenager. I knew everything. And I was going to prove to my dad and my brother that I could change my own oil! “Won’t they be surprised when they come home and find out I did it all by myself!” I thought proudly.

I drove to K-mart, looked up everything using the chart as my dad showed me, proceeded home, and set about changing my oil.

I set up my car ramps, just as I had been shown, and got in my car to drive up them. I drove up them just fine. The problem came when I kept driving. I drove right up and over those darn things. It was a hard crash when I drove off of them, let me tell you. I just sat there in shock.

Finally, I got out to look at the damage. The car was sitting on the car ramps and had shoved them into the ground. There was no way I was getting it off by myself and I trembled at my father’s reaction when he saw it.

I figured since the car was “kinda up off the ground,” I  might as well try to redeem myself a little bit and finish the oil changing process. So, with what little space I had, I crawled under the car and began to change my oil.

All went smoothly until I took the plug off and oil began to run everywhere. I had forgotten the oil pan.

Needless to say, my father was not a happy camper when he got home and found the situation, and my brother had teasing leverage with me for years afterward.

It is possible for a woman to change the oil in her car, however, despite my poor example. All it takes is the following steps:

Oil is best changed when your car is warm, but please make sure you never change it when the car is still hot! If you have just gotten back from driving, give the car time to cool down.

Step 1: Gather your supplies: 4-6 quarts of oil, a new oil filter, an oil pan, a funnel, an open-ended wrench, an oil filter wrench, and a rag.

You can purchase your oil and oil filter at a local Wal-Mart or K-mart. Look up in your owner’s manual which grade your car takes, such as 10W30 or 10W40, and how many quarts.

There are books and little computer systems at the store that can help you choose which oil filter you need as well. You’ll need to know your car’s make, model, year, and cylinders in order to use these.

Step 2: Jack your car up. You can either do this with car ramps (have someone help guide you when using these so you don’t do what I did) or a pair of jack stands. Never change the oil with just a jack! Buy a pair of sturdy jack stands and learn how to use them properly.

When using your car ramps or jack stands have your car in first gear (standard) or park (automatic) with your emergency brake on.

Step 3: After you have determined your car is firmly jacked up, slide underneath it.  Place your oil pan underneath the oil plug.

Step 4: Unscrew the oil plug with your open-ended wrench. The rule to remember is “lefty-loosy,” or counter-clockwise.  Be prepared for the oil to begin coming out as soon as the plug is loosened and removed.

Step 5: Allow all of the oil to drain out.

Step 6: After the oil is drained, replace the oil plug. (”righty-tighty,” or clockwise)

Step 7: Remove the old oil filter by placing the oil filter wrench around it and turning left. This will have old oil in it as well, so be prepared for more drainage once this is removed.

Step 8: Take your new oil filter and lubricate the rim and top with new oil.

Step 9: Screw your new filter on by hand. You do not need to tighten using the oil wrench; screwing it on by hand should be adequate. Make sure you screw it on firmly, however.  Remember again, “righty-tighty,” a.k.a. clockwise.

Step 10: Move your car off of the car ramps or jack stands.

Step 11: Using your oil funnel, put the new oil in your car. This will be clearly marked on the top of your car engine area. Fill with as many quarts as your owner’s manual states your car takes. Replace the oil cap.

Step 12: You can double check your oil level by running your car for 2-3 minutes and then checking the fluid level on your oil dipstick. Wipe the dipstick with a clean rag, then re-insert. Pull it out and see where the level is. If it is below “full” add another ½ quart to quart of oil.

Step 13: Make sure that you take your used oil and oil filter to a local garage that will recycle it for free. Never throw these things in the trash!

Step 14: Feel like every woman because you just changed your own oil!

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