Author Topic: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $  (Read 16270 times)

Offline Jon M

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How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« on: March 18, 2010, 10:58:18 AM »

Changing your own oil is a good way to save money over the quickie lube places, and it is fast becoming a lost skill.

Fortunately, doing an oil change is not rocket science. I change my own oil at home and I'd like to share a couple of tips that have helped me to make this process easier and less messy.

Here is what you need to get started:
  • Motor Oil. I use 4 qts for my Toyota Corolla. It costs $20.42 for 12 qts at Sam's Club, which comes out to $6.81 for each oil change
  • Oil Filter $4.39 at Advance Auto Parts
  • Filter Wrench I use the kind that fits onto a ratchet wrench. Get the right size to match your filter. You can also get a dedicated oil filter wrench at the auto parts store
  • Funnel For filling engine with new oil
  • Crescent Wrench or Ratchet set For removing the oil pan drain plug
  • Oil catch pan with spout For getting rid of the old oil
  • Empty plastic bottles With wide mouth for taking old oil to be recycled. I use old kitty litter bottles, but you can use any bottle or container you like.
  • Rag For wiping up spills
  • Ramps or Jack For lifting the car. I use plastic ramps, a lot of people prefer metal. Your call.
  • Jackstands or cinder blocks For safety- keep the car from falling on you. I should really use these, but I haven't yet...
  • Large piece of Cardboard for protecting your driveway (optional)
  • Rubber Gloves for keeping oil off of your hands (optional)

After all of the one time purchases on this list, it costs me about $11 for each oil change. Cheaper than the $20 or $30 of the quick lube joint. And I don't have to deal with pushy salesmen trying to upsell me air filters.



First, turn on your car and run the engine for a minute or so to warm up the oil so that it flows well.

Straighten the wheels and stop the engine. Line up the ramps straight with the wheels and stick them under the wheels. Place your cardboard between the ramps.



Start the car and drive slowly onto the ramps.


Put on rubber gloves. Lie down on your back and scoot under the car. Find the oil pan drain plug.


Place the oil catch pan underneath the drain plug.


Remove the drain plug with a crescent wrench or ratchet. Make sure you catch both the oil pan drain plug and gasket if there is one. (gasket looks like a small washer) It gets messy if you have to fish these out of the used oil.


Let the oil drain into the pan. If you are working outside, be aware that on a windy day the draining oil may be blown around by the wind. You can use a tarp or large piece of cardboard etc. to block the wind if needed. Wait until the oil has drained. (this may take a few minutes. It's not important to get every last drop out, but you want to get 99% of it drained.) Replace the drain plug and gasket. (be careful not to over-tighten...)




Locate the oil filter. Position the oil catch pan underneath the oil filter.


Fit the filter wrench onto the ratchet. Place the filter wrench onto the oil filter and turn counterclockwise to remove filter.


At this point I want to mention that I had some trouble getting the old oil filter off. My filter wrench no longer fits onto the oil filter since Fram started putting a rubber grip coating on the end of the oil filter. It might be better to use a dedicated oil filter wrench which will fit any filter.

However I did not have one so I had to use a large pair of channel locks to get the filter off. (shown on the left)



Some more oil will drain after removing the filter. This should not take long to drain out.

Dispose of the old oil filter and get out the new oil filter. Turn it so that the rubber gasket is facing up and pour a small amount of new oil onto the rubber gasket. Spread the oil around the rubber gasket so that the entire gasket has a small coating.


Use your rag to wipe the area where the old oil filter was. Then install the new oil filter where the old one was. When you do this, do not use any tools. Hand Tighten Only.

Turn the filter counterclockwise with your hand. There should not be any resistance, this should be very easy to turn. If it is difficult, then it is cross-threaded. Unscrew it and start over. At a certain point the filter's gasket will make contact with the metal. At this point, you will want to turn the filter an extra 1/2 or 3/4 turn depending on your particular car. Remember, it doesn't have to be too tight, as the filter will expand when heated by the hot engine oil.


It is important not to over tighten, as it will only make your job more difficult next time you change the oil.

Now it is time to put the new oil in your engine. Open the hood and locate the oil fill cap on the top of your engine. Unscrew the oil fill cap and set it aside where it will not fall down into the engine compartment and get lost.



Place the end of the funnel into the oil fill tube and pour the oil slowly into the engine.


After you've put in all the new oil, replace the oil fill cap securely.

You're all done with the main part of the oil change, now we just have to get rid of the old oil. Pour it into your bottle or other container. This kitty litter bottle holds several oil changes worth of oil.



Take the containers with the old oil to your local auto parts store or mechanics shop for recycling. Here in Pennsylvania, most places that sell oil at retail also will recycle your old oil. They filter it and it is then picked up by a recycling company and burned for heat.

Wait a little while for the oil to settle down into the oil pan and then check the oil level. Open the hood and find the dipstick. Pull it out, wipe it with a rag and replace it all the way. Pull it out again and check the oil level on the end of the dipstick. Make sure that the oil level is in the acceptable range indicated by the marks on the dipstick. Then replace the dipstick and close the hood.





Congratulations, you've changed your own oil. Now would be a good time to check your tire pressure as well. I like this little compressor from Black & Decker, it lets you dial in the pressure you want to use and automatically stops when it reaches the right pressure.



Hope this was helpful. Good Luck, and may you never set foot in a quickie lube place again.

Jon
« Last Edit: March 22, 2010, 10:33:38 AM by ModernSurvival »

Son_of_the_Republic

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2010, 11:09:17 AM »
Nice 1. I was contemplating changing my oil the other day but wife beat me to it and drove into a quickie lube place.She bought a new air filter also  ::)

Next time.

BrotherWolf

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2010, 12:49:53 PM »
I change the oil in my SUV, my wife's car and the motorcycle (to a lesser extent the lawnmower, generator and a few of the garage/lawn tools)

I have a shelf in my garage specifically for oil changes.  Lots of oil plus all the equipment I need.
I buy the filters and oil when they go on sale, so I've got multiple 5-quart and 1-quart containers of the brand and weights (yes I still mix it up depending on season) that I like.

I see that you mentioned disposing of the oil at an automotive store.

Most have a huge tub in the back of the storeroom that you can just empty your oil into.  I used to save my used oil up in the 5 qt. containers (from previous oil changes) and take the oil in bulk once or twice a year.

Where I live now they've started picking up oil for recycling at curbside on trash days.  As long as it's labeled, next to the trash cans and not leaking, they'll take up to a certain amount (I think it's a couple gallons) each pickup.  It's much easier this way. 


Also keep in mind that used motor oil is a "known carcinogen to the state of" kalifornia, so I wear gloves when doing the oil change and make sure to wash my hands well afterwards with dish soap and hot water.  I can't ever seem to get my sideways mounted oil filter off without leaking somewhere....

Offline Jon M

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2010, 06:22:26 PM »
@BrotherWolf - I hadn't thought about the lawnmower oil change. That reminds me of my first riding mower. I bought it used on Craigslist and the guy who had it before me had cross-threaded the oil pan drain plug. It was nearly impossible to get off but I finally did get it off.

The store where i took my used oil is called AutoZone. They had me go around to the back of the store and pour the oil into a big dumpster looking container. It goes through a grate first to catch any debris that might be in there.

As far as the mess is concerned, it is always a little bit messy no matter what. But I find that with practice I make less of a mess on our carport nowadays.

Offline JGreene

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2010, 06:46:10 PM »
Anyone know what the problem is with changing your own oil vs your car's warranty?  I believe, that as long as you have receipts for the proper oil type.

Offline SNOWman

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2010, 06:58:59 PM »
i always change the oil in my vehicles, i'm to cheap to pay someone for something i can do.... it does get a lil messy, but i always put some dawn dish soap on any oil spots, and it cleans up great....

Offline survivininct

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2010, 07:03:02 PM »
Anyone know what the problem is with changing your own oil vs your car's warranty?  I believe, that as long as you have receipts for the proper oil type.

There isn't one - just save the receipts and record everything in the manual or a book with mileage and staple the receipt to the page and you should be covered.  At least that is what a few dealers told me. 

Offline Cool Blue

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2010, 07:26:38 PM »
Quote
Dispose of the old oil filter and get out the new oil filter. Turn it so that the rubber gasket is facing up and pour a small amount of new oil onto the rubber gasket. Spread the oil around the rubber gasket so that the entire gasket has a small coating.

My father is a mechanic and he prefers to rub vasoline on the filter gasket.  He said it gives a better seal.

Offline bartsdad

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2010, 01:27:55 AM »
Jon,
Nice tutorial, thanks for posting.

A few other items to check,

belt condition
check under the car for leaks
top off all the underhood fluids
check all of the exterior lights
check the air pressure in your spare tire
inspect hoses and lines under the hood for cracks or other damage
inspect battery and cable connections


oil filters are cheaper at Walmart, than the parts store. YMMV

Offline bartsdad

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2010, 01:30:37 AM »
i always change the oil in my vehicles, i'm to cheap to pay someone for something i can do.... it does get a lil messy, but i always put some dawn dish soap on any oil spots, and it cleans up great....

Dawn is one of THE BEST de-greasers out there. Kitty litter also works great for soaking up  spilled oil.

Offline mash

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2010, 03:03:01 AM »
My gramps used to keep a washtub of sand mixed with some used engine oil in his shed. At the end of the day he'd stick any metal tools that he had been using in the sand and they'd come out oiled. Just something to think about as another use for the old stuff...

Offline Jon M

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2010, 07:08:08 AM »
@BartsDad - Good ideas for the other routine maintenance tasks. It is a good idea to make these part of your oil change routine. Especially for someone like me who generally doesn't look under the hood between oil changes.

Offline JGreene

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2010, 05:04:07 AM »
Jon,
Nice tutorial, thanks for posting.

A few other items to check,

belt condition
check under the car for leaks
top off all the underhood fluids
check all of the exterior lights
check the air pressure in your spare tire
inspect hoses and lines under the hood for cracks or other damage
inspect battery and cable connections


oil filters are cheaper at Walmart, than the parts store. YMMV

No intention to start a filter quality debate, but there are varying qualities in oil filters.  However, I believe they are available by the case from a dealer at a fair cost.  I'm always concerned that I'll end up with half a case of oil filters when I get rid of the vehicle.  But anyway... do your own research, FRAM is not one of the better filters.

Offline RacinRob

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2010, 06:57:30 AM »
It always blows my mind how much people send on thier cars when they bring it in somewhere.  My brother and I had almost identical cars.  I needed to do the brakes all the way around. Cost doing it myself = ~$150.  He brought his in and it cost him just shy of $800 with an oil change.  Back to oil though.  I can do a synthetic oil change with a good filter for less then many oil change place do for the cheap bulk oil.  I go by the oil life monitor in my car which says my oil lasts up to 10,000 miles if I am doing a lot of highway driving, so I will stick with synthetic.

Offline JGreene

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2010, 07:11:54 AM »
How do you dispose of synthetic?

Offline Crispy Critter

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2010, 07:41:35 AM »

Thanks for the write-up, jm. Very well done.

I would like to mention my experience with an oil filter that was too hard to remove with regular or specialized tools. Since I was replacing the filter with a new one, and it simply would not budge, I 'stabbed' the filter with a large, slotted screwdriver through both 'walls' of the filter and used it to torque the filter off of its mount. I hope nobody needs to go to this extreme when performing what should be a simple maintenance task, but sometimes you just gotta take the bull by the horns. I had spent almost 20 minutes wrangling with the non-budging oil filter before I reverted to my caveman skill-set. I've also used a worn V-belt as a wrap-around grip to get a bite on a filter that wouldn't move. The right tool for the right job if you've got it, otherwise, get creative.




Offline LdMorgan

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #16 on: March 20, 2010, 08:15:39 AM »
Yeah--getting a tight filter off can be a real pain.

What bugs me is that no matter how carefully you unspin the filter, it always starts leaking from the instant you break the seal.

Full filter + tipped installation = predestined petrodrool.

I use a very simple trick to resolve that problem: I jam a screw driver into the filter at the lowest point, and then let it drain into the catch-pan at its leisure.

When it's through dripping, it's ready to twist off.

An empty filter is a lot lighter than a full one, also, and that definitely matters when you're working under a car all scrunched up and have very slippery and/or gloved hands.

You only have to drop an oil filter into the catch-pan once to marvel at just how much oil it can splash, and how far.

Also, the empty filter is a lot less messy to handle during disposal.


One other little gag: I'm clumsy, I admit it. I always drop the oil plug into the catch-pan at least once. (It's a genetic thing: I should be getting money from Obama for it.)

Eliminate that problem forever by taping a strong magnet to the side of the socket (or extension) that you're using to pull the plug. 

Using the magnet during re-installation will also keep you from dropping the plug into the catch-pan another four times.

Offline RacinRob

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2010, 08:53:31 AM »
How do you dispose of synthetic?

Most parts stores take used oil.  Synthetic is still oil it is just refined differently.

Kind of corny music but it is a good primer on oil.

http://www.synlube.com/synthetic.htm

I don't use synlube but the site was helpfull.

If you want to know more about oil goto Bob is the oil guy.
http://www.bobistheoilguy.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1

All you have ever wanted to know about oil is on there.

BrotherWolf

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #18 on: March 20, 2010, 12:01:05 PM »
...

I would like to mention my experience with an oil filter that was too hard to remove with regular or specialized tools. Since I was replacing the filter with a new one, and it simply would not budge, I 'stabbed' the filter with a large, slotted screwdriver through both 'walls' of the filter and used it to torque the filter off of its mount. ...

I had a friend do this with his motorcycle---and still couldn't get it off    :D

BMW oil filters are protected with a shroud at the base of the pan.  Makes for a real PITA to get off.

Offline Cool Blue

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2010, 06:40:39 PM »
Rubber belt wrenches are great for getting off oil filters.

Offline JGreene

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #20 on: March 20, 2010, 08:41:29 PM »
Rubber belt wrenches are great for getting off oil filters.
I have an assortment of wrenches, belts etc... every time I do a new car I need a new wrench.  Usually because I can't reach it right.

Offline RacinRob

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2010, 08:59:52 AM »
I have a 3 arm universal wrench that has been a life saver.  I think that I got mine at NAPA for way less then in the link, but the picture in the link gives you a good idea of what I am talking about.

http://www.ecrater.com/product.php?pid=6039252

Offline Crispy Critter

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #22 on: March 21, 2010, 09:21:25 AM »
I have a 3 arm universal wrench that has been a life saver.  I think that I got mine at NAPA for way less then in the link, but the picture in the link gives you a good idea of what I am talking about.

http://www.ecrater.com/product.php?pid=6039252


Thanks! Now I've got another tool to add to my collection!


Offline joeinwv

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #23 on: March 21, 2010, 09:23:45 AM »
One very big thing to look out for - this would be more common on motorcycles than cars - a lot of bikes have aluminum oil pans and steel drain plugs. If you are not careful you can easily strip out the threads of the oil pan. I have not seen a car with an aluminum pan, but this is good to keep in mind - unless you just like helicoils.

Offline RacinRob

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #24 on: March 21, 2010, 09:28:36 AM »
I know that newer 3.8L GM motors have alum. oil pans.

Offline mash

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #25 on: March 21, 2010, 07:03:22 PM »
Using the magnet during re-installation will also keep you from dropping the plug into the catch-pan another four times.

only 4 times? hey you are a brain surgeon compared to me LdMorgan!

Offline LdMorgan

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #26 on: March 21, 2010, 08:29:36 PM »
only 4 times? hey you are a brain surgeon compared to me LdMorgan!

They said I would be better after the surgery.

I donno...but at least I can dance to "Puttin' On the Ritz".

 ;D

Offline Crispy Critter

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #27 on: March 21, 2010, 08:39:21 PM »
They said I would be better after the surgery.

I donno...but at least I can dance to "Puttin' On the Ritz".

 ;D

I wish I could type phonetically right now...that comment has me tearing up with laughter!   :D :D :D


Offline bartsdad

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #28 on: March 22, 2010, 12:39:37 AM »
One very big thing to look out for - this would be more common on motorcycles than cars - a lot of bikes have aluminum oil pans and steel drain plugs. If you are not careful you can easily strip out the threads of the oil pan. I have not seen a car with an aluminum pan, but this is good to keep in mind - unless you just like helicoils.

A bit off topic, I really like Heli-coils in aluminum.(Not for drain plugs, but for bolt threads) They are way stronger than the original aluminum threads.

Offline Strangersolz

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Re: How to Change Your Car's Oil at Home - DIY and Save $
« Reply #29 on: April 05, 2010, 08:10:04 AM »
One thing I do differently is I run the engine for a few seconds before checking the oil level. Some of the oil will fill the filter and will show low. I was taught this by my grandfather who owned a gas station, "back in the day" (as my daughter would say) when your gas station was also a mechanics shop.

Brandon