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The DIY Files

Insider Report: The DIY oil change edition

Published January 16, 2014

Once upon a time, humans were taught by their parents to be self sufficient. Those days are gone for many people, and it’s now the norm to spend one’s hard-earned money to pay someone to do just about everything.

Plugged toilet? Call the plumber.

Bought a new light fixture? Call the electrician.

Install snow tires? What are you, nuts?

As cars get more and more complex, one of the few tasks car owners can still perform themselves is the basic oil change. More than just changing the oil, it gives one the comfort of knowing their way around under the hood of their car, making it easier to spot problems early on before a visit to a mechanic is needed. As my teenage son is in his first year of auto shop class in high school, I thought it would be a great time to create our first DIY video together.

Performing an oil change really is quite a simple process, but it does require a few specific items.

Tools needed:

  • Jack & jack stands – if you are a skinny guy with a tall truck, you might be able to do the job without these.
  • Wrench to remove drain plug. Remember that traditional domestics usually require Imperial measurement while traditional imports will be Metric.
  • Oil filter wrench – If it has been a while since your oil has been changed or you were at a hurry lube type of place, chances are you might need one to remove the filter. If not, you should be able to remove it by hand.
  • Oil drain pan
  • Funnel

Supplies needed:

  • Clean shop rags
  • Oil – check your car’s owner’s manual to verify what weight is specified for your model.
  • Oil filter – use a premium brand filter like the ones sold by Purolator. A cheap filter can disintegrate and block your oil pump.
  • Air filter – while you are under the hood, it is a great time to change your air filter. Purolator makes great air filters too and you will notice a difference a clean filter makes at the gas pump.

The process:

  1. Apply the parking brake and chock the rear wheels so your vehicle cannot move.
  2. Using your jack, positioned on a frame point (see your owner’s manual), lift the front of the vehicle high enough to insert stands under the vehicle. Lower vehicle on stands and then gently try to rock the vehicle to ensure it is steady on the stands. If there is even the slightest bit of motion, do not get under the vehicle. Re-position the stands and try again.
  3. Locate the oil drain plug on the bottom of the oil pan. Position the drain pan under the bolt, remembering that the oil will come out in an arc, rather than straight down. Remove drain plug with the correct sized wrench, being careful not to strip the head of the plug.
  4. While oil is draining, clean the plug with a cloth and inspect for cracked threads and damaged metal gasket. If you see either, then use a new drain plug and gasket. Re-install plug, being careful not to over-tighten it, which may damage the threads. Wipe clean.
  5. Move drain pan to underneath the oil filter and remove filter by loosening counter clockwise. Remember that filter will be full of oil and oil will also pour out from the engine side too. This can quickly become messy if you are not careful.
  6. Once oil has finished draining from filter mount, wipe area clean with a cloth and look to make sure there is no old filter gasket stuck on the engine. If there is, remove it and wipe clean.
  7. Lube rubber gasket on new filter with clean oil. This prevents the filter from fusing itself to the side of the engine. Life is not pretty when this happens.
  8. Spin filter on carefully until it is snug on the block. Once snug, give the filter another half to full turn by hand only. Never tighten it on with a filter wrench or you will regret it the next time you try to remove the filter.
  9. Carefully lift the vehicle off the jack stands and remove stands before gently lowering vehicle onto the ground.
  10. Pour fresh oil into the filler tube using a funnel, to the amount listed in the car’s owner’s manual.
  11. Check oil level using the dip stick.
  12. Start engine for about thirty seconds to allow oil pressure to build and then shut engine off.
  13. Inspect oil drain plug and filter to ensure there are no leaks.
  14. Check oil level again, remembering that some oil will remain in the filter after engine is started. If level is a bit low, then top it up a bit.
  15. Put your tools away and feel proud that you have now done your first oil change.

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