Monday, July 29, 2013

You Can Change Your Own Car Oil and Save Money

Changing the oil is probably the simplest auto maintenance task there is, and it can be done by just about anyone. Frequent oil changes can extend your car's life, and help it last longer. I've included the steps here, please read them completely before you start. When you're done, be sure to dispose of the old oil and filter responsibly; most auto parts stores and repair shops typically have a 55-gallon drum into which you can deposit these items; in exchange for this public service, the shop makes a few bucks selling the old oil to recyclers.

Step One: Find An Appropriate Place To Change Your Oil

The first step in changing your oil is finding an appropriate place to do it. Essentially, you are looking for a parking place with a bit of room for you to work and place your tools. The spot you use to change your oil doesn't have any special requirements other than a relatively level surface upon which you can work. It's not necessary to lift most cars to change the oil; the process only requires you to be under the car briefly, and most cars have enough ground clearance such that you can reach underneath and do what you need to do. Some very low cars might need to be jacked up and placed on secure jack stands, or you might want to give yourself more room to maneuver under the car; so if you want to lift the car for either of these reasons, be sure to follow the instructions with your jack and with the jack stands you use. Auto parts stores sell mats and pads that you can place under your car to catch oil spills, but I have found that these are not necessary if one works carefully.

Step Two: Drain The Oil

Next, you'll want to drain the oil from your car's engine. Your engine should not be running during this step, as running without oil can damage your engine (sometimes catastrophically). If your engine is warm from running recently, the oil will drain faster but you will need to work carefully to avoid burning yourself. To drain the oil, you will need to place a catch basin underneath the car's oil pan & drain plug. You can use any sort of low basin that fits under the car, but auto parts stores sell plastic basins that work well for this purpose (and often have a pour spot, which will be useful in a later step). The oil pan (sometimes called the "sump") is located at the bottom of the engine, it's an area where the engine oil collects when it's not circulating through the engine. On the pan, there is a hole filled with a bolt called a "drain plug." To drain the oil, unscrew the drain plug with an appropriately-sized socket or wrench and withdraw it quickly, allowing the oil to flow into the catch basin. While the oil is draining, inspect the drain plug; some drain plugs have washers on the bolt, and some manufacturers specify that this washer be changed periodically. When the oil has finished draining (5-10 minutes), replace the drain plug.

Step Three: Remove The Oil Filter   

The next step is usually the most difficult and messy -- removing the oil filter. The oil filter should be changed every time you change the oil. You should move the catch basin on the ground under the car to a location underneath the oil filter (which is usually located on the front of the engine); typically, when you remove the oil filter a bit of oil spills out so you want to catch that. It's sometimes possible to remove the oil filter by unscrewing it using your hands, but there are "oil filter wrenches" available to increase your leverage and make filter removal easier. Once you've removed the filter, you can examine it to ensure that the included gasket has come off as well; if it hasn't, remove it from the oil filter fitting on the engine. Before you put the new filter on, apply a bit of new engine oil to the new filter's gasket to help it seal better. You should apply the new filter using your hands only -- "hand tight" is the expressing shade tree mechanics use.

Step Four: Add New Oil

The last step is adding the new oil. The amount and type of oil is specified by the car's manufacturer, and is typically found in the owner's manual. If you've never purchased motor oil before, you'll find a number of different brands and types of oil for sale at your local auto parts store that meet your car's manufacturer's specifications; more expensive oils generally have useful additives, but any oil of the correct type is fine. Cheap oil, changed frequently, is better than expensive oil changed infrequently! The oil is added through the oil filler cap, which is typically on the top of the engine in an easily accessible location. When you're done, you'll want to check your oil level using your dipstick; be aware that some manufacturers specify that this should be done after the engine has been running, otherwise you'll get incorrect results.

No comments:

Post a Comment