How to Change the Oil in Your Car


Apr 15th, 2019

How to Change the Oil in Your Car

Engine oil grows old with usage and requires changing after driving a certain distance to keep your car running optimally. We say that the oil has turned old or bad when it has been oxidised and thick with debris after continued use. At this state, it is not capable of lubricating the engine anymore. 

Old oil reduces a car's performance and fuel economy and ultimately damages the engine. Thus, it is essential to change the expired engine oil in a timely manner. You can bring your car to your local shop or change the oil on your own and save money. Changing oil is a relatively straightforward exercise that only requires some supplies and a little elbow grease.

How often should you change the oil and filter?

Engine oil should be changed as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Every vehicle is unique in its way. This information, among other details regarding a car, is available in the user manual provided by the manufacturer. Alternatively, you can check your vehicle's maintenance schedule as it indicates the next engine oil change.

How to Change the Oil in Your Car: Step by step guide

1. Jack the Car Up

Move your car to ground level with sufficient working area. Switch your vehicle on and allow it to stay idle for about 10 minutes to warm up the oil. Take extra precaution when draining hot oil. Put your car in park mode and activate the parking brake before exiting. 

Use wheel blocks to restrain all tyres that remain in contact with the ground. Locate your vehicle's jacking points and place your jack stand appropriately. If you do not know where to find the jacking point, refer to the vehicle's manual. Jack the car up and this must be done on one side. Allow your car to rest for about 10 minutes after driving to make sure that the engine and the exhaust have cooled down. 

2. Drain the Oil

Set the drain pan under the engine to recover the old oil - precisely below the old engine oil drain plug. The oil pan is located under your car. It is a metal pan that is flat and in closer proximity to your vehicle's engine. Alternatively, you can use any other container wide enough to avoid oil spillage.

You can now proceed to locate the old oil drain plug and be careful not to confuse it with the transmission oil plug. The engine oil drain plug is close to the exhaust connection to the engine. Unscrew the oil drain plug in an anti-clockwise direction using the right tool. Collect the old oil into the drain pan. Protect your hands with gloves or a rag. It takes several minutes for the oil to completely drain, so be patient.

When the oil no longer runs from the crankcase, check the oil drain plug and the washer. If the drain plug and metallic washer are worn out, replace them with new ones; if they're in good condition, clean and screw them back tight.  

3. Replace the Oil Filter

You also need to replace the old oil filter with a new one when changing the engine oil. Locate the oil filter assembly in your vehicle. Oil filter assemblies are located in different positions in different car models. The new replacement filter can give you a clue of what to look for exactly. 

Filter cylinders measure about 4 to 6 inches in length with a width of 3 inches. Some vehicles come with filter elements or cartridges instead of the regular pin-on filter. In that case, you will find a built-in reservoir that contains the filter element.

Once you have found the oil filter housing, unscrew it. You can extract it manually or use a tool if it is too tight to unscrew by hand. Carefully remove the filter as it also contains a significant amount of oil. Avoid spilling the old oil back into the engine or soiling the engine. A plastic bag can be wrapped around the filter to avoid spilling engine oil while taking out the filter.

After removing the old oil filter, take little of the new replacement oil with your fingertips and smear the gasket ring of the new oil filter. Oiling the gasket ring helps enhance the gasket lubrication, enabling the new filter to seal tightly and replacement of the filter in the next oil change easy.

Fit the filter into the filter assembling unit. Pour little of the new oil into the filter in the assembly to shorten the time it takes the vehicle to build the right oil pressure. If your filter-housing is vertically mounted, you can fill it with the oil to the brim if possible. For filters mounted at an angle, this is not advisable as the engine oil will spill out. 

Screw the new filter back on carefully to avoid damaging the filter or screwing it sideways. The instructions on how tight to screw the filter are readily available on the filter of the filter-box. 

4. Add New Oil

You can now proceed to refill the engine with the new oil. Make sure to use the right engine oil and the right amount as recommended in the car manufacturer's manual. If you are not sure, you should consult an expert or read the manual before you add any oil. Add the oil through the vehicle's oil fill hole. For the oil to pour smoothly without any bubbles, hold the bottle such that the spout remains on top. 

The dipstick is not always reliable in getting correct measurements, especially when your engine has been running. For the stick to give you an accurate reading, carry out checks very early in the morning. Your vehicle should be on level ground, cold and stable.

Once you are done adding the oil, close the oil cap tightly. Wipe off any spilled oil on the engine. The spilled oil does not pose any danger to the engine, but it may produce smoke as the engine heats up and result in burnt-oil smell. Remove all the tools that you used. Carefully inspect for oil leaks on the engine and beneath the vehicle.

After doing all the steps, remove the jack and start the engine. Let the car idle for a few minutes to give it time to build the oil pressure as you re-inspect for any oil leaks. Check if the oil light on the dashboard goes off; if it doesn't, read your car manual on how to reset the dashboard warning. 

Some vehicles need their sensor reset physically. For example, some cars require that you turn them off, after which you turn the vehicle's ignition on. Then, go ahead to pump the vehicle's gas pedal about three times within 10 seconds. As soon as you restart the car, you will find out that the warning light is gone.

It is also essential to check your oil level using the dipstick. To get the correct reading, turn off your vehicle and let it rest for at least 10 minutes to allow the oil to settle.  

5. Dispose of the Oil and the Oil Filter Appropriately

The used old oil and the oil filter should be disposed of appropriately; if possible, take them to used oil and oil filter recycling centres. Pour the used oil into a properly-labelled container to avoid mixing them up. Used engine oil is a dense environment pollutant and should be disposed of appropriately.

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