How to Change Your Car's Motor Oil

Aug 29 21:00 2004 Stephen Bucaro Print This Article

First, let's answer the question; Why should you changeyour own oil? Because you can save time and money. Youdon't have to wait in line at the service garage or quickoil change shop. For ten bucks you can get the best oiland a brand new oil filter. And, it's so easy to do thatyou could train a monkey to do it.

Changing your cars motor oil is a very simple three-stepprocess: 1. Drain the old oil. 2. Replace the oil filter.3. Add the new oil. But before we go through the steps,Guest Postinglets answer a few basic questions.

When should I change my oil?

Look in your cars owners manual. Most auto manufacturersrecommend changing the motor oil every 6,000 miles fornormal service, or every 3,000 miles for severe service.I change my oil every 6,000 miles, and my engines run likenew when I trade my vehicles in with well over 100,000miles on them. One thing that I do is change a new carsoil after the first 300 mile break-in period. Then, afterthat, I change the oil every 6,000 miles.

What kind of oil should I use?

You are not going to save money by using an off-brand oilbecause your engine will wear out sooner. Use oil thatmeets the American Pertroleum Institute (API)classification SL. I use Valvoline, Quaker State, Pennzoil,or Havoline brand oil. These quality oils contain additivesthat make them work better and longer.

If you are changing your oil just before winter, use SAE10W30 weight oil. This number means the oil will have athin 10 weight viscosity when the engine is cold, helpingthe engine to start easier, and then the oil will thickento 30 weight viscosity when the engine warms up, protectingthe engine better. If you are changing oil just beforesummer, use SAE 10W40 weight oil. The extra 40 weightviscosity will protect your engine better when it's hot.

What's the First Step?

First let your engine cool off. Modern engines run atclose to 300 degrees (F) and hot oil will definitely giveyou a severe burn. You shouldn't have to jack your car upunless you have some kind of ground hugging sports car orlow rider. Almost all cars have enough space underneath toreach under and change the engine oil.

Step 1: Drain the old oil.

Locate the oil drain plug and place a pan under it tocatch the oil. With a box wrench, remove the oil plug.

Note for newbies: To remove the drain plug, turn itcounter-clockwise.

- If you have a GM dual-overhead-cam EcoTec engine you mayhave a difficult time locating the drain plug on all thataluminum.

When the oil stops draining, reinstall the drain plug.

Note for newbies: To replace the drain plug turn itclockwise. Start the plug with your fingers. If it seemseven slightly hard to turn, back it out! You are crossingthe threads.

Step 2. Replace the oil filter.

Move your oil catch pan under the oil filter. Using an oilfilter wrench to get it started, remove the oil filter.(newbies: counter-clockwise, and you will get some oil onyour hand.)

- A strap type oil filter wrench is the best kind to use.A socket type oil filter tool is used with a ratchet justlike a regular socket. The problem with the socket type isthat it tends to get stuck on the filter. Use the sockettype tool if you don't have enough clearance around theoil filter to use the strap type.

With your finger put a thin coat of oil on the new filter'sgasket to make it seal better.

*! Now pay attention - here's were you can screw up royal!

With your hand, install the new oil filter. If it seemseven slightly hard to turn, back it out! You are crossingthe threads. Most filters have an instruction printed onthem to give the filter one more turn after the gasket hasmade contact.

Here's what I recommend: screw the filter on until its"hand tight". Then use the oil filter wrench to snug it upanother 1/8 to 1/4 turn. This is critical!

When the vehicle is running, the oil pump puts the oilunder pressure. If you don't install the oil filter tightenough, the oil will come gushing out. If that happens shutdown the engine immediately! Without oil, an engine willlock up within seconds.

The first time I changed my oil, I used the filter wrenchto tighten the filter as tight as I could get it. Wrong!The next time I went to change my oil, I couldn't get thefilter off. Luckily I had plenty of room around the filer,so I hammered a screw driver through the body of thefilter and used the handle of the screw driver to turn thefilter off.

Warning! Don't over-tighten the filter. Follow theinstructions above carefully!

- The GM dual-overhead-cam EcoTec engine has an unusualoil filter located on top of the engine. Remove the engineair intake hose. That's the oil filter canister just tothe right of, and below, the end of the open air intaketube. Use a proper size wrench to remove the canister lid.This engine uses a special filter cartridge.

Step 3. Add the new oil.

Locate the oil filler cap on the valve cover. I've seennewbies pour motor oil in everything from the master brakecylinder to the radiator cap. Make sure you have locatedthe the oil filler cap. Remove the oil filler cap.

When pouring the oil, you would be wise to use a funnelbetween the oil can and the valve cover oil filler hole.

How much oil should you add? Look in your cars ownermanual. Most engines have a capacity of four or fivequarts. Don't overfill the crank case. When you run theengine the extra oil will be blown out through the PCVvalue, possibly stalling your engine.

Tip: If you don't know the oil capacity of the engine, addfour quarts, then check the oil level, if it's a quart lowadd another quart.

Replace the oil filler cap.

Step 4. Start the Engine.

Yes, I know, I said there where only three steps. You'refinished, this is not really a "step".

Start the engine and make sure the oil warning light goesoff. Look under the vehicle to make sure oil is not leakingout. Turn off the engine and let it set for a minute to letthe oil drain down to the crank case. Then use the dipstick to check the oil level.

How to check the oil level: Remove the dip stick, wipe itclean with a rag, reinstall the dip stick. Make sure thedip stick is in all the way or you will get a false reading.After a few seconds remove the dip stick and examine howfar up the stick is covered with oil. Most dip sticks havea "full" mark printed on them.

Note: I find the best way to dispose of the old oil is touse a funnel to pore it from the collection pan into thebottles from which the new oil came. When I get a big pileof used oil bottles I bring them to the oil recyclingcenter. Be sure to mark the used oil bottles so you don'taccidentally think they are new oil.

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Stephen Bucaro
Stephen Bucaro

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