How Do I Change the Car Oil?

tune up kit Bowers Automotive Colorado SpringsHow do I change the car oil? Here at Bowers Automotive of Colorado Springs, we love to see car owners showing an interest in basic auto mechanics. One of the easiest things to learn to do by yourself is to change the motor oil. This is something that every vehicle needs fairly often. Even if you don’t plan on doing it by yourself, there’s no harm in knowing how to do it, just in case.

The Basics

Motor oil is needed by your engine to lubricate it’s moving parts. When your car has plenty of clean oil, it runs smoothly, uses less fuel and doesn’t overheat due to excessive friction between the engine parts. Over time, oil can break down, pick up dirt and turn into a thick sludge-like substance that does not efficiently lubricate the engine. If you change the car oil before it gets to this stage, you’ll ensure that it runs in top condition.

A regular oil change is one of the most important parts of vehicle maintenance. Your car’s manual will state how often the oil should be changed. At an auto shop, you may be able to get an oil change for between $30 and $55. A DIY oil change will probably cost you about $24, or closer to $35 if you also change the filter. In reality, you probably won’t end up saving a lot of money by changing the oil yourself, but it’s an excellent skill to have.

Gather Your Equipment

To change the car oil, you will need the following tools and materials:

  • Jack and jack stands
  • Plastic sheet or cardboard to catch any spills
  • Safety goggles
  • Box end or open end wrench
  • Oil collection/recycle container
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Funnel
  • New oil filter
  • New oil
  • Rag 

Before You Change the Car Oil

It’s a good idea to collect all the required tools and materials together before you begin. Find a level and stable surface to jack up the car safely. Lay down some plastic sheeting, cardboard or plywood under the vehicle to avoid creating a mess with spilled oil. You may want to use a foam mat to get under the car.

If you have been driving the car in the previous hour or two, the engine oil will be extremely hot. Allow it to cool for at least a few hours before attempting to change it; otherwise, you can risk burning yourself badly. If the engine is completely cold, it’s helpful to start the vehicle and leave the engine running for five minutes. This will warm up any old, congealed oil and get flowing better.

Drain the Old Oil

The first step to change the car oil is draining out the old stuff. Look for an oil pan at the very bottom of your engine. You should see the drain plug at the bottom of the pan; it looks like an oversized bolt. Before touching the plug, position your oil container beneath it.

Using the box end wrench, loosen the drain plug. Remove the cap with one quick movement to avoid getting your hand covered in oil as it starts to drain out. Allow all the oil to drain into your container. You can get this oil recycled at most full-service gas stations and auto shops. Replace the drain plug and tighten it according to your vehicle’s torque specifications.

Remove the Old Oil Filter

Next, you have to remove the old oil filter. Using the oil filter wrench, crank the filter counterclockwise until it comes loose. Be aware that there will probably be some old oil held in the filter that can splash out. Make sure the rubber gasket comes away with the filter. If it is still stuck to the engine, you will have to peel it off.

Prepare and Install the New Oil Filter

Take your new filter and use some fresh oil to coat its rubber gasket before installing it. Fill the new oil filter about 2/3 of the way up with new oil. Now you can carefully hand-screw it clockwise into place. Remember to move it slowly to prevent the oil splashing out. There is no need to screw the new filter into place with a wrench, as this might overtighten it. Use your hand to get it as tight as you can; that will be sufficient.

Refill the Oil

Now it’s time to refill the engine with oil. Under the hood of your car, look for the oil fill cap. Open it up and place the funnel inside for easy pouring. Before you start to fill it up, check the owner’s manual for the oil capacity of the engine. You want to pour a little over 3/4 of this amount into the engine at first. If you are using single quart containers, it should be easy enough to measure it out, and the 5-quart containers will have markings on the side of the bottle to show you how much you are using.

Check the Oil Level

When you change the car oil, the reason you don’t add the full volume of oil at once is that there is always some old oil that remains trapped within the engine and tubes. If you don’t take this into account, you may accidentally overfill the engine and make a mess.

Use the dipstick to check the current level of oil in the engine. Remember to wipe off the oil before checking the level, as it may be still covered up to the level of the old oil. If the oil is below the lower mark, continue to add more little by little until it reaches the correct level. Remember to replace the oil fill cap.

Now you know the basics of how to change the car oil. While it’s not complicated, it does require some patience and advance preparation. If you are not sure about tinkering with the inner-workings of your car, there’s no need to worry. At Bowers Automotive, we can give you a great deal on a basic oil, lube and filter service. Whether you do it yourself or leave it to the professionals, the important thing is to make sure to change the oil at the recommended intervals.

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