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How To Change Car Engine Oil At Home? A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Change Car Engine Oil At Home

Changing your car’s engine oil and filter regularly is one of the best and easiest ways to maintain your vehicle’s performance and extend its engine life. While you can always take your car to a mechanic for an oil change, doing it yourself at home allows you to save money, and time, and ensure only high-quality oil and parts are used. 

Changing your oil may seem daunting at first, but it truly is an easy job anyone can master. With this detailed step-by-step guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to safely and smoothly change your car’s oil and filter at home.

Why Should You Change Your Oil?

  1. Cost savings- Professional oil change shops will charge $40-$100 or more per oil change depending on your vehicle and location. Doing it yourself reduces the cost down to $25-$35 for the oil and filter.
  2. Peace of mind – You’ll know exactly what quality oil and filter is used in your car. Some quick lube places use cheap oil and filters.
  3. Convenience – Schedule changes when it suits your schedule instead of waiting at a shop. No need to book appointments either.

As long as you dispose of the old oil responsibly, changing your oil is environmentally friendly too. With practice, you’ll be able to complete oil changes quickly and keep your vehicle running great for years to come.

For more details, check out our guide on Clean vs Dirty Engine Oil, which will give you a comprehensive overview.

What You’ll Need?

Gather the following tools and supplies before getting started:

  1. Engine oil – Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct oil viscosity grade (e.g. 5W-30, 10W-30, etc) and API service classification recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. Using the right oil is critical.
  2. Oil filter – Use a quality brand-name filter made specifically for your vehicle. Aftermarket brands like Purolator, Bosch and Fram are good choices. Stay away from cheap generic filters.
  3. Oil filter wrench – This makes loosening the old oil filter much easier. A band-style wrench works best.  
  4. Drain pan – Use a large pan with a capacity of at least 6 quarts to avoid spills. Funnels to direct the oil are very helpful too. 
  5. Jack and jack stands – Needed to safely raise and support the vehicle. Ensure the jack and stands are rated for your vehicle’s weight. 
  6. Wheel chocks – Chock the rear wheels to prevent the car from rolling back.
  7. Combination wrench set- Common wrench sizes you’ll need are 14mm, 17mm, and 19mm. Always check your manual.
  8. Torque wrench – Preferred for tightening the drain bolt to factory torque specs.
  9. Gloves and rags – Protect yourself from hot oil. Have plenty of rags to contain spills.
  10. Creeping oil- This can be applied to the oil filter gasket to help create a good seal.
  11. Funnel- A long skinny funnel is ideal for pouring new oil into the filler hole.

Safety First!

Changing your oil can be a dirty job, but taking proper precautions makes it a very safe one. Here are some key safety tips:

  • Allow adequate time for the engine oil to fully cool before beginning. Hot oil can severely burn if it makes contact with the skin.
  • Wear thick gloves that provide heat protection and grip. Nitrile gloves designed for auto work are best.
  • The vehicle should only be raised on level ground with the parking brake set. Improperly supported vehicles can fall unexpectedly.
  • Jack stands should always be used when raising a vehicle. Do not rely solely on a hydraulic jack, which can fail over time.  
  • Secure the rear wheels with chocks once raised. This prevents the car from rolling forward or backward.
  • A fire extinguisher should be kept nearby when changing oil. Oil and other automotive fluids are highly flammable.
  • Use caution when working underneath a raised vehicle. Never get under a car supported only by a jack – use sturdy jack stands.

Step-by-Step DIY Oil Change Instructions

Now let’s get down to business! Here is the complete process for safely changing your oil and filter at home:

Step 1: Drain the Old Oil

  1. Park your car on a flat, level surface and set the parking brake. Ideal locations are a driveway or garage floor.  
  2. Pop the hood and locate the oil filler cap. Remove the cap – this allows air to flow into the crankcase as the old oil drains out.
  3. Raise the front of the vehicle using a hydraulic floor jack. Place jack stands underneath the recommended support points described in your owner’s manual.  
  4. Remove the drain plug, typically located on the bottom of the oil pan near the rear of the engine. Place your drain pan underneath to catch the outflow of old oil.
  5. Allow the oil to drain completely until the flow slows to an occasional drip. This can take 10-15 minutes. Be patient!

Step 2: Changing the Oil Filter

  1. Locate the oil filter assembly on the engine block. An oil filter wrench is the best tool for removing old filters that are on tightly.
  2. Before unscrewing, position your drain pan to catch any oil held inside the filter. The filter may contain up to 1 quart of dirty oil when removed.
  3. Unscrew the old filter counterclockwise and continue turning by hand once it breaks loose. Drain any remaining oil into the pan.  
  4. Use a clean rag to wipe the filter mounting surface on the engine block. Look for any debris or old gasket material. 
  5. Apply a thin coat of fresh oil onto the gasket of the new filter before screwing it on. This helps it seal properly.
  6. Tighten the new filter by hand until the gasket contacts the mounting surface, then tighten about 3/4 to 1 full turn further. Do not over-tighten.

Step 3: Adding New Oil

  1. Install the drain plug back into the oil pan. Use a torque wrench if you have one to tighten to the exact factory spec. If not, tighten it well by hand using a wrench. Do not strip the threads.
  2. Lower the vehicle back to the ground by raising the jack, then removing the jack standing one side at a time.
  3. Locate and open the oil filler cap on top of the engine valve cover. This provides essential ventilation when refilling. 
  4. Place a funnel into the filler hole. Slowly pour in new oil, periodically checking the dipstick. Stop when within the safe operating range. Do not overfill.
  5. Replace the filler cap when finished refilling the oil. It helps to top off a little at a time and recheck the dipstick frequently for accuracy.

Step 4: Final Steps

  1. Start the engine and let it idle for 30 seconds. Check underneath for any leaks at the oil drain plug and oil filter gasket interface. Tighten further if any seepage occurs.
  2. Turn off the engine and wait 5 minutes to allow oil to drain back into the pan. Then recheck the oil level on the dipstick. Top off if needed.
  3. Dispose of used oil and filters properly. Many auto parts stores and local recycling centers accept these hazardous automotive fluids. Never dump down a drain or trash can!
  4. Record your oil change date and mileage for future reference. Most cars need oil changes every 5,000-10,000 miles or 6-12 months. Refer to your maintenance schedule.

And that concludes the full DIY oil change process! With the right tools and supplies, plus following these instructions, you can feel confident doing your oil changes moving forward. Your vehicle’s engine will reap the rewards of fresh oil and filters with each oil change.

Final Words

Changing your car’s engine oil and filter at home is one of the best ways to maintain your vehicle for the long haul. While it may seem intimidating as a beginner, this detailed guide has equipped you with everything you need to know to perform DIY oil changes safely and smoothly. The small investment in tools and supplies will pay dividends for years through the money saved on professional oil changes. 

Your vehicle will also benefit from using high-quality oil and filters with each oil change. Just be sure to always refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended oil specs and change intervals. Follow the steps outlined here, take the proper safety precautions, and you can ensure your car’s engine stays in peak condition for the long run.

As you delve into the comprehensive guide on “How To Change Car Engine Oil At Home,” take a moment to consider an essential prerequisite – the optimal engine temperature—wondering about the waiting period? Explore our guide on “How Long to Let Engine Cool Before Adding Oil” for the crucial details.

This seamless integration of information ensures your journey towards proficient car maintenance flows effortlessly, providing a holistic understanding of the entire process.

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