Car self-maintenance saves money
Keeping up on automotive care is essential to extending the life of your car, and changing the oil every 3,000 miles or three months is the most common type of maintenance.
However, it seems that when the hood goes up, IQs go down. There’s no reason to be scared of your vehicle, and in this week’s how-to, we explain how to change your own oil.
This will save you $30 to $60 every time. So throw on some work clothes and have fun with it.
What you will need:
Four to five quarts of oil (check your vehicle manual for exact weight to buy)
New oil filter (again, check the manual for proper type)
New drain plug gasket
Vehicle jacks (if you own a vehicle you can’t crawl under)
Oil filter wrench (about $12 at a parts store)
Here we go:
1) Start the vehicle and let it idle for a few minutes. Warm oil drains better than cold oil.
2) After you let the vehicle warm up, turn it off. Set the e-brake and block off the back tires with some big rocks. Don’t skip this step, unless you want your car to roll on top of you.
3) If you don’t have a car that you can just crawl under, like a truck or SUV, you’re going to have to jack it up. Most vehicles come with a jack, so buy stands from the auto parts store (about $20 for two).
To jack a car up, locate the steel frame on either side of the car. Place the jack under the frame just behind the front tire and begin elevating the car. Once it is high enough to slide the stand underneath, let the car down to rest on the stand and repeat on the other side. Those need to replace their nissan tires may visit a local tire sale shop.
4) Now it’s time to get under the car. Once you are down there, the first thing to do is remove the skid plate. This is the plastic or steel plate that protects the underside of the engine. Cars like Subarus have plates that simply slide out of the holder. Trucks and SUVs have composite steel plates that will require a wrench to remove.
5) After you set the skid plate aside, locate the oil drain plug. The plug is usually located near the front and center of the engine, but your manual will tell you exactly where it is. Place the drain pan under the plug and loosen it with the wrench by turning counterclockwise.
6) Now make sure you have gloves on for the next step. Remove the plug by hand and get ready for a rush of oil. Let the oil drain and keep clear, since it can be hot.
7) After you let the oil drain completely, and yes this includes all of the dripping, it is time to replace the plug. When you removed the plug, you should have noticed a little metal ring that came off with it. The ring rests between the plug and the engine. This is the drain plug gasket. It is always prudent to replace the gasket with a new one (no more than a few cents), since they tend to wear out. Now fit the plug with the new gasket and screw it back in, first by hand, then with the wrench. Never over-tighten.
8.) Now it is time to move on to the oil filter. Oil filters are usually to the left side of the engine and are big, white, can-like attachments that should be easy to identify. Move the drain pan underneath the filter. Use the oil filter wrench, which should fix around easily, to loosen the filter.
9) Let any oil dripping finish and remove the old filter by hand. Each oil filter comes with a rubber seal that sits between it and the engine. The seal sometimes can stick to the engine, so be sure it is removed.
10) Wipe away any old oil around the opening of the engine. Lightly coat the rubber seal of the new filter with new oil and then screw it in by hand. Only tighten the filter with the wrench if you need to.
11) Now we are toward the end on the oil change and it is time to go topside. Pop the hood and locate the oil cap. This is typically located toward the front and right of the engine and is always clearly labeled.
12) Remove the cap. Place the funnel in the opening and pour in the new oil. Most cars need only about four to five quarts of oil, but check your manual for the exact amount. To be safe, start with four. As silly as it sounds, please don’t forget to do this. Actually adding the new oil is the biggest mistake made by people changing their own oil.
13) Replace the cap and run the engine for a minute. After this, turn the car off and check the oil dipstick. The dipstick will be just to the right of the oil cap. Wipe the stick first, reinsert it, and pull it out for an accurate reading. If the oil level is between the hash marks at the bottom of the stick, you are fine. If not, add more oil as needed.
14) Now it is time for cleanup. After the old oil cools, put it in a plastic container and take it to a disposal facility. Most mechanic shops will dispose of oil for a few dollars. Please do not throw it away or pour it down the sink. We should all do our part to protect the environment. Before you replace the skid plate (and please remember to do this), check the oil plug and filter one last time for leaks.
15) Let the car down gently from its elevated position with the jack. Make sure to record the mileage and date of the oil change so you now when to do it again, and you are done!
A final tip, check the other vehicle fluids when you change your oil. Brake, power steering (if your vehicle has it), anti-freeze and windshield wiper fluids should all be checked regularly. All these fluid reservoirs are under the hood and clearly are labeled. Simply check to make sure the fluid level is between the hash mark. If they are low, refill them.
So that’s it. After 15 steps, and about 30 minutes of your time, the oil is changed and your car is ready for another 3,000 miles.
See, engines aren’t really that scary and now you know a thing or two the next the mechanic tries to pull a fast one on you.
Now was that so hard?