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Hey, you're in the vehicle / car zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Cars / Trucks / Vans Category: Oil

Maintenance Issues:

How to change your engine / motor oil and oil filter.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Socket driver / socket wrench

  • Adjustable oil filter wrench

  • Rags, newspapers or work blanket/tarp (for oil spill control)

  • A large pan (to capture running/draining oil of about 4-6 quarts)

  • Appropriate engine / motor oil  (see section on how to choose the right oil)

  • Appropriate oil filter

  • Appropriate constant velocity (CV) joint boots

  • Funnel

  • Vehicle ramp (or jack stands) (in either case, make sure the ramp or jacks is covered with a rubber pad so as to not damage any part of the vehicle off of which the vehicle is lifted from the ground)

  • Wheel chocks

  • Pliers

  • Owner's manual


The engine / motor oil in your vehicle must be changed at least every 7,500 miles / six months of regular vehicle use (in any event, be sure to check with your vehicle manufacturer, such as consulting its issued owner's manual, to confirm the oil-change period to maintain your specific warranty).  An oil filter should be changed at least during every other oil change.

Caution: When dealing with anything that may be potentially hot (in this case, hot oil), make sure you take precautions to avoid contact with it.  Additionally, make sure your vehicle is securely supported when working underneath it.

To change the engine / motor oil and oil filter in your vehicle, do the following:

  1. Run your vehicle for about 15 minutes.  This is important to do because the warmth generated as a result of the engine's running will cause the oil to be drained to drain faster than otherwise would be the case with "cold" oil.

  2. Drive the vehicle into your work area (be it a garage or what have you), and safely drive over and park on a vehicle ramp so as to provide you with more access underneath the vehicle, particularly where the oil will be drained, etc.  While the front portion of the vehicle is on the vehicle ramp, be sure to correctly push in a wheel chock behind each rear tire; refer to the instructions of the wheel chock manufacturer as necessary.

  3. If necessary, briefly consult your owner's manual for the location of your oil-drain plug of your engine so that you will have a general understanding of where it will be when underneath your vehicle.

  4. As you see fit, place rags/newspapers/a work blanket/tarp underneath the front portion of the vehicle, especially in the area underneath the oil-drain plug, where work will be performed as a proactive measure to mitigate any oil spill, and have a large pan (to capture running/draining oil) ready for use.

  5. Once the vehicle is securely and safely supported by the vehicle ramp and wheel chocks, and your rags/newspapers/a work blanket/tarp is in place, position yourself underneath the vehicle.

  6. Find the oil-drain plug underneath the engine and then, before attempting to loosen it, put your large pan directly underneath it.

  7. With the pan already positioned to collect all the oil that will be drained from the hole that will be "unplugged," use a socket wrench to loosen the oil-drain plug.

  8. Once loosened, knowing that relatively hot oil is about to be drained out, take corresponding necessary actions to protect yourself from unnecessary exposure to this hot oil, including positioning yourself just enough to just use your hand to actually remove the plug for the oil to begin draining, all the while not blocking the drain flow from the engine drain hole to the pan you previously directly positioned underneath with any part of your body.  As may be necessary, move the pan to ensure that you capture all of the draining oil as is possible.

  9. Once the draining of the oil slows to a trickle and finally comes to an end, use a rag to wipe off any old oil remnants found around the edges of the oil-drain hole and on the oil-drain plug itself.

  10. Just before putting it back in, coat the oil-drain plug's gasket with new oil appropriate for your vehicle.

  11. Put the plug back in the oil-drain hole, screwing the plug back on by hand and then carefully using a  socket/wrench to tighten as necessary.

  12. Now, find the existing oil filter to be replaced.  Such a filter is most often found to be installed on the side of the engine.  (However, in some circumstances, of course, you may have noticed if it is applicable to you, the oil filter may be found in the actual oil-drain hole you just "plugged up" with the oil-drain plug; in that case, removal of the oil filter is done with a pair of pliers--at which time you should make sure to remove the O-ring that is a part of the oil filter in the event it separates from the oil filter itself, too, and then the new oil filter replacement is inserted by hand in the hole, just after first coating the ring edge of the new filter with new oil appropriate for your vehicle.)

  13. Make sure your oil pan is positioned under the existing filter to collect any oil remnants if you have not already done so.

  14. Now, use your adjustable oil filter wrench to unscrew and remove the existing oil filter.

  15. Use a rag to wipe off any old oil remnants found around the edges of the engine that previously came into contact with the old oil filter before it was removed.  Also, while it rarely happens, make sure the rubber stripping of the old filter is not stubbornly attached to that part of the engine area; if so, rip this old rubber off.

  16. Just before screwing on the new oil filter, first coat the rubber stripping of the new oil filter with new oil appropriate for your vehicle.

  17. Then, screw the new oil filter into place where the old filter used to be by hand,


    making sure not to over-tighten since it can be relatively easy to inadvertently damage the relatively delicate surface of the engine to which the filter is most often attached to--aluminum. Just be sure it is tightened enough to prevent oil leaks and nothing more than that.  You should never use a an oil filter wrench to tighten, except in rare circumstances. For example, if after you hand-tighten the new filter and turn on your engine only to see the filter spring a oil leak, then you can use a filter wrench to carefully tighten the filter.

  18. Upon securely attaching the filter in place, now look to the top of the engine to find and remove the oil filler cap.

  19. Upon the removal of the cap, take your funnel and insert it in the hole that appears from the removal of the cap.

  20. Pour approximately 5 litres (or 4 quarts) of the new oil appropriate for your vehicle into the funnel for your engine's use.  (Check with your owner's manual to confirm whether 4 quarts of new oil is sufficient; also refer to the section on how to choose the right engine / motor oil for your vehicle if you have not already done so.)

  21. Once you have finished pouring the new oil appropriate for your vehicle, put the oil filler cap back into place to seal the hole on top of the engine.

  22. As a test, turn on your vehicle so that your engine can run for about 2 minutes to see if any oil leaks from the oil filter or oil-drain plug.

  23. Use the dipstick to check the oil to see if more is actually needed. (Please refer to the section on checking oil and using the dipstick for this process.) If the dipstick shows there is sufficient oil, then you're done with the task of pouring more oil.

  24. As a housekeeping chore, make sure to clean up all oil remnants with a rag, and to properly secure the old oil collected in a pan by pouring it in a closable container of some sort and then to properly dispose of it by dropping it off with a local recycling agency, a hazardous waste agency or even a local mechanic shop (if there is a shop that accepts such).

  25. Incidentally, it would be a good time to check on the condition of your four constant velocity (CV) joints, each one of which is found at the ends of the two shafts that start at the differential and extend to the wheels:  Inspect for any cracks in the boots of the CV joints, which is often accompanied by lubrication being expelled from such crevices; if they are cracked, replace them immediately.

That's basically the routine of helping to keep your vehicle's engine humming.  Make sure to keep up with this routine in order to keep your vehicle properly maintained.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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