Changing your car’s oil is a necessary part of your vehicle’s maintenance. The liquid lubricates the engine and ensures that the combustion process continues to function. Throughout time and use, the oil degrades and becomes contaminated with dirt and metal particles, rendering it less effective.
With the right tools and a little know-how, you can change your oil at home — for a lot less than even the cheapest mechanic charges. While it’s not a complicated process, minor mishaps can lead to issues that require costly fixes. It can also get a little messy, so here’s everything you need to change your car’s oil smoothly.
Equipment You’ll Need for the Best (And Cleanest) Experience:
- Safety goggles
- Chemical-resistant gloves
- Jack stands or ramps
- Wheel chocks
- Oil filter wrench and sockets
- Oil drain pan
- New oil and filter (be sure to check what type of oil your car requires)
- New drain plug gasket
If you’ve just driven your car, don’t change your oil right away after stopping because it will be hot. Let it cool down for about 30 minutes, with the hood open, before getting started. Also, if your car has been sitting cold, Napa recommends running it for about 3 minutes before changing the oil because warmer oil runs drains easier.
Wear safety goggles and gloves to protect yourself from splashes and you’re ready to get to work.
Since you’ll need to jack up your vehicle to change the oil, make sure you’re parked on a level surface. If using the street, make sure you aren’t violating any local laws by changing your oil there. Also, beware of working on slanted driveways; you’ll likely be safer just to do the job in the garage, if possible.
Use a jack to raise the front of the car. Wheel chocks are also recommended to help the tires from rolling while you work. Open the hood and pull out the engine oil dipstick, as this helps the oil drain easier.
Spread your drop cloth below the car. Loosen the drain plug and let the catch pan capture the oil as it flows out. Allow it to drain for several minutes. Wipe the pan threads and oil drain plug with an old rag if you’re reusing it. Just be sure there are no signs of wear and tear. Otherwise, replace it with a new plug.
Oil filters are usually screwed on really tight, so having a good oil-filter wrench will come in handy because it allows you to get a good grip, even if the filter is greasy and slippery. The oil filter might be a screw-in type under the engine, on top of the engine or a cartridge that you can access from the top of the engine. If it’s the former, place the drain pan under the car to catch the oil.
The best oil-filter wrench will be tough, durable and comfortable to grip, allowing you to do your job without it slipping from your hand. Double check you are purchasing the right size for the filter you are removing, or you can pick up a set with two wrenches that fit multiple filters. If you need a wrench, check out our expert-vetted selections for the best oil filter wrenches.
Loosen the oil filter enough that oil starts to come out and drip down into your receptacle. Before installing your new filter, make sure the thin rubber O-ring is ready to go on the new one otherwise it won’t seal properly. Put a light layer of fresh oil on the new filter’s gasket so it installs smoothly.
Tighten the drain plug back up using your hand. You do not want to make it too tight or it can cause serious damage, so finger-tight or a little past that should suffice.
Next, add fresh oil using a funnel to prevent spills. Pro tip: Pour the oil with the bottle’s spout at the top, as this will allow for proper air flow into the bottle and prevent spurts of oil exploding on your engine.
Recycle the old oil by pouring it into a large jug and taking it to a place that accepts used motor oil. Most AutoZone locations accept old oil, but you can visit earth911.com to find a place near you that will recycle it.
Make sure all caps get tightened back on by hand, including the dipstick. Shut the hood and remove the jacks. Let the car run for a few minutes to make sure it’s functioning properly. Check around the oil filter and under the car to be sure nothing is leaking. Once you’re in the clear, you’re good to go!