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How to Change Your Car Engine Oil

Changing your own car engine oil is easy and it'll save you money

How to Change Your Car Engine Oil; Once you've changed your car engine oil once, you'll wonder why you've not been doing it yourself this whole time.

Every keen home mechanic starts somewhere, we don't all jump in at the deep end changing a gearbox or doing an engine conversion, most people start with a humble car engine oil change. An oil change is a simple part of a service you should be doing to your car annually or around every 10,000 miles (Your vehicle handbook should provide exact service intervals), it's something you can do yourself to save a bit of money plus isn't too overwhelming when it comes to spanner skills.

Change Engine Oil, What you'll need*:

There is a small range of tools that you'll need, however consider them as an investment as it could be the foundation of a tool kit that will grow and regularly save you money on car maintenance as your skill set also increases.

*It's also advisable to use relevant safety equipment such as work gloves and goggles / safety glasses

**This is for the Sump Plug which is commonly 17mm but can be different for each vehicle so please check

How to - Step 1:

Make Sure your vehicle is parked on a secure and flat surface, like a driveway, make sure the handbrake is firmly applied.

Run your car engine for approximately 5 minutes to warm the oil, this will help with the draining. Whatever you do, DO NOT let your vehicle get up to full temperature, it will make the oil dangerously hot, plus components like your exhaust will become scalding to touch.

While you're running the engine it might be a good time to take a note of your mileage so you will know when its next oil change will be due.

How to - Step 2:

Time to get the front of your car in the air! A handy tip before you start is to check if you can see your sump plug under your car and work out which side will offer you the easiest access to it, once you've worked that out we'll begin the process of jacking up the chosen side.

Start by chocking as many wheels as possible, the wheel diagonally opposite the jack will take most of the lifting pressure*. Now locate the correct manufacture recommended jacking point (consult handbook) and slowly raise the car from the ground ensuring the jack is always at a 90° angle from the body of the car and nothing is slipping or moving in a dangerous manner.

Once the front side is raised, ALWAYS support it with at least one axle stand, making sure it's in an appropriate place (check handbook for manufacture recommendations) so to not damage your vehicle.

*An example would be, if I'm jacking the front near side up, the rear off side will take the most pressure.

How to - Step 3:

Locate the sump plug / oil plug, normally it's located back centre of your sump. Place your oil drip tray below the bolt, expect the first few gushes of oil to be projected forward slightly so adjust drip tray if need be.

Loosen the sump plug with a spanner / socket set, then unwind the remainder by hand, take the last few turns slow and remove the plug. Find a safe place to store the sump plug for a few minutes.

How to - Step 4:

Normal Spin on Oil Filter:

Car Engine Oil Spin On Filter

Now locate the Oil filter*, fit your oil filter wrench and firmly rotate / loosen it in an anti-clockwise motion. Once able to, remove the wrench and finish removing the filter by hand, expect more oil to drain when the seal is broken and remember the filter will have a fair amount of dirty oil in it... so try not to spill it.

Grab the new oil filter and lubricate the seal with fresh oil, then clean, with a cloth, the engine fixing point / seal that you've just removed the old one from to ensure a perfect seal for the new filter. Being careful not to cause any cross threading, your new filter should spin on freely in a clockwise rotation, no need for the filter wrench just tighten firmly by hand.

*If the oil filter location means you've got to adjust the drip tray location away, simply pop the sump plug back in, only at finger tightness, to stop the flow of oil.

Cartridge Paper Element Oil Filter:

Car Engine Oil Cartridge Filter

Locate the Oil filter housing, normally cartridge filters are accessible from the top side of the engine bay, sometimes in a isolated location away the engine block. Remove the top cap, use a filter wrench if required or look for a bolt fixing on top to simply remove with a spanner. Once you've got the assembly out, the old oil filter will either pop off or rotate off of the top cap. Before you reach for the new oil filter, clean the top cap with a clean cloth and the filter housings thread in the engine bay. If your top cap has a replaceable O ring, now's the time to swap it out for the new one.

Installing the new oil filter is as simple as pop / rotate (same as removal) fitting into the top cap, lubricating the top O ring of the top cap and Bottom O ring on the filter (if present) with fresh oil and screwing it back into the housing while being careful not to cause any cross threading, once you've tightened the top cap all you can by hand you should nip it tight with a spanner / filter wrench... don't overdo it though.


How to - Step 5:

This is a nice and simple step, time to take the vehicle off the jack & axle stands* so the vehicle's nice and flat, allow gravity to finish the last bit of the oil drain into the drip tray. Give this about 5 minutes or as long as it takes to not have any flow of oil from the sump plug, it helps if you remove the top fill cap to allow any air pressure to be released.

Once you're happy that all oil is drained, safely jack the car back up and apply the axle stands as you did in step 2 and slide the drip tray out.

*If you put the sump plug back in to move the drip tray, now is the time to remove it and re adjust the drip tray.

How to - Step 6:

If you've a new sump plug or a new crush washer it's time to fit them now, once you're happy, it's time to tighten the sump plug to the correct torque setting (recommended by your vehicle manufacturer) and clean any excess oil thats been spilled on your engine block or surround components.

Once again, but for the final time, lower your car down off of its jack and axle stand(s), you can now also remove the wheel chocks.

How to - Step 7:

Time to fill your engine with oil. Remove the top engine oil cap and grab your funnel, the funnel will really cut down on mess. Before you start pouring remove the dip stick and give it a quick wipe so you don't get any false readings.

For the first part of the fill you will be able to pour about 3 to 3.5 litres* into the engine in one go. Keep adding oil and checking the level by using the dip stick. Once you have filled the engine to the correct amount (see markers on dip stick, normally the top mark is full) then replace the top engine oil cap and run the engine for a couple of minutes, this will flow the oil around all of the components / cavities inside the block, then wait a few more minutes, this allows oil to drain back to a resting position, re check oil levels with the dip stick and add more oil if necessary.

* Some modern / small cc engine only take a small amount of oil so please use this statement as a guide only

How to - Step 8:

So you're pretty much done, not much left to do here apart from let your vehicle run while you pack away and clear tools up, while your vehicles running keep checking for any leaks from the oil filter and sump plug.

If you notice any leaks then turn your engine off immediately, let the car cool is necessary, and tighten the leaking item, if leaking persists then remove sump plug / filter and check O rings or washers for incorrect fitment. Once the leak is fixed remember to check oil levels.

Important: Always dispose of used engine oil and oil filters responsibly.

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