DIY Car Maintenance: Beginner’s Guide in Changing Oil

Oil change isn’t messy and hard as most people think, with the right tools, equipment and know-how, it’s a simple Do It Yourself (DIY) task. An oil change can sometimes be expensive if taken to an overpriced outlet with additional overheads like PCV valves and wiper blades or overpriced oil filters. You can however not avoid oil replacement as the engine will not run efficiently caused by oil filter getting clogged. You should regularly replace oil, every 3,000 miles or 3 months. We’ll provide you a step by step oil changing guide on how to DIY the oil replacement in your car.

Please read the article about the 12 best synthetic oils -- compared.

1 -- Lifting the Car

It’s important to practice caution when replacing oil, finding enough workspace or driveway with no flammable around is the first step. Let the engine run for about 5 to 10 minutes to heat the oil for natural flow when removing. Jack up the car on one side, after parking then apply the parking brakes and remove the keys. Place additional block restraints to the tires like wheel chock to ensure the tires remain on the ground. Let the oil cool down underneath the engine on the drain pan or recovery pan as the car stay still for 10 minutes. If unsure where to place the jacking points, then check the car manual for specifics.

2 -- Drain the Oil

Gathering the right supplies for the oil change will save you on not only time, but also efficiency as opposed to messy oil spills and frustrations.


Some necessary tools required are:

  • Rubber mallet
  • Wrench set
  • Rags
  • Safety glasses
  • Safety gloves
  • A funnel
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil Pan


A list of essential materials and equipment needed before the oil change are:

  • Container for used oil
  • Oil filter gasket
  • Oil filter
  • Engine oil


The right oil for your car is as essential as the oil filter. Buying the correct oil filter will ensure the efficiency and duration of the filter. An “Economy Oil Filter” contains Nitrile anti-drain back valve and a cellulose filter media encased in a fiber end cap painted glossy black working for only three months or 3,000 miles depending on usage. An alternative “High-Quality Oil Filter” has silicone anti-drawback valve and a bypass valve with metal construction holding a synthetic glass or cellulose filter media encased in a textured paint for firm gripping.

The choice of the filter will also depend on the manufacturer’s recommendation, for instance, your car may require an oil change every 6,000 miles instead of 3,000 miles. Thoroughly synthetic oil or a long-mileage synthetic blend may also get needed for an oil change.

Oil choice is also another important factor as going against the manufacturer’s recommendation may lead to poor engine performance or damage and even warnings to “Check Engine.” Oil viscosity and properties also affect the oil valve regulating the flow, so consulting the manufacturer’s guide manual is recommended.

3 -- Locating Oil drain plug

Locating the oil cap is the first step, you need to open the hood of your car and find a flat metal pan near the engine. Ensure it’s not the transmission drain plug by following the exhaust pipe, a tube that runs from the engine to the back of the vehicle, and below the engine, you will see the drain plug and oil pan. Find enough room and get a crescent wrench or a properly sized socket (Box-end Wrench) to loosen the plug clockwise. The felt gasket drain plug or paper can be replaced once removed and later re-used by using a metal washer once in good condition. This gets done once the oil has stopped running from the crankcase, a new washer then gets placed in the drain plug containing the gasket, plug, and drain.

4 -- Oil Filter Replacement

Locating the filter position or assembly model of your car is essential, it may be on the side, front or back of the engine. The filter looks like a can of soup; if you bought the right filter, then it might give you an idea of what you are looking for, it may be black, white or blue. The size ranges from a length of 4 to 6 inches (10.2 – 15.2 cm) and a width of 3 inches (7.6 cm). Once you locate it, ensure it is below the drain pan to avoid messy spillage; then try unscrewing by hand by steadily twisting it counter-clockwise. If it’s unlike the high-quality oil filter without the textured paint for gripping, then you will need an oil filter removal tool.

To avoid massive spillage, wrapping the filter with a plastic bag before removal and let it stay upside down as you work. Ensure the pan is also positioned to capture the excess spillage once you unscrew the oil filter and crank off the rubber gasket or peel it from the engine if it doesn’t come off with it.

When preparing the replacement of a new filter, lubricate the gasket by dipping it in new oil and smear some on its ring to create a good seal and for easy removal next time. A trick before installing the new oil filter is to pour small amounts of oil on it, helping it regain required oil pressure. This will reduce the time taken for the car to adjust to the new filter; you can fill it to the top if vertically placed and risk little spillage if angled. Tighten the filter slowly as per the specifications, ensuring it touches the gasket.

5 -- Adding new Oil

When adding new oil, consult the specifications form the car manual on capacity needed and the type of oil to use (10W-30W for most cars). Avoid reliance on dipstick oil check, but if you use it to check the required levels in the morning while avoiding bubbles in the oil by smoothly pouring the oil. One way is to use an oil funnel or a recapped bottle, also ensure there are no leakages or oil spills around the engine as it may lead to burnt oils, smoke or fire.

The final step is to place your car in a neutral or parking brake then, check the lights on the oil pressure gauge when you start-up your vehicle. Remember different cars have different responses so consulting your car manual is advised. As seen, this is simple enough for even those who’ve never done it before, a careful and methodical following of the above instructions will ensure your success in changing your oil.


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