How to Change the Oil in your Car in 9 Quick Steps

Changing oil in a vehicle may seem like a daunting task that is best left to professionals. However, with the right tools, preparation, and proper oil then all it takes is a little ambition to change the oil in any car. Also, changing the oil yourself can save a lot of money.

Tools You Will Need to
Change your Oil in Your Car

  • Jack – ensure that it is rated to lift the weight of your vehicle safely. Vehicle weight can be found in your owner’s manual
  • Jack Stands – again, ensure that they are rated for the weight of your vehicle.
  • Tire chocks — or large blocks that are preferably wood
  • Oil – refer to your owner’s manual to determine which oil is best for your vehicle, or speak with an expert at the local car parts store when purchasing the oil.
  • Oil Drain Pan – Do not drain old oil into the street, yard, sidewalk, or any random bucket.
  • Crescent wrench or drive socket – this will be used to remove the drain plug in the oil pan. Check your vehicle before beginning to determine what tool is needed to remove the plug from your oil pan.
  • Oil Filter – consult professional at an auto-parts store to determine right filter for your vehicle.
  • Filter Wrench

Step 1 - Buy Your Supplies

Go to your local auto parts store with your vehicle information. You will need the year, make, model, and what drivetrain it has. Ask for assistance in selecting the best oil and oil filter that you will need. Also, purchasing a filter wrench will make the job far more convenient when removing the old oil filter. Don’t forget to buy a drain pan while there. Expect your vehicle to drain about 5 to 8 quarts of oil, so purchase a container that can hold that much fluid.

Step 2 - Prep Your Vehicle

Park your vehicle on a flat surface, and make sure that the engine has time to cool before beginning the oil change process. Place your blocks behind the rear tires, engage the parking brake, and jack up one side of the front of your vehicle. Please note that the oil pan is always in the front, so this is where you will be working from when changing the oil. Jack up one of the front tires while being mindful about leaving space to put a jack stand in.

How to change the oil in your car

Step 3 - Jack Your Car Up

Place a jack stand under the lifted tire where it can rest on the frame of the body. A piece of wood or 2x4 block of wood may help provide some additional clearance while working under the car, but do not try to stack multiple pieces of wood on top of the jack stand. Once the jack stand is secure and lined up with the frame of the car, slowly release the jack so that it lowers the vehicle gently onto the awaiting jack stand. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the opposite side. Do not risk leaving the jack under one side, instead of using a jack stand, while working under the vehicle.

Step 4 - Locate Drain Plug

Grab your drain pan and tool needed to remove the drain plug from the oil pan on the underside of the car. Most of the time, the plug will be square and require a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch-drive socket to remove it, and it will be sitting flush with the oil pan. Occasionally the plug will be a bolt that is protruding slightly from the oil pan and will require a box wrench, socket set, or crescent wrench to remove it. Wear some clear safety glasses since oil will sometimes splatter once it hits your hand or the drain pan.

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Step 5 - Remove Drain Plug

Loosen the drain plug and remove completely to allow the oil to flow freely from the oil pan. Ensure that the drain pan is lined up correctly, keeping in mind that the initial flow will be more aggressive before slowly tapering off as the oil drains. This can require adjusting the drain pan a couple of inches as the oil decreases in flow.

Step 6 - Change Oil FIlter

Locate the oil filter and remove the old one while the oil pan is draining completely. Turn the oil filter upside down and let it pour into the drain pan for up to 24 hours. Check city requirements for proper disposal of used oil and oil filters as it can be illegal to throw used oil filters in some locations.

Step 7 - Install New Oil Filter

Open your new oil filter. Rub a small amount of excess oil, both old or new oil are acceptable for the gasket, on the rubber gasket of the new filter. This will help improve the seal once you screw the new filter onto the nut. Some people prefer to fill their oil filter before putting it on, but it is not necessary since it will fill once you pour the new oil into your vehicle. Also, the new filter can be put on while the oil pan is draining, but if the oil filter is full, then the new oil will immediately flow out of the oil pan. Hand tighten the filter, and the bump it once or twice with a filter wrench, it does not need to be cranked on tight.

Step 8 - Put Drain Plug Back

Put the drain plug back into the oil pan, tighten securely. Gather your new oil and funnel, if desired, and find the oil fill spot under the hood of the vehicle. The fill spot will occasionally be the same hole where the dipstick goes, but consult the owner’s manual to be sure. Slowly add oil until you are approaching the amount that is designated in the owner’s manual for engine capacity. The last quart should be added slower to ensure that you do not overfill the engine, and the dipstick should be checked regularly while adding the final quart. It is a good idea to start and run the car for a few minutes to let the oil cycle through the engine since this can sometimes decrease the reading on the dipstick.

Step 9 - Remove Jack Stands

Jack the vehicle up one side at a time and remove each of the jack stands out from under the car, staying mindful of slowly releasing the jack when lowering the vehicle. Finally, clean up, remove the blocks from behind the rear tires, and properly dispose of the used oil.

There you have it. Nine simple steps to an oil change that can be performed in 15 to 20 minutes in your own driveway. It is easy to save money by doing oil changes yourself, especially once the initial tools are purchased. After that, it just takes some time and ambition to knock out an oil change for a fraction of the cost of a shop.

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