The Do’s and Don’ts of Changing Your Oil

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oilchangeIn order to become an expert in any given area of knowledge, we sometimes have to get our hands dirty to truly get a beneficial learning experience. When it comes to automotive, there are no shortage of parts that you have the ability to tinker with on your car or truck, but maybe you’re looking to start small. With busy schedules and demanding lives, we often turn to auto shops to deliver the solution for every squeak we hear and every light that blinks at us from our dashboards.

Did you know that changing the oil on your own vehicle is a relatively simple procedure? For anyone who wants to know more about how their car works, or anyone who simply wants to be able to do more basic maintenance on their vehicle, learning how to change you car’s oil is a great way to get started.

Because auto-repair shops have to charge more to cover operational costs in addition to increasing profit margins by selling you add-ons, there’s a definite economic advantage to changing your own oil. Plus, there’s the personal satisfaction of doing the job on your own.

Whether it’s your first time fiddling under the hood or you have been doing it for years, taking the time to review these step-by-step do’s and don’ts of changing your oil will help ensure you’re doing the job right and keeping your engine healthy and happy.

  • DO check your car’s owner’s manual to determine what oil type and weight your vehicle requires. Just like woodworkers always say to measure twice and cut once, you should check twice and pour once.
  • DON’T get under a car that is supported only by a jack. Make sure your vehicle is elevated by a jack stand or ramp.
  • DO start your engine and let it run for five minutes to warm up the oil if your vehicle has been sedentary. Alternatively, if you’ve been driving around and the engine is still hot, let it cool for 30 minutes prior to beginning the oil change.
  • DON’T use an adjustable wrench or socket to loosen the drain plug. Always use the correct size tool.
  • DO wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot oil and make sure to have plenty of rags on hand to clean up.
  • DON’T use the good cast-iron pan for a drain pan. Use a proper drain pan and make sure it’s in the right place to catch the oil.
  • DO remember to lube the top seal or gasket of the oil filter before installing. Neglecting this step can result in a loose-fitting seal that may become unthreaded and leak oil.
  • DON’T neglect the oil filter. You can save a little money with an economy filter, but for just a little extra you can buy a much better filter that will last twice as long. If you’re one of those people who sometimes forgets to change your oil every 3,000 miles, this is especially important.
  • DO fill the oil tank with the amount of oil recommended in the manual. Also, double check the dipstick and oil level after you’ve added the recommended amount, as you may need a little more.
  • DON’T use any tools to tighten the oil filter back in place. It needs only to be hand tight.
  • DO dispose of your used oil properly. Funnel the used motor oil into the empty oil containers left over from the fresh oil you just put into your car and bring it to a motor oil recycling location.
  • DON’T forget to put a new gasket on the oil drain plug before you reseal it. When tightening the drain plug, don’t go overboard with your ratchet or wrench. Remember, you’ll have to be able to remove it again to change the oil next time. This, too, should be hand tight.

While these are just a few steps to get you started with changing your oil, there is endless opportunity associated with working on a vehicle. Educate yourself on the proper techniques and mechanics that are required when taking on an automotive project, don’t ever be afraid to ask for guidance from trained expert, and remember to head over to to find your next auto project!

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