Most experts now agree that the old 3,000 mile rule for oil changes is over-kill. However, none will argue that regular oil changes are still one of the most important ways to keep your car running for as long as possible. Also, it’s a fairly simple job and can be done cheaply at home.
Like any job, the first step is to gather the right tools and equipment. You will need four to five quarts of oil for most cars. Pickups and V8s will generally need eight. You will need a large pan or tub to catch the old oil, a replacement oil filter, lots of rags and wheel chocks.
For tools you will need a socket wrench, an oil filter wrench, a funnel and a ramp or a jack.
Jack up the car
Let your car run for about five minutes before getting to work. Warm oil is much more cooperative than cold oil. Park on a flat surface and jack up your vehicle. Be sure to block the raised end of the car and chock the back wheels. Or, if you have them, elevate the car with ramps.
Now pop the hood. Open the oil filler cap to get air flowing in the system.
Open drain plug
Now it is time to get underneath the car. Locate the drain plug, which is generally near the transmission bell housing. If you have trouble locating it, consult your manual. And if you don’t have the manual, it can most likely be found online with a quick search.
Position your drain pan under the plug. Loosen the plug with the socket wrench. The oil may come out hot, so be careful. Allow the old oil to drain out into the pan. Now put the plug back in. Finger-tighten it first, then cinch it up with the wrench, but don’t over-tighten it.
Replace oil filter
The oil filter can generally be found on the side of the engine. Again, a manual may come in handy here. Have the drain pan ready underneath, as oil may spill out. Turn the old filter counterclockwise with the oil filter wrench. After loosening it, remove the filter by hand.
Before putting in the new filter, wipe a little of the new oil around the gasket to ensure a tight seal. Screw in the new filter by hand. Make it snug, but don’t over-tighten.
Put in new oil
You can get up now. The hard part is over. Put the funnel in the oil filler hole and pour in the new oil. Replace the filler cap. You may want to also run your car for a minute to get the oil circulating, then turn it off and check the oil level with your dipstick.
Make sure to dispose of the old oil in an environmentally acceptable way. In most areas, you can take it to any service station. Some may charge a nominal fee for disposal, but if you call around, you should be able to find a shop who will take it off your hands to sell to recyclers.