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FAQ:  Changing Your Oil

"How-To" Compiled from Member Discussions

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Necessary Tools

A 14mm socket or wrench.

Roasting Pan, 12x16 Photo Developing Tray, or even a proper Oil Disposal System (recommended).

Optional: Oil filter wrench.  Not necessary unless you overtightened it last time you did your oil.

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The prep will take longer than the oil change, but it's just a few easy steps to make your next one a breeze:

Make sure your engine oil is just slightly warm, but not hot.  If the car hasn't been run for several hours, start it up and run it for about a minute or two, or even longer in very cold weather.  On a really hot day or if your car has been sitting in the sun, you can skip this.   Conversely, if the engine is hot, it will be much safer and more comfortable if you can let the car cool for a couple of hours.

Half-fill a large plastic cup or 1-Qt. pitcher with oil and leave it in the sun for 1/2 hour or so, or give it about 30 seconds in your microwave.  Slowly pour the oil into the top of the new filter until it's almost full, then tap it a few times to dislodge any bubbles.  Top it off again in about 10 minutes, and tap it again, then repeat in another 10 minutes.  When you're ready to install the filter, top it off with oil and tap it once more.  Rub oil liberally all over the included rubber ring.

If you don't like oil stains in your driveway, or there's a chance that a hostile spouse will cause you bodily harm if you spill a bit, plan ahead.  Put down some cardboard in the area between the wheels and approximately in front of the bumper to the firewall.  You could always use sawdust or kitty litter or a plastic dropcloth to do the same job, but cardboard is just a bit neater.  And it's more comfortable, especially if you don't have a mechanic's dolly when you slide under the car.

Assemble your usual array of greasework cleaning supplies beforehand:   Rags, paper towels, work gloves, waterless hand cleaner, and some kind of grease-cutting solution for cleaning up any drips from the undercarriage.

Finally, make sure that your car is SAFE for you to slide under:  Set the Emergency Brake tightly, leave the car in 1st, and use jack stands to support the car once you have jacked it up.  If you're light on shop gear, you can always drive your car up on a couple of flat rocks to get the front end a few more inches off the ground .  Whatever method you use, take the time to chock the wheels for a bit of added protection.

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Lie down on the cardboard at the front of the car.  Depending on the height of your jack stands, you'll be able to slide under the car more or less easily.  Slide and center the disposal tray under the oil drain plug.  It's located toward the front of the oil pan, on the left front side of the pan (driver's side).

Armed with the 14mm socket, your workgloves and a rag or two, loosen the drain plug counter-clockwise.  (As you are facing the plug, the top of the plug moves to the left to unscrew it!)  Once it turns freely, if it isn't too hot, unscrew it the rest of the way by hand.  As you feel it get loose, be prepared for the oil to shoot out a bit...  Now would be a good time to check the position of the pan, and plan for the trajectory of the oil.  Try to anticipate the plug's final turn, and try to hold on to it.  Give the oil 10 minutes to drain and drip completely. Clean and replace the plug in the oil pan by hand, turning clock-wise, and making sure it turns freely and is not mis-threaded.  Tighten well with the socket wrench, but don't over-tighten it.

You probably won't be able to see the oil filter, but if you reach up, a little closer to you than the drain plug, you can feel it where it is threaded into to the bottom of the engine block.  Conveniently, it is attached with the open side facing upwards, in the same orientation as your pre-filled replacement filter.  Remember that the old filter is full of oil, and a couple of ounces will flow out of the engine block, so reposition the disposal pan underneath as you unscrew it.  Rotate it counter-clockwise to remove it, and try to keep it upright so as not to spill the oil it contains.

As you are about to install the new filter, feel your way around where you removed the old filter until you feel the threaded stud which protrudes from the engine.  You're basically doing this "blind", since few people get their cars jacked up high enough.  No problem, since even without being able to see, it goes on pretty easily.  Be careful not to misthread the new filter - as you are twisting it on it should rotate easily for several turns.  If it gets hard to turn after one or two rotations, you almost definitely have misthreaded it, and you should remove it and start over.  If you have a good access angle, hand-tightening is sufficient, but you may give it another 1/4 to 1/2 turn with a filter wrench, if you like.

Using dry paper towels or a lint-free rag, clean up all excess oil that may have dripped or smeared on the oil pan and on the filter itself. If you want to really do it right, lightly dampen a rag with non-oily mild liquid degreaser or paint remover, and wipe off the filter and the entire oil pan.  Dry with another clean rag.

Finally, remove the oil filler cap and use 4 Qts. of Mobil-1, which is the preferred oil of most of us at Team3S, or your own favorite oil. Remember that you have oil in the filter, so you probably want to leave it at that.  After you drive your car for a few miles, check the oil level and top it off, if necessary.

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That wasn't too hard, was it?  If you've been following this guide, you have probably just completed your first oil change.  You have the satisfaction of knowing it was done right, and you probably saved $20 to $30, too.



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