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How To Change Your Oil: Step-By-Step Guide + FAQs

August 20, 2021

An oil change isn’t complicated, provided you’ve got the right tools, materials, and expertise. 

Unfortunately, do it wrong, and you may compromise the engine’s performance and lifespan.

But don’t panic.

In this article, we’ll go over how to change oil in your car and answer four FAQs associated with oil change, including how much it can cost.

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Let’s dive in.

How To Change Oil In Your Car: Step-By-Step Guide

Although an oil change may be a straightforward process, many car owners still get it wrong.

Why?

To perform a proper oil change, you should be able to identify specific parts of your vehicle. Moreover, you’ll need the right tools and materials.

In any case, if you have any doubts about the motor oil change process or are unsure whether you can do a good job, it’s best to request a professional mechanic’s help. They’d have the right expertise and tools needed to do a proper and safe oil change.

With that said, here’s the process you should follow to change your oil:

Step #1: Verify the amount and type of engine oil needed.

Before changing the car oil, it’s crucial to know how much engine oil (or motor oil) you need as well as what its specific weight and viscosity should be. 

You can refer to your owner’s manual for these details and other oil-specific requirements — for example, your car’s diesel engine requires synthetic oil for optimal performance. Remember that not using the right oil can adversely affect the engine’s lubrication and lifespan.

Step #2: Prepare your car for an oil change.

Spread a plastic sheet across a level surface, and then park your car on top of the sheet. The sheet will make the cleanup work more manageable if an oil spill were to occur. After that, start your car, let it run for around five minutes (to warm up the motor oil), and then turn it off.

But why?

Warm oil flows better and takes away some of the contaminants when it’s drained.

Next, you’ll need to:

  1. Engage your parking brake
  2. Use a jack to elevate your car securely
  3. Install jack stands for support
  4. Place wheel chocks to prevent the car from rolling

Step #3: Locate, loosen, and remove the oil drain plug.

The drain plug (aka sump plug or oil plug) is usually a long bolt head located beneath your vehicle’s oil pan (aka sump) under the engine block. And once you find the oil drain plug, place an oil drain pan (aka catch pan) underneath the sump plug.

Then, use a socket wrench or ratchet to carefully and slowly loosen and remove the oil plug or sump plug from under the oil pan. If the oil drain pan isn’t placed correctly, the engine oil may spill all over the place.

Step #4: Drain the dirty oil out of the engine.

As soon as you remove the drain plug, the motor oil will start to flow out.

Keep in mind that it could take a few minutes for all car oil to drain out. Ideally, you should let the dirty oil drain till it slows to a drip. At times, the dirty oil may flow out at an angle, so you may need to readjust the position of the oil drain pan to avoid any spills.

Step #5: Clean and reinstall the oil drain plug.

With a clean cloth, wipe the oil drain plug. Then, inspect the drain plug and drain plug gasket for any signs of damage.

In case any of these parts are damaged, you’ll have to replace them.

After that, lay the rubber gasket, reinstall the oil drain plug, and tighten the plug at the manufacturer-specified torque.

Step #6: Replace the oil filter (if necessary).

Using an oil filter wrench, remove the oil filter. And then, examine the oil filter condition to check if a replacement is required.

Now, the process of replacing the old oil filter will depend on what type of oil filter your car uses:

Step #7: Pour fresh oil into the engine.

After installing the oil drain plug and oil filter, it’s time to add fresh oil.

For this, you’ll first need to lower the car and open its hood. Then, remove the oil cap (usually has an oil can symbol) and slowly pour the correct quantity of new oil into the engine.

Step #8: Check the motor oil level.

You can use the oil dipstick to check if the new oil level is correct.

First, pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe it with a clean cloth. Then, reinsert the oil dipstick into its tube, pushing the dipstick in. Once again, pull out the dipstick and check if the oil level falls between the specified markings.

However, in some cars, an oil dipstick may not be available. In such cases, you’ll need to check the electronic monitor in the car to know the car’s engine oil level.

Step #9: Start the engine, shut it off, and recheck the oil level.

Reinstall the oil fill cap and turn on the engine.

The engine is turned on for a couple of minutes, then turned off, and allowed to sit for some time. After that, recheck the oil level and inspect the car’s underside to check for any signs of an oil leak.

If the oil level is below the specified range, top off the engine with more fresh oil.

Step #10: Dispose of the old oil.

The old oil (or used oil) must be disposed of properly.

And for this, you can transfer the old oil into a container and take it to a shop selling auto parts or an oil recycling facility.

In case any of these steps are beyond you, feel free to approach a professional mechanic.

Now that you know how the engine oil is changed, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions regarding oil change:

4 Oil Change FAQs

Here are answers to four commonly asked questions associated with oil change:

1. How Often Should I Change My Car’s Engine Oil?

There’s no definitive answer to this question.

If your engine uses conventional oil, your motor oil may need to be changed every 3,500 to 5000 miles. 

On the flip side, if you’re using synthetic motor oil, the oil change intervals are usually much longer — between 10,000 and 15,000 miles.

Essentially, change your engine oil slightly before the oil change interval specified by your vehicle manufacturer.

2. What Are The Tools Required For Changing My Car’s Oil?

Here are some of the tools that you may need for an oil change:

Additionally, for safety and cleanliness, you’ll need latex gloves, paper towel sets, safety glasses, and so on.

3. What Materials Are Needed For Changing My Car’s Oil?

Here are some of the materials that may be required for an oil change:

4. How Much Does An Oil Change Cost?

Getting your oil changed by a professional mechanic can cost between $50 and $125.

The cost varies depending on:

For a more accurate estimate, fill this online form.

However, if you’re replacing the oil and the oil filter on your own, you can expect to spend around $75.

Closing Thoughts

Changing the engine oil in your car involves several steps, and it’s crucial to do them right. Otherwise, your engine performance and lifespan could take a hit.
If you’re looking for a hassle-free and affordable way to change engine oil, reach out to RepairSmith — a mobile auto repair solution. Our ASE-certified mobile mechanics will come to your driveway to change your oil and take care of all your automotive maintenance needs!