Oil changes are critical to keeping your engine running smoothly. The service is routine, so why not learn how to do it yourself? A DIY oil change can save you money, time, and teach you a little about cars along the way. So, roll up your sleeves – let’s examine the pros and cons of changing your own engine oil.
DIY – You’ll Learn the Basics of Car Maintenance
Changing the oil in your car is one of the easiest automotive tasks. It requires only a few tools, and is relatively straightforward. Almost everyone who learned how to fix their own car started with changing the oil.
To learn how to change your oil, you can follow a YouTube tutorial, read a repair manual, or do a Google search. Also, if you have a mechanically-minded friend, you can get them to show you. If you’re searching for the information yourself, be sure to find a tutorial that is specific to your car (such as the year, make, and model).
One more thing: When you’re changing your oil, you must change the oil filter, as well.
Don’t DIY – You Could Do the Job Incorrectly and Damage Your Engine
Changing your engine oil is pretty simple, but when you don’t know what you’re doing, you have to be careful. Oil is used to lubricate your engine’s internal components and the consequences of messing it up can be serious – and expensive.
Some things you may do incorrectly are:
• Using the wrong type of oil
• Not tightening the drain plug to the correct specification
• Not tightening the oil filter enough
• Adding too much or too little oil
DIY – You Can Save Money (But Not Much)
You will save money by changing your own engine oil, sure. But you probably won’t save as much as you would imagine. Oil changes can be done pretty quickly (and your mechanic is already a master of the 10-minute oil change). So, although you’re saving some money from not paying for someone else’s labor, you aren’t saving much.
Parts might be cheaper if you shop around. But don’t forget to factor in the time you invest picking the supplies up (time is money), as well as the cost of fuel. Mechanics don’t make a lot of money on oil changes because they’re quick and easy – it’s really up to you to decide how much your time is worth.
Don’t DIY – You May Not Notice Something That Needs Repairing
When is an oil change, not an oil change? Well, when you pay for an oil change, most mechanics will take the opportunity to have a brief look over your car to see if there are any other glaringly obvious issues.
Often, they will do a courtesy check that involves inspecting a list of items. For example, they will check the other under-hood fluids, along with the belts, hoses, tires, etc. If you’re not sure where to look, or what kind of problems you are looking for, you could just be asking for trouble.
DIY – You’ll Save Time
One inconvenience of dropping your car off at a shop is that you’re never the only customer there. We’d like to imagine that mechanics are just sitting around polishing their wrenches and waiting for us to give them some work, but that’s never the case.
You could always opt for a mobile mechanic (hello, RepairSmith!) to come service your car directly in your driveway, however, you’ll still have to book an appointment ahead of time.
With practice, you will eventually be able to perform a 10-minute oil change yourself, and although this may not save you a lot of money, it will save you a lot of time.
Don’t DIY – You’ll Have to Dispose of Your Old Oil
When you pay for someone else to change your oil, you’ll notice that on the invoice, there is often a ‘disposal charge’ or ‘environmental charge’. This is to offset the cost that the mechanic will incur from disposing of the old engine oil properly.
You can’t just dump old engine oil wherever you like because it can cause extensive damage to the environment. Your mechanic will usually store your old engine oil until they have several drums full and then pay for an oil change facility to recycle it.
DIY – You’ll Build Relationships with Your Local Parts Store
Car people are some of the best people on the planet. And guess what? When you go to buy everything needed for your DIY oil change, you’ll get to meet some of them working behind the counter.
Not sure if you need to buy oil filter part number NDISFU99993 or NDISFU99994? Your local car parts staff will be able to tell you.
Don’t DIY – Expensive Initial Investment
Remember what we said before about saving money? Well, it suddenly becomes less of a benefit if you don’t already own some tools. As a minimum, you’ll probably want to get a wrench, funnel, oil drain pan, and an oil filter wrench. You’ll also need a jack and a set of jack stands, as well as a space where you can work on your car. If you’re planning on working on your car, you’ll eventually need to buy this equipment anyway, but it’s something to consider when you’re planning a DIY oil change.