How to Change Oil in a Car Step by Step Guide
There is something captivating about doing some maintenance tasks on your vehicle: changing your car oil yourself is one of them. Besides saving you a few bucks, being able to do an oil change allows you to understand how your vehicle works. This is the first step towards detecting signs of wear early enough and prolonging your engine’s lifespan.
5 Signs How to Tell If Your Car Needs Oil Change
Ticking, Knocking, and Rumbling Noises
The oil you put in the engine lubricates the mechanical parts in the engine so that they rub smoothly. As the oil gets dirty and thin, it loses its lubrication ability. This causes the metallic parts to bang each other, producing rumbling noises.
A Trail of Blue/Gray Tailpipe Smoke
If you notice plumes of gray or thick blue smoke from the exhaust, that’s a clear sign that the oil is seeping into the combustion chamber. Besides reducing fuel economy, leaking oil is a telltale sign of other underlying issues, such as a malfunctioning valve and failed piston rings. Consider having the engine checked for proper diagnosis.
Color Change from Amber to Black
In the course of collecting heat, soot, and metal chirpings, the oil will change from its usual amber color to black soot. Additionally, the accumulation of carbon changes the oil into a thick sludge. To check the oil’s quality and color, remove the dipstick and wipe off the residual oil. Next, insert the dipstick in and remove it again. If the oil residual is amber to dark color, it’s probably fine. However, if it’s black and thin, it’s time for an oil change.
Burnt Oil Smoke in the Engine
Often the smell of burning oil inside the cabin happens when the oil is leaking and dripping on hot engine parts. It would be best if you didn’t ignore this smell as oil dripping onto the exhaust area can result in a fire. Also, leaking oil will ultimately lead to low levels that could cause engine damage.
Dashboard Oil Light On
There are several reasons why the oil pressure light on the dashboard illuminates, but the most common is low oil level. If this happens while you’re driving, it’s advisable to pull over- when it’s safe- and check the oil level. If there’s no other underlying problem, adding or replacing the oil should turn off the light.
How to Change Oil in a Car Step by Step
If you know how to change your car oil yourself, it becomes very convenient and economical to carry out the recommended motor oil checks. A well-lubricated engine not only runs smoothly but it also extends your vehicle’s value.
Unlike what most lube shops make you believe, changing your own oil is a relatively easy task. The process starts by getting the correct type of oil for your vehicle. This should be indicated somewhere in your car’s manual, although you can also enquire online. Collecting the necessary tools for changing engine oil beforehand will also make the entire process a breeze.
Materials and Tools Needed When Changing Car Oil
- Jack stands, hoist, or ramps depending on ground clearance
- Oil filter sockets for removing the drain plug
- Oil filter wrench for removing the filter
- Oil drain pan to catch drained oil
- A funnel
- Oil pump (necessary in most German-made vehicles, such as BMW)
- Old rags to clean the mess
- A flashlight (not a necessity but great for illuminating dark crannies)
- New Oil
- Oil change nitrile gloves
- New oil filter
Step 1: Jack the Car Up
Before adding new oil into the engine, it’s important to drain the old and dirty oil first by unscrewing the drain plug. Since most modern vehicles are pretty low to the ground, accessing the drain plug under the engine often requires jacking the car up to create enough ground clearance. A pair of ramps or jack stands will fit the bill if you don’t have a sophisticated hoist or car lift system installed in your garage. Note that most modern vehicles have a plastic under-engine cover to shield certain engine components from stones flung off the road. In most instances, you’ll need to remove this cover first to get to the oil pan and drain plug.
Step 2: Unscrew the Drain Plug
After removing the undertray, locate the drain plug- this is usually a large bolt or plug that requires a socket wrench to unscrew. Before loosening the plug, be sure to have the oil drain pan ready to catch the dirty oil. With the drain pan in position, loosen the plug counterclockwise using a socket wrench first, and then unscrew it completely using your hand. The dirty oil will flow out into the catch pan as soon as you remove the plug, so be ready to get your hand out of the way fast. Give the old oil 5-10 minutes to drain completely.
Step 3: Locate the Filter Assembly and Remove It
Car manufacturers suggest replacing the oil filter every time you change the oil. The oil filter is a metallic cylinder situated beside the oil pan and may be white, blue, black, or orange. You might be able to loosen the oil filter by hand, but often, we find it necessary to use a band or spider wrench. The latter will come in handy if the canister oil is not easily accessible.
Whether you’re using your hands or a wrench, the oil filter loosens counterclockwise. If you’re using a wrench, we recommend loosening the canister up to the point where you can unscrew it completely using your hand to prevent the oil from splashing all over. Ensure that you have your receptacle in place to catch the dirty oil.
Once the oil starts gushing out, give it a minute or two to drain entirely before unscrewing the canister out. After removing the filter, use a rag to dry most of the oil from the sealing surface. Importantly, double-check that the old filter’s O ring came out with the canister as it may prevent your new filter from sealing correctly.
Step 4: Replace the Drain Plug and Replace the Filter
At this point, it’s time to seal the crankcase ready for the new oil. Start by screwing the drain plug back. Note that if your vehicle’s drain plug has a crush washer (the one that deforms to create a better seal), you’ll need to replace it with a new one to prevent leaks. To replace the plug, screw it with your hand first and then tighten it until it’s snug. Avoid overtightening as this may damage the nut or the oil pan itself.
Next, it’s time to replace the filter. Before screwing it into its place, stick your finger in the new oil and wipe it around the gasket. This helps in creating a better seal besides making it easy to remove the filter assembly next time. Lastly, screw the canister back on using your hands so that it’s snug.
Step 5: Add New Oil
With the drain plug and filter in place, it’s time to put the new oil into the engine. To do this, lift the hood to access the engine bay and locate the oil filler cap. It should have either the word ‘oil’ or an oil-can outline at the top. Using a funnel, add the manufacturer-recommended amount of oil into the engine and replace the cap before closing the hood.
Step 6: Ensure No Leakages
Having added new oil, it’s time to circulate it around the engine and check for leaks. Start the engine and let it run for about 30 seconds before turning it off. Next, inspect the area around the drain plug and the filter to ensure no leaks. If there are no leaks, replace the undercover and lower the vehicle down.
Finally, double-check the oil level. Having run the engine for a few seconds, you may find it necessary to add a little more oil. If it’s within the recommended level, pat yourself on the back! Your first attempt on how to do an oil change on a car was successful.
Can I just add oil to my car instead of getting an oil change?
Topping up the existing oil should be fine as long as it’s ‘clean.’ However, if you keep adding new oil into old and dirty oil, your engine will be running on oil with lower viscosity. Eventually, the oil won’t have sufficient lubrication to prevent wear and tear in the moving parts, leading to expensive maintenance costs and repairs.
How often does oil in a car need to be changed?
The traditional advice is to change the oil every 3000 miles (approx. 4800 kilometers) or after every 6 months. However, most lubricant manufacturers say that newer cars can have oil change intervals of 5000-7500 miles.
How long to wait to start the car after oil change?
If the oil pressure light has gone out, it’s safe to drive as soon as you start the car, put on your safety belt, and adjust the mirrors. So, 20-30 seconds is enough for the oil to circulate in all parts of the engine.