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DIY Everything: How to Change Your Oil

By Garrett Davis - April 10, 2020

If there’s one maintenance item you can do yourself, it’s changing your own oil. It’s easy, you can save yourself a few bucks, it’s a good thing to teach your kids, and you don’t have to worry about the people down at EZ-Joe’s Lube & Check Cashing messing something up on your pride and joy — something that’s unfortunately common.

While we’re all finding ourselves with more time than we know what to do with right now, what better time to save a few bucks and learn a useful skill? Obviously this guide will be pretty generalized, but it should apply equally to just about any semi-modern vehicle out there with an internal combustion engine.

What You’ll Need:

  • Oil (check your manual for how much and what weight)
  • Oil filter
  • Filter wrench/strap wrench
  • Standard wrench or socket set
  • Drain pan
  • Jack, jack stands, or ramps (depending on clearance)
  • Funnel (or some computer paper can work)
  • Gloves

How to change your oil:

  1. Find out what oil and filter you need
  2. Lift the vehicle if necessary
  3. Remove under tray or skid plates (if equipped)
  4. Find the drain plug, filter, and prep
  5. Drain the oil
  6. Replace the oil filter
  7. Add new oil
  8. Clean up, dispose of oil

Oil FAQ:

What the heck do these oil weights mean? 10w30? 5w20?
These numbers dictate the viscosity of the oil at different temperatures. The lower the number, the lighter the oil is, and easier it will flow. The first number before the “w” is the cold (w stand for winter) rating, and the number after the “w” is the viscosity of the oil at 210 degrees F.

What weight oil should I use?
Use what the manufacturer recommends. Period. Like I mentioned before, you can go down a seriously unproductive rabbit hole in car groups and forums with everyone arguing what weight they use and how everyone but them is wrong. Don’t bother. Just use what your manufacturer recommends, no matter what Skooter says.

Synthetic or dino oil?
I always recommend synthetic, and more and more cars are coming with it from the factory now. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s generally better than conventional oils, and isn’t reliant on our finite supply of fossil fuels. If your engine used synthetic in the past, use synthetic. If you’re not sure, use synthetic. It’s worth the extra few bucks.

How often should I change my oil?
Go by what your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends. Back in the day this used to be a blanket 3,000 mile interval, but modern oils and engine tolerances have evolved to the point where this is almost assuredly overkill (unless the manufacturer still says this is the case). It’s likely in the ~6k range, but some manufacturers like Ford have raised that recommendation to as much as every 12k miles in recent years.

Boom, you’re done!

About the Author

Garrett has something of a sickness when it comes to cars, working on everything from Jeeps, to sports cars, to over-engineered German nightmares. Currently he is embroiled in an Audi Allroad offroad project, and is slowly losing his grasp on sanity.