While it’s true that you won’t get far without fuel, oil is truly the lubricating lifeblood of the modern combustion engine. Filling an empty tank might cost you $50 or $60, but replacing an engine that has suffered thermal or viscosity breakdown costs thousands of dollars.
As the engine runs, oil begins to break down at a molecular level, while the oil filter becomes clogged with impurities. When it’s time to change your oil, many opt to visit their local lube shop and let the pros handle it. But the rewards of doing this reasonably simple job yourself include convenience, getting your hands dirty, and the satisfaction of knowing that the job was done right.
First, you’ll need to gather up all your tools and materials. This will include new oil & filter, a drain pan for catching the used oil, a funnel, and a socket or wrench set.
Next, decide if you’ll need to get the car off the ground. If so, use ramps or a jack AND jack stands. As any mechanic will tell you, NEVER get under a car supported by a jack only. Warm up the engine a little; this will help the oil flow out better.
Locate the drain plug. Place the pan beneath it, and use your chosen tool to loosen it. Remove it, as well as the gasket, taking caution not to drop the plug into the pan. But if you do, a magnet is the cleanest way to remove it. Be aware that oil will begin to flow as soon as you remove the plug, and it may flow at an unexpected angle.
It’s now time to remove the filter. Its location varies by make and model, but whatever you have, there will still be oil in it. Remove it by screwing it counter-clockwise, ensuring that the gasket(s) comes out with it.
Install the new filter and gasket(s) according to the manufacturer’s specs, and rub some new oil along the new gasket and the threads. This will make future removal easier. DO NOT OVER- OR UNDER-TIGHTEN. Optionally, you can put a little oil in the filter before installation.
Once all the oil has drained, replace the drain plug and new gasket, and pour the new oil into the fill hole. Replace the cap, close the hood, run the car for a minute, and recycle your used oil. Many garages and recycling centers recycle used motor oil; search the internet to find one in your area.
The last step is also the most important: have a cigar to congratulate yourself on a job well done!