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How To Change Your Car Oil In 5 Steps

April 15, 2024

mechanic pouring new oil into a vehicle

Learning how to change car oil is one of the most basic maintenance skills, as well as the most important. 

Changing your own oil will save you time and money, and as a mechanic, it’s one of the tasks that’s performed the most. After years of us working on vehicles, we guarantee that this is one of the best projects you could work on to get familiar with cars.

We’ll dive into the step-by-step process on how to do an oil change—with these tips, you’ll be doing them in your sleep. We don’t recommend sleepwalking and fixing cars, they just don’t mix.

For more vehicle maintenance how-tos, check out the rest of our blog.

Preparing To Change Your Oil

Before you get started, you’ll need some tools for your oil change:

  • Ratchet
  • Socket set
  • Funnel
  • Oil capture container
  • Jack with jack stands OR ramps
  • Rags for cleanup
  • Gloves (optional but recommended)
  • Safety glasses (optional but recommended)

And of course, new engine oil and a new oil filter.

What Kind Of Oil Does My Car Take?

The type of oil your car takes depends on your engine. You can usually find your required oil grade stamped on the engine oil cap and your car’s owner’s manual. If you’re having trouble finding this information, you can always ask the employees at the store you’re buying your supplies from.

For a quick search, we recommend going to AutoZone’s site to find out what kind of oil your vehicle uses; it’s typically reliable.

When To Do An Oil Change

Knowing when to change your oil will help preserve your engine and keep your car running smoothly. 

The frequency at which you should change it depends on your vehicle and the engine, with older vehicles needing a change every 3,000 miles, and newer vehicles being able to run for 5,000-7,500 miles before they need maintenance.

Your owner’s manual will have all the information you need to stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance needs.

Quick Safety Guidelines

  • Don’t work on your vehicle if you just turned it on. You have to let it cool down first otherwise, you could get injured.
  • Try to use gloves and safety glasses since things will get dirty and you don’t want anything to fall into your eyes when you’re under the vehicle.
  • Don’t use only a jack – make sure you support your vehicle with jack stands!

Now that you have the bases covered, let’s get started with these 5 oil change steps.

Step 1: Lift The Vehicle

You’ll have to lift your car so you can access the plug and drain the old oil. 

There are a couple of different ways you can get your car off the ground: you can either use a car jack and jack stands or a ramp. 

When using a ramp, have someone guide you to avoid missing the ramps and lodging them under your vehicle. Once you get the vehicle on the ramps, place wooden blocks behind the rear wheels for added safety. 

If you’re using a car jack, you’ll need to place jack stands to hold the car up. For your safety, NEVER work underneath a car that is held up using only a jack. There are too many stories out there of people getting hurt because the jack gave out.

Step 2: Locate Your Oil Pan And Drain The Old Oil

Once you have your car off the ground, locate the oil pan. 

The oil pan is usually large and dips down near where the engine is relative to the bottom of your car. To access the oil pan you’ll need to use your basic hand tools to remove the undertray. Most undertrays are held on using bolts, screws, or plastic clips. Newer vehicles are fitted with plastic undertrays to improve aerodynamics, but they are still removable using basic tools.

Once you’ve removed the undertray, you should see a plug that keeps the oil in the pan.

Place your oil capture container underneath the plug and remove the drain plug by turning it counterclockwise with the proper wrench. Hold onto the drain plug as you remove it, as the oil will start pouring out as you pull it away from the pan. 

Let the engine drain for a few minutes until the flow of oil has slowed to a trickle. When it has finished draining, replace the plug and undertray.

Step 3: Replace The Oil Filter

Once you’ve drained your oil pan, it’s time to locate and replace your engine filter.

Make your way to your car’s hood and open it. You will find your filter near your car’s engine, but if you can’t locate it, refer to your owner’s manual. Some oil filters can be unscrewed using your hands, but if you find that it’s giving you a hard time, you can use a wrench

You can position your oil catch pan under the filter to catch any residual oil remaining inside the filter to avoid any unnecessary spills. Next, take your new oil filter and apply a light coat of oil around the rubber gasket on the top of the filter—this helps create a proper seal as you tighten the filter.

Remember to make sure the old seal didn’t get stuck in the oil filter housing!  You cannot double seal your oil filter, as all the oil will spill out.

Step 4: Lower Your Car And Add The New Oil

Now, it’s time to lower your vehicle and put the new oil in.

With your car back on all four wheels, locate the oil cap. This will be near your engine and usually has an oil-can symbol on it. Use your funnel to fill the engine.

How Much Oil Does My Car Need?

The amount of oil your car takes depends on your engine size. This information can also be found in your owner’s manual, as well as online. 

Step 5: Check Your Oil Levels

Wait a few minutes for the new oil to settle, then use the dipstick to make sure your oil is at the proper level. If you find that it’s low, simply add more of the new oil. 

Congratulations, you’ve just changed your oil! 

How To Change Car Oil FAQs

Can I just add oil instead of changing it?

This is also known as topping off your oil. The trouble with this is that older oil breaks down and its viscosity decreases, impacting its ability to properly lubricate the engine. Combining old and new oil can also contaminate the new oil.

Is it worth changing your own oil?

Learning how to change car oil will help you save money on oil changes and time spent driving to a dealership or mechanic shop, and help you learn more about your vehicle. If you plan on working as a mechanic, this is one of the most important skills to know. 

How hard is it to change my car’s oil by myself?

With some guidance and patience, changing your car oil is one of the easiest car maintenance tasks you can undertake.

Now that you know how to change oil, don’t you want to learn more about vehicle maintenance? WyoTech gives aspiring mechanics, technicians, and welders a hands-on learning experience so they can enter the workforce with real experience. 

Check out our 4 core programs and turn your passion into a career.