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How To Change Motor Oil

by Ruby Bayan

What is an oil change?

Your vehicle's engine is lubricated by motor oil. Without the oil, the engine's moving parts will overheat and lock up. It is, therefore, important that the motor oil is clean and efficient.

Why is there a need to change oil?

Motor oil loses its integrity over time and as it gets exposed to the heat, pressure, and combustion inside the vehicle's engine. This is why vehicle manufacturers recommend that motor oil be changed every 3000 miles or three months, whichever comes sooner. When the oil becomes stale, dirty, and inefficient, engine performance suffers, and the risk of engine failure rises.

Steps for changing motor oil:

Here in the USA, it is highly recommended that oil change be done by authorized service centers because there are strict rules regarding the disposal of used motor oil. If you decide to perform the oil change yourself, be sure you have contacted your local auto center or fire station for proper disposal or recycling.

Also, make sure that the new oil that you are planning to pour into your engine is what your vehicle manufacturer recommends. Many types of motor oil are commercially available. Check your owner's manual, and purchase only what is appropriate for your vehicle. Remember to purchase the required quantity (between four and six quarts) because an incorrect amount can be detrimental to your engine.

When changing oil, you also need to change the oil filter. The filter collects grime and used oil deposits, therefore, you will want to have a clean filter when you pour in your new oil. Again, check your user's manual for the correct type of filter.

You will need several tools to perform an oil change: a ratchet or wrench to remove the drainage bolt from your vehicle's oil pan, a filter wrench to help you remove the oil filter, a drip (collection) pan to collect the used oil, and a clean funnel for pouring the new oil into the engine. You will also need some rags, plus a ramp to give you enough room to go under your vehicle.

Now, you're ready to do "the dirty job."

  1. Carefully drive your vehicle up the ramp. Shift to "Park", engage the parking brake, and turn off the engine.

  2. Open the hood and loosen the oil fill cap.

  3. Locate your vehicle's oil pan under the engine and position the drip collection pan under it.

  4. Unscrew the oil drainage bolt at the bottom of the vehicle's oil pan. Hold the drainage bolt firmly so it doesn't fall into the collection pan when the oil starts to pour out. With a clever maneuver, you can prevent oil from splattering all over your hand.

  5. Let the used oil drain into the collection pan.

  6. Unscrew and remove the used oil filter. Take note that the filter may drip.

  7. Wipe a small amount of oil on the gasket of the new filter and screw it on tightly enough to ensure a good fit that will prevent leaks.

  8. When all the used oil has drained off, screw the drainage bolt back into the oil pan.

  9. Use the funnel to pour the new oil into the engine. Then tighten the oil fill cap.

  10. Remove the collection pan, and drive the vehicle off the ramp. Check for leaks -- see if there are drips on the ground, or if oil is accumulating around the drainage bolt or the filter connection.

  11. Turn off the engine and check the oil level with the dipstick. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it off, dip it in, and pull it out again. Check against the notches on the stick if the oil level is adequate. Add more oil if necessary.

  12. Take the used oil to your nearest disposal or recycle center.

Check your oil level regularly, and top off as necessary. And change your motor oil as prescribed to guarantee your engine's top performance and optimum life span.

[First published at, 2000]


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