Good vehicle maintenance begins with getting oil changes regularly. If you want your car to continue to run smoothly, don’t wait until your oil light comes on to perform an oil change. Waiting too long will damage your engine and, consequently, your wallet.
Changing oil is considered basic vehicle maintenance and isn’t difficult to do once you understand what equipment you need and what steps to take. Plus, doing it yourself has the added benefit of saving you the time and money you’d be spending at the shop. Follow along to learn how to perform an oil change on your own.
When do I change my vehicle’s oil?
Changing your oil every 3,000 miles or three months (whichever came first) used to be the general rule of thumb. But due to engine and oil advancements, most car manufacturers now recommend waiting anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 miles or six months to a year. Where your car falls on that scale depends entirely on the type of vehicle you own and your driving habits.
First and foremost, refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to better understand your engine’s oil change schedule. It’s the best guide you have for keeping your car healthy and safe on the road.
Second, evaluate how your driving habits affect your engine. If you don’t drive regularly or only for short distances, the oil in your engine won’t have time to get hot enough to burn off moisture. This means you should probably do an oil change earlier than what your manual recommends. Other factors that may shorten the time and mileage between oil changes include:
- Driving in very hot or very cold weather on a regular basis
- Driving in places with a lot of dust and dirt in the air on a regular basis
- Towing heavy loads on a regular basis
What equipment do I need?
You’ll need the following equipment to change your car’s oil efficiently:
- An oil filter wrench
- An oil pan
- A funnel
- A dipstick
- Latex or other tough gloves
- Oil filter
- Replacement plug
- Optional: Jack or ramps, depending on if you can access underneath your car without them.
If you are deciding between using synthetic or conventional oil, please note that synthetic oil is considered higher quality and lasts significantly longer than conventional oil. This also means it costs more. Many vehicles don’t require synthetic oil, but if you don’t drive a lot or drive short distances, pull heavy loads or experience extreme weather conditions regularly, it is your best option to extend the life of your motor.
Select an oil filter based on the mileage interval you are following between changes. If you want to save money and have more time between oil changes, don’t use a cheap filter with expensive synthetic oil. The filter won’t last, and you will have gotten the higher-quality oil for nothing.
I have everything I need. How do I change my oil?
The basic procedure is simple. Follow these six steps to change your oil:
- Consult your owner’s manual to find the location of your oil filter and drain plug.
- With gloves on, drain the oil into the pan.
- Tighten the drain plug to avoid any leaking.
- Remove the old filter and replace it with the new one.
- Add the clean oil.
- Check the oil level with your dipstick to confirm you’ve added the correct amount.
If you are wondering how to dispose of the old oil you just drained, most auto part retailers will accept used motor oil. You can also check if your area has a hazardous waste disposal program to throw it away safely.
Congrats! You performed an oil change on your own.
Depending on the type of oil and filter you used, you just saved anywhere from $25 to $75!
If you still don’t feel comfortable changing your car’s oil, find your nearest AAA Car Care Plus or AAA Approved Auto Repair shop to get the job done. AAA members save 10% off labor and get exclusive oil change prices.
Not a member yet? Review the benefits and join today.