Basic Auto Repair and Maintenance: Oil Change Instructions

Changing the oil on a car is a fairly standard procedure. Although it is technically considered maintenance, performing an oil change is not much more difficult than filling with gas or replacing windshield wipers; generally it is just a little more time-consuming.

The first thing to do before beginning an oil change on your vehicle is to determine what sort of oil your vehicle uses, and how much. Also determine what oil filter should be used. For this information consult your manual, local auto repair shop, or look online (Autozone's website provides free information).

Next, gather the necessary tools. Essential tools are a box-end or socket wrench for removing the drain plug, an oil drip pan, and paper towels. Possibly optional items include a funnel, a work glove (for shielding your hand from the heat of the engine), and an oil filter wrench.

Oil filter wrenches come in two main styles, and if you're buying one, be aware that accessibility of the oil filter should at least somewhat determine which style you get. If there is a lot of space toward the end of the filter (you can easily look down the axis of rotation), get a filter that mounts to a socket wrench. You'll be able to use a socket extension. If there is plenty of space to the sides of the filter, but not a lot of room near the end, a strap-type filter wrench might be easier to manipulate.

To do the actual job, drive the car a bit, and then turn it off and let it cool for at least 15 minutes. This warms up the oil so that it flows better, but allows it time to drain back to the bottom of the engine. Locate the bottom of the engine. The engine may have various accessories bolted to it, but on the very lowest point of the engine will be a bolt that does not secure any other parts. This is the oil drain plug. Position your oil pan under this bolt, and remove it with the socket or box-end wrench. If your pan has a mesh cover, this will catch the plug. Otherwise try to keep ahold of it when it finally comes free.

Once the oil is draining, double-check to make sure it's going in the pan when the flow slows, and then move to the oil filter. This should be easy to locate - the new one provides a reference for what you're looking for. If it wasn't over-tightened, it should be easy to remove. Twist to the left and unscrew it from the engine. If it won't budge, use the filter wrench to loosen it. When the oil filter comes loose, it will drip oil, so tip it engine-side up as soon as possible. Apply a little clean oil to the rubber gasket of the new filter and twist into place. Slightly firmer than finger tight is the maximum recommended torque.

Next, replace the oil drain plug. This can be applied much more tightly, since it usually does not have a rubber gasket, and can be more easily removed with a greater mechanical advantage. Locate the oil fill port on top of the engine (usually a black cap marked "oil" or with a corresponding symbol). Fill the engine with oil to manufacturers' specifications, using the funnel if necessary.

Article Source: Robert C Wilson

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