In this article, we go over the procedure on how to change the engine oil in a car. We drain the oil from the oil pan and change the filer as recommended by most car manufacturers.
It is possible to change the engine oil by using an oil extractor. For help with that procedure see our guide on how to change engine oil using an oil extractor.
What you will need
First, let's take a look at some of the tools needed to change your oil.
- Oil filter wrench
- Oil drain pan
- Work Gloves
- Jack stands
- Metric Sockets
- Wheel Chocks
- Torque Wrench
- Jack up the car. The first step is to jack up the vehicle. You can drive the vehicle up on-ramps if you have them otherwise use a floor jack. Place the vehicle in Park. Turn the ignition off and remove the key from the ignition. Now you need to block the rear tires so that your vehicle does not roll when you are working underneath. Secure the vehicle with jack stands. Always secure the vehicle with jack stands. Place wheel chocks behind the rear tires to prevent the vehicle from rolling.
- Remove Splash Shield. Modern cars have a cover under the engine that needs to be removed. It is held in place with 10mm bolts or plastic screws. In some cases, you have a combination of both screws and plastic retainers.
- Remove all of them to drop the cover and access the oil pan.
- Place Drain Pan Under Engine. Before you remove the oil drain plug, slide an oil drain pan under the oil bolt.
- Remove the oil drain plug. Loosen the oil drain bolt by turning it counterclockwise. If removing the oil drain bolt is extremely difficult, then ensure that you are not turning the bolt in the wrong direction.
- Drain engine oil. If the engine is still hot be careful because the engine oil is going to be hot as well. It can cause burns if it comes in contact with your skin. Carefully, remove the oil drain plug and let the engine oil drain for several minutes.
Change Drain Plug Washer. Inspect your oil drain plug, it should have a copper washer. It needs to be replaced with a new one. Simply pull out the old washer and install the new washer.
- Install Drain Plug. Install the drain plug. Screw it by hand initially to avoid cross-threading. Use a torque wrench to tighten the drain plug. Do not use a breaker bar to tighten the drain plug. Tighten the drain plug as recommended by your manufacturer. The recommended torque should be in your owner’s manual. If it is not, call your dealer to get the correct value.
- Replace Oil Filter. Use an oil wrench to remove the oil filter. You should have the oil drain pan right under the oil filter as oil may drip from the oil filter when you remove the oil filter. It is recommended to pre-oil your new filter, avoid the engine running dry at startup. Place a little bit of oil in the gasket. This will make it easy for you to remove the oil filter at your next oil change and avoid oil leaks. Thread the new oil filter. The new oil filter should go in very easily. Don't force the filter, it should go on very easily. On certain vehicles such as BMW, Mercedes, Dodge, Chrysler the oil filter may be located on top of the engine.
Add the Recommended Quantity of Engine Oil. Next, you need to add engine oil. Do not start the vehicle until you add the required engine oil. Look at the top of the engine and locate the oil cap. Clean the area around the oil cap with a cloth. Remove the cap and place a funnel to add oil to your engine. Determine how much oil you will need to add before you start adding oil to the engine.
- Check Oil Level via Dipstick. If you had the engine running or you just added oil to the engine, you should wait at least 5 minutes for the engine oil to return to the oil pan. This will allow the engine oil to return to the oil pan so that you can take an accurate measurement. Wait a few minutes and recheck the engine oil level.
What type of engine oil do I need?
The easiest way to find out what oil your car uses is to look at the oil cap or owner's manual. The oil viscosity is usually printed on the oil cap. If it is not, then you need to find the owner's manual. Find the recommended fluids and lubricants section.
Here you will be able to see the recommended oil type, the standards the oil should meet, and the quantity of oil needed.
API oil specifications requirements are also printed on the bottle. Ensure that you will get the right quantity of oil as stated in your owner's manual.
You can choose between synthetic and conventional motor oil.
We would recommend synthetic oil over conventual oil. If you decide to use full synthetic motor oil, then you can go longer between oil changes.
If you are using conventional oil, change the oil every three thousand miles.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I change the engine hot or cold?
- There is a lot of discussion on this topic whether you should change the oil when the engine is hot or cold. If you try to change the engine when the oil is hot, you risk burning yourself. It is ok to change the engine oil if the oil is warm. The thing to keep in mind is that you may have some residue oil left. A very small amount that you don't need to worry about. If you want to get as much of the old oil out, let the engine sit overnight. Raise the car but do not start the engine. Remove the drain plug and let the oil drain. This is the best method to remove as much of the old oil as possible.
- How much does it cost to change the oil?
- Anywhere from $19.99 to $150. A four-cylinder engine that takes 5w30 or 0w20 such as a Honda Civic or Ford Focus will only cost you about $20. A Mercedes-Benz E-Class that takes 8.5L synthetic oil and fleece oil filter may cost as much as $150 at the dealer. Two of the main factors that play a role in engine oil cost are the oil type (synthetic, synthetic blend, conventional) and oil quantity required. Oil filter quality and how easy it is to remove may also play a role in the price of an oil change.
- How often should I change engine oil?
- Conventional Oil - Every 3,000 miles
- Synthetic Blend - Every 5,000 miles
- Synthetic Oil - Every 7500-10,000 miles (verify owner's manual)
- Can I change the engine oil at home?
- Yes, you can. Follow this guide. We hope that once you go over all the steps you will feel confident about the procedure to change the engine oil at home.
- Can I change engine oil once a year?
- While the age of oil can play a factor in the engine oil life, you need to pay closer attention to the miles driven. If you drive very little (under 5,000 miles) and use synthetic oil, you should be ok with changing the oil once a year.
- Can I change engine oil but not filter?
- No. You should change the oil filter at the same time that you change the engine oil. Oil filters do not last forever and if not changed regularly they will not filter the oil or even worse clog. In which case the oil may bypass the oil filter altogether, which is a situation you don't want as you may shorten the life of the engine.
- Is it necessary to change engine oil every year?
- Yes. Most drivers should change the engine oil at least twice if not more per year depending on the oil type. If you put about 15,000 miles per year which is the national average in the US, you should change the engine oil at least twice per year. Assuming that you are using synthetic oil and a good oil filter. If you use conventional oil, you should change the engine oil every 3,000 miles or in this case 5 times per year. How do you know if you need conventional oil or synthetic? Look it up on your owner's manual. Look at the bottle of oil that you purchase, it will say conventional or synthetic oil. It's ok to switch to synthetic oil. Most modern cars use synthetic oil.
- What is the recommended frequency to change engine oil?
- Every makes have different oil change interval recommendations varying from 3,000 to 10,000 miles. Here is the general rule: If using conventional oil type, change the engine oil every 3,000 miles. When using synthetic oil, change it every 7,500 miles and you will be safe. Make sure to use a quality oil filter when going for the long oil change intervals.
- Should I change the engine oil before or after storage?
- Change the engine oil after storage. Oil can lose its lubricating properties when sitting for an extended period of time. Change the engine oil if your car has been sitting for a long time.
- What happens if I don't change the oil?
- You are shortening the life of your car. Sludge may build up. The engine may start to knock. Most importantly bearings will wear much faster. You may not notice any symptoms right away, but you are causing premature wear to your car engine.
- How much oil do I need to add?
- Check on your owner's manual. Every car has a different capacity. There is no correlation between the number of cylinders and oil capacity. Some 6 cylinder engines require only four quarts while others may require eight quarts. Always check the owner's manual. You don't want to overfill or underfill.