How to Change your Oil

Motor oil is the lifeblood of your car. Whether you drive a car with a gas-only engine or a hybrid, the oil must regularly be changed. Engine oil breaks down and gets dirty over time. Metal particles commonly accumulate in the oil, too. Old engine oil not only does not provide proper lubrication for your engine's moving parts, but the metal particles and dirt can also damage the engine. Here are the answers to questions you may have about this important part of maintaining your car.


Can I wait longer than 3,000 miles or six months to change the oil in my car?

Yes and no. Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles or four months. Always change the filter, too, when you do an oil change. Dirt and metal particles that have been filtered out of the oil can be picked back up and carried through the engine when the filter is dirty.


Are all types of engine oil the same?

No, all types of engine oil are not the same. There are three basic types of motor oil: conventional oil, synthetic oil, and conventional/synthetic-oil blends. High-mileage oils are different from non-high-mileage oils, too. They are formulated especially for vehicles with more than 75,000 miles. There are also different oil weights or consistencies. When you go to buy your oil, you will notice the containers have two numbers and a letter on them. A typical example is '10W40' or '5W30.' These numbers represent the weight of the oil and indicate which conditions it's formulated for, like hot weather or cold weather. The first number listed indicates the oil's winter weight and the second number indicates the oil's summer weight. The higher the numbers, the thicker the oil. 10W40 is a thicker oil that is better for hot climates while 5W30 is a thinner oil that is better for cool climates. Oil that is labeled with just the letters 'SAE' and a number is single-grade oil. SAE 10, for example, indicates only the oil's winter viscosity, like the 10 in 10W30.


How do I know what type of oil to use in my car?

Consult your owner's manual. This is much more important than many people realize. The manufacturer determines the best type of oil to use in a car during the design and manufacturing process. You can generally expect to get about 250,000 miles out of your car's engine if you use the oil recommended by the manufacturer.

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Is it really worth the extra money to get high-mileage oil for my old car?

Yes, it really is worth it. High-mileage oils aren't really that much more expensive, only a few dollars more for each quart, and they can extend the life of the engine. These oils are specially formulated to better meet the needs of cars that have over 75,000 miles on the engine. They lubricate better and even stop or prevent leaks. Special ingredients in high-mileage oils plump and soften old, brittle, worn-out gaskets.


How much oil should I put in my engine when I do an oil change?

Only use as much oil as the car manufacturer recommends. Look in your owner's manual. It will show you what type of oil to use and exactly how much to use. Most cars use 3 1/2 to 4 quarts. Put only as much oil in the engine as the manufacturer recommends. Don't overfill it by pouring that last 1/2 quart in because you don't want to leave it sitting around. Oil keeps fairly well. Just tighten the lid on the container and put it away until the next oil change.


How do I change the oil in my car?

Pick up everything you need at your local auto parts store. Be sure to get the manufacturer-recommended type of oil and filter as well as a banded oil filter wrench to remove the filter and a funnel. Make sure you have the right size wrench to remove the oil plug. If the owner’s manual doesn’t specify what size wrench to use, the auto parts store employee should be able to tell you. Buy an oil collection pan and a container that seals for the dirty oil. You will also need two ramps and tire wedges to keep the car from rolling after you put it up on the ramps. Safety glasses should also be worn. How to change your oil: 1. Drive the car up onto the ramps. It helps if you have a friend or neighbor there to help guide you. 2. Put the car in park and put the emergency brake on. 3. Push the tire wedges firmly beneath both back tires. 4. Let the car cool for 30 minutes or so if it is hot. 5. Put on your safety glasses. 6. Place the oil catch pan beneath the engine drain plug. 7. Use the wrench to unscrew the drain plug counter-clockwise. 8. Use the banded oil filter wrench to unscrew the oil filter counter-clockwise. 9. Let the oil drain out into the catch pan. 10. Open the first quart of oil, dip your clean finger into the oil and run your oiled finger along the threads inside the opening of the filter. This helps improve the seal. 11. Screw the filter on clockwise. Tighten it by hand then use the banded oil filter wrench to tighten it another quarter turn. 12. Put the drain plug back into the drain hole. Make sure the gasket is on the plug and still in good condition. Replace the gasket, if it is worn, to prevent leaks. Do not over-tighten the drain plug. Tighten it by hand until it’s snug then give it a quarter turn with the wrench. 13. Remove the engine oil fill cap on the top of the engine. 14. Insert the funnel. 15. Pour the motor oil into the engine through the funnel. Use only the recommended amount of oil. 16. Screw the fill cap back on. 17. Remove the tire wedges. 18. Back the car down off the ramps and let it run for a minute. 19. Turn the car off and let it sit for a few minutes then check the oil to make sure it is at the right level. 20. Pour the used oil into a container. Always take your used motor oil and filter to a recycling facility. Do not just pour it out on the ground or throw it in the trash. If you don’t know where the nearest facility is, you can look it up on.

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