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DIY Garage: DIY Oil Change

Cars can be complex machines, but even if you can't tell a transmission from a tailpipe, you should be more than capable of changing your own oil.

It's a great thing to learn to do, as it's a relatively easy and economical way to get your hands dirty and learn more about your vehicle. Changing oil is the most simple regular maintenance to perform, and once you've done it for the first time you may never want to pay a shop to do it again.

If you've never changed your own oil, now is as good a time as any to start. Here are five reasons we think you should do it yourself:

1. Instructions are available online

No matter what make or model car you own, you can almost certainly find instructions online for replacing the motor oil. A quick online search will turn up multiple videos and tutorials, such as the one seen above. These resources will help you determine the technical difficulty of changing the oil in your particular vehicle, and will also tell you the tools you will need.

2. Oil, filters and tools are easy to find

Once you've determined the tools that you will need and checked your owner's manual for the correct oil and filter specifications, you can likely buy what you need in your neighborhood. Local auto parts stores carry a huge selection of oil and filters. Quality tools can also be purchased at your local hardware store.

3. Quality control

Many mechanics don't inform customers about the specifications or the manufacturer of the oil that they use. Most shops will use the oil that is correct for your vehicle, but some mechanics will use poor quality oil to cut down on costs. Changing your own oil ensures that your car is getting the quality lubrication specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

4. Time savings

Changing your own oil actually saves time when you compare it to driving to a shop, waiting an hour, and driving back to your home or work. You can buy the oil and filter on your way home from work or errands and change the oil in the evening. This way you don't have to spend time sitting in a mechanic shop or hitching a ride to the shop and back.

5. Personal satisfaction

Completing an oil change provides satisfaction on a personal level. Maintaining a machine that you use on a daily basis creates a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. It also enhances your understanding of your vehicle and appreciation for its technical complexity. Performing a couple of oil changes can give you the confidence to perform other routine repairs, such as brake pad replacement.

You'll be a grease monkey before you know it.

Stan Markuze is the founder of PartMyRide, an online marketplace for original used auto parts.




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  • 35 Comments
      foxylynx
      • 1 Year Ago
      My guys change the oil and filter (synthetic oil) lasts for 6000 miles and they check under the engine for possible problems. The last couple of yrs I have bought a riding mower, generator, Professional leaf blower and a power washer - that's enough! I do as much as I can, sometimes leave to the professionals!
      rmchello
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have always changed the oil in all my family's vehicles. Lately the last couple of years the parts stores have raised the prices on oil and filters that the cost is the same as having someone else do it and in some cases cheaper.
      Jerry
      • 1 Year Ago
      The author of this article is an imbecile and has never changed the oil and filter in a car. First, you have to elevate the car in order to crawl under it to remove the oil plug and oil filter. Ramps are available but are not inexpensive. Second, you'll walk away filthy and third you have the old oil to deal with. Better to leave it to the quick change guys like Jiffy Lube. They do it quickly and at a reasonable price. And, you won't end up with oil in your hair. As for the author of the article, get another job. You stink at what you do.
        Paul
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jerry
        I was an Audi tech at an Audi dealer.Some people took their 50 to 100 thousand dollar cars to places like grease monkey,etc in between reg services.When I would go to change the oil I would find drain plugs chewed up by vice grips/pipe wrenches so bad I would have to use a grinder to fix the hex head so I could get a wrench on it. After getting the drain plug out I would inspect the threads to find them half stripped so usually I had to replace the drain plug.On Occasion the oil pan threads were so bad they would have to be repaired.Then you had the LOOSE DRAIN PLUGS that would luckily drip oil before falling out.
      bbhuey4213
      • 1 Year Ago
      There are some of the newer cars where it's all but impossible for the owner to do their own maintanance simply because the engine is configured to be virtually inaccessible. My first car was a second-hand 1970-something VW Rabbit in which I could do almost all my own basic engine work: changed oil, flushed radiator, changed wire set/distributor cap, spark plugs, even changed the radiator thermostat. Now I'm lucky if I can find the dipstick for the oil and figure out where the windshield washer fluid goes, never mind being able to find the oil filter to remove it. Even on a few of the hoods I've looked under where I *could* see the filter, they were inaccessible unless you had a lift to put the car on - not something that your average shade tree mechanic has on hand. Think they've muddled the layout of the engine compartment precisely so that owners have to rely on garages (and/or dealerships) for even the most basic engine care.
      Richard
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ridiculous; as inexpensive as an oil change service is, why would any educated person go through all this mess and extra work, plus the additional minor detail of disposing the old oil legally and correctly?
        ffforte
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Richard
        Many highly educated people were poor students while attaining say a doctorate level degree, and found it financially prudent to work on their own cars back in the day, then continue to do so. The DIY oil change is worthwhile since you can use a better filter and synthetic oil for less than money than a standard garage oil change. These are often performed by technicians who might not care if the crankcase is refilled with the exact factory specified quantity of oil. If the engine requires say 3.7 or 4.2 quarts, rounding up or down when refilling is not ideal. Most town highway departments as well as businesses that burn oil for heating will gladly accept waste oil. You don't dump it each time, instead fill 5 gallon drywall buckets and dump when full. Some people like working on their own cars, and it is a fast process the 2nd time forward.
      Ray
      • 6 Months Ago

      The key is finding a dealer or independent mechanic that is reputable and knows what they are talking about.

      A couple of cases in point:

      1) I own a Jeep Grand Cherokee and, due to Warranty protection reasons, I took it to the dealership I purchased it from for my free oil change. I requested full synthetic and the service advisor looked at me like I was crazy and said that I should NOT use full synthetic oil since it will damage the engine, and that I should only use conventional or synthetic blend. This was in total contradiction to what the Owner's Manual stated and from the numerous reviews on oils. I insisted on Pennzoil full synthetic since it meets the Chrysler MS 6395 oil spec and they did as I requested. Needless to say, this particular service advisor's recommendation did not inspire confidence and I never went back to them.

      2) After my experience indicated above, for the next scheduled oil change I went to another Jeep dealership. The place was great....very clean and fast service. Everything went well. The service manager showed me that they use Pennzoil Platinum synthetic oil. Great! However, at the following scheduled oil change, as I had done previously, I asked for full synthetic to be used. Now get this...The service advisor not the manager) told me that my vehicle uses 5W20 which is conventional oil, and that 5W30 is synthetic! (I almost died from hysterical laughter!). I couldn't believe that I had to inform this advisor that engine oils (5W20, 5W30, 10W30, etc) come in conventional, synthetic blend, or full synthetic. He caught a bit of an attitude and he asked the service manager, and the manager told him exactly what I said. The advisor then laughed  and sheepishly said "oh well, I learned something new today". DUH! He is a service advisor and doesn't know about the types oil and grades.

      3) So AFTER my experience in #2 above, I went back to them for my next oil change since I did not have time to locate another dealership. I requested full synthetic oil. My wait time was about 45 minutes. Not bad. However, when I looked at the service receipt, I noticed that the oil they used was not full synthetic. I asked about this, and it turned out that they used Peak synthetic blend oil, which, as far as I know from doing research, does not meet the Chrysler MS 6395 spec for engine oil (if I changed the oil myself and used this oil and had engine trouble afterwards, it would void my warranty, but they used it). I really got upset. The advisor said that they ran out of full synthetic and apparently the mechanic used synth blend without first informing him and me. He told me to return the next day and will have it changed again at no charge. I did, and they changed it using the full synthetic as I requested. This just shows that the mechanic was lazy and didn't care what was put in, and that they will use any type of oil even if the oil does not meet the Chrysler MS 6395 spec. So I will not go to that dealership again and will put in a complaint. Oh, and by the way, they never rotated my tires.

      4) So now I have to either change the oil/filter myself, which is difficult since I do not have a garage and I could get a ticket for doing it in the street, and I would have to keep track of dates and keep all oil and filter receipts: OR I would have to by the filter and take it to Pep Boys and have them do the oil change using bottled Pennzoil full synthetic oil. But I have heard horror stories about places like Pep Boys and Jiffy Lube, where technicians are young, not qualified, or just lazy and careless.

      Bottom line, you have to find a place that is trustworthy and knows what they are doing. You need to document and keep receipts of all oil changes and oils used in case something goes wrong while under warranty.

      English
      • 1 Year Ago
      I will ONLY allow a shop to change my oil if I cannot physically do it myself, or if there is some warranty provision that keeps me from doing so, or if they are doing it as part of a more complex repair. I took my car to the same dealer I purchased it from, and the ASE trained 'expert' stripped all but enough of the thread on the drain bolt to hold it in - when I did the next oil change after they worked on it, the bolt came out with a quarter twist of the wrench. No one is going to tell me that the mechanic didn't see that as he put the bolt back in: you ALWAYS inspect parts you use, new or re-used. The dealer was just across the street from an auto parts store, and there were two more on the same road a couple blocks in either direction - so, no excuses for leaving that flawed bolt in there. If you don't want to change your own oil, I suggest you find a mechanic you trust, and have them do it. Oh, I couldn't go back to the dealer to complain, because they'd gone out of business in the interim .. wonder why. I've seen an engine seize up because the car was slowly leaking and burning (all cars burn some oil) oil, and the owner wasn't alert enough to notice. Guess where it was leaking from?
      accsport
      • 1 Year Ago
      For starters nobody ever has changed the oil in the motor. An engine and a motor are two very different things. What about a Jack, Jack Stands, Ramps, Torque Wrench, Filter Wrench, containers, and clean up supplies including disposal. Most late model cars have "Aluminum" Oil Pans and it is very easy to strip the threads. One more big mistake is too much oil will cause Hydraulic Lock and ruin the engine. I doubt this person knows what an oil filter looks like.
      benaroundsum
      • 1 Year Ago
      I used to change my own oil but no longer. Today's cars can go longer between oil changes, so it's not going to break anyone's budget to have it done. And most importantly, you have to properly dispose your old oil. Just dumping it is illegal for good reasons. It's just not worth it for me to do it myself anymore.
        Paul
        • 1 Year Ago
        @benaroundsum
        Stores like AUTOZONE where you BUY your oil and filter usually will take your used oil.Just put it in a plastic jug and bring it to them.
      Walt
      • 1 Year Ago
      You forgot the most important reason to change your own oil - 6. Inspect the underside of the vehicle to catch small problems before they become large problems. I've personally noticed everything from coolant and oil leaks to leaking cv boots and leaking shocks during my 45+ years of changing my own oil. Small problems caught early often means lower cost repairs.
      gmgpjandon
      • 1 Year Ago
      And just one reason not to, too damned old. lol
      dachbackworld
      • 1 Year Ago
      When ase oil costs $4-6 a quart, premium oil filter 5-9 dollar. The average car taking 5 quarts of oil and a filter. High price is $39.00 for materials. Whats your time worth? Do you know what to check and fill for safety and maintainance for long life? What happens if you overtighten or under tighten oil filters or drain plugs. And the basic disposal of oil and filter. Add the time and money up for the diyer. Ask yourself is a average priced oil change of under 35.00 worth it to get your fingers dirty along with a mess under your car to clean and oil wate to get rid of?
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