Watch all of our Autoblog Wrenched videos for more tips on how to diagnose, fix, and modify cars from professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you're at it, check out Larry's other car cleaning and maintenance video series Autoblog Details!
First, check your owner's manual to see what type of oil your car needs and how much oil it takes. You don't want to put in too much or too little of the wrong viscosity oil. Once that's done, visit an auto parts store to buy the oil, filter, a catch can large enough to hold all the old oil and any other tools. The parts store should be able to help you find what type of filter you need.
Safety is key, so be sure to wear both gloves and glasses. If you're using jack stands or a ramp, chock the tires and set the parking brake. If a car's been running, the oil will be hot. A warm engine is fine, but a hot engine can cause burns. Let the car sit for a bit before you start draining, that way you don't burn yourself on scalding hot engine oil.
Once you're ready to start, open the filler cap at the top of the engine. That will help the oil drain quicker. Underneath, line up the catch can beneath the oil drain plug. Keep in mind that the oil might flow out at a slight angle. Loosen the drain plug about halfway using a ratchet. Finish unscrewing the drain plug by hand, quickly removing the bolt at the very end. Clean the drain plug with brake cleaner in order to remove any metal or contaminants that may have collected there.
After the oil has completely drained, add a new crush washer to the drain plug and screw it back in by hand until tight, finishing with a ratchet. Once it's snug, give the plug another half turn, but not more than that. Take rags and wipe off the bottom of the oil pan and the area around the drain plug.
Next, find the old oil filter. Remove it by hand or, if needed, using an oil-filter wrench. Be careful toward the end, keeping the filter upright. It will still be full of old oil. Before you install the new filter, put a light ring of new oil around the filter's o-ring. It's also a good idea to pre-fill the new filter with fresh, clean oil. That way, oil can get the engine's bearings and other parts quicker. Reinstall the filter by hand. Do not use a wrench to tighten it.
The next step is to add the new oil to the top of the engine. Use a funnel to keep the oil from spilling all over. Also, double check to make sure you're putting in the correct amount of the right type of oil. If you spin the bottle to the side or upside-down, it will actually pour easier and with less blubbing.
Once the proper amount of oil has been poured, close the cap and start the vehicle for five minutes to allow the fresh oil to circulate in the system. Turn the car off and make sure the vehicle is perfectly level or off the jack stands before checking the dipstick. You want the reading to be correct and even.
Pull the stick and clean off the excess oil with a rag. Re-insert the dipstick, making sure it's completely compressed before removing it again and checking the level. There's typically a low and a high indicator on the stick. Try to keep the oil up to, but not above the high marker.
Be sure to dispose the used oil by collecting it in old bottles, juice jugs, or water containers and bring them to your local auto parts store, mechanics shop, or recycling center. Do not just toss the jugs or containers into a trash can.
You can watch the entire process in the video at the top of this story.