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How to change your car’s motor oil and filter

One of the most important things you can do to keep your car in the best condition possible is to change your motor oil and filter. Oil in a car is like blood in our bodies – it flows throughout the car’s engine and keeps everything running smoothly. Frequent oil and filter changes are essential in increasing the life of your car and its performance.

When it comes time for that needed motor oil change (consult your owner’s manual for mileage intervals), you have options: You can take it to a service station, quick lube or car dealer, or you can do it yourself. While mechanics and other car maintenance people do a fine job with this routine procedure, changing your own oil is relatively easy and inexpensive. This simple guide will show you how to properly change the motor oil and filter of one of your most expensive and valuable possessions.

Car maintenance equipment
Before you open the hood and tackle this task, make sure you have all the necessary supplies and equipment. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • The proper amount and grade of motor oil. Try our product selector to help you find out which oil and filter to use. Make sure to check your owner’s manual for the correct viscosity and the number of quarts you’ll need. If you haven’t already, consider switching from conventional to synthetic motor oil such as Mobil 1™ – this will provide you with improved engine efficiency and performance.
  • A high-quality oil filter – use our product selector or see your owner’s manual for requirements.
  • A socket wrench
  • An oil filter wrench
  • A funnel
  • Something to catch the old motor oil, such as an oil pan or bucket
  • Newspapers
  • Rags

Drain the old motor oil
Before draining the motor oil, start your car and let it run for a minute or two, or take it for a quick drive around the block; this will warm up the motor oil and allow it to drain out smoothly. Next, be sure you have a safe area to do your oil change – a driveway or garage will work well, and level ground is a must.

Under the vehicle, locate the oil pan and drain plug.

If there isn’t enough room to slide under the car to do this, you may have to jack up the car to get beneath it. Remember: Never get underneath a car supported only by a jack; always use a jack stand.

Once you identify the drain plug, spread the newspaper out and place the oil pan below. Loosen the drain plug with the socket wrench, turning it counterclockwise.

After loosening, remove the plug slowly by hand and let the motor oil drain out. Caution: The motor oil may be hot. Once the oil stream slows to a drip, reinstall the drain plug by hand and tighten it with a quarter turn clockwise with the wrench.

Replace the oil filter
Keep the oil drain pan underneath the car and locate the oil filter.

Loosen it with the filter wrench, turning it counterclockwise. Remove the oil filter by hand.

Before installing the new oil filter, apply a little motor oil to the new gasket. This will prevent the gasket from sticking, cracking or causing an oil leak.

Finally, install and tighten the new oil filter by hand.

Add the new motor oil
It’s now time to fill the engine with new motor oil. Find out which oil is right for your vehicle with our product selector. Keep in mind that the motor oil you use should be the recommended grade and amount as identified earlier in the owner’s manual.

Loosen the oil-filler cap and pour your motor oil into the tank. Using a funnel will help you avoid spilling. When finished, replace the oil cap and wipe away any spilled motor oil. Start your engine and run it for a minute to allow the new motor oil to circulate thoroughly.

You’re almost done. But don’t drive off yet, because you need to check the oil level. To do this, turn off the car and remove and clean the dipstick.

Insert and remove it once more, this time checking that the oil has the correct reading. Screw the cap back on and give yourself a pat on the back.

Clean up and recycle your motor oil
You’ve completed the task; now it’s time to clean up. Pour the old motor oil from the pan into a used oil container – or if you have to, an empty milk jug – and place the old oil filter in a plastic bag.
  

The best way to dispose of motor oil is to recycle it. This is easy to do because many service stations and quick lubes will accept used motor oil and used oil filters at no charge. You can find recycling locations in your area at Earth911.com. Also, if you ask your local government or recycling coordinator, they’ll be able to tell you if your oil filter and oil can be recycled with your trash pickup.

Finally, throw the newspaper and dirty rags away. You and your set of wheels are good to go.

Write down the date you performed the oil change and the amount of miles the car had so you know when your next change is due. Don’t forget to change your motor oil on a regular basis.