Performing an oil change on a car is, on paper, one of the simpler maintenance jobs. As oil is continually circulated through an engine to lubricate moving parts it needs changing on a regular basis. And while it’s theoretically easy, the reality is it’s dirty and you need to follow some simple rules to ensure you do it as safely and responsibly as possible.
How easy is doing an oil change?
As far as maintenance goes, it’s one of the easier maintenance tasks. But you need somewhere that you can do it safely; you need the right tools (something to jack the car up safely and the right spanners); and you need a modicum of knowledge. It’s also worth remembering that it’s pointless changing the oil without renewing the oil filter. This will have caught all sorts of gunk so will be getting increasingly clogged up.
Although not difficult, changing the oil is a dirty job and one you might feel is better off left to the professionals.
Can you do it yourself?
This depends on how brave you are, the kind of tools you have and to a degree the car. You can do it in the road but it’s safer if you can park the car on your own land with some space around you.
You should also expect to get filthy as you will be grubbing around beneath the car. Ideally you will do it in a garage, just in case it rains. And of course, you must have somewhere to safely and responsibly dispose of the old oil.
In the beginning…
If you’ve driven the car, you need to let the engine cool down. You do NOT want to be dealing with an engine that is scolding hot with boiling oil that will burn you.
You need to raise the car up. If you don’t have a hydraulic lift (who outside a garage does?) metal ramps or axle stands will do the job safely. Simply jacking a car up is NOT safe enough for this job. Also make sure the car is in gear so there’s no chance of it moving.
What other oil change equipment do you need?
You need a large container for the old oil to flow into from the car’s oil sump. This should have at least twice the capacity of the car’s oil tank. You don’t want to be spilling the old oil.
You also need the correct spanner or socket to undo the sump plug. And of course, having the right oil is important. We have a blog on how to choose the correct oil here.
How to do it
Make sure the container is beneath the sump plug. Be aware that the oil might come out at a bit of an angle so a large shallow container is a good idea. Unscrew the sump plug slowly. As you’re unscrewing it, push it back up to prevent too much oil escaping.
When you’re sure it’s fully undone, pull it away quickly, making sure you don’t drop it or its washer into the oil container. The oil should flow into the container. It will probably take a few minutes for the car to empty.
Once you’re sure it’s empty, replace the sump plug plus washer and do it up tightly. Now it’s time to put the new oil in. And that’s it. Except you now have to dispose of the old oil responsibly (not down a drain) and change the oil filter. But that’s a blog for another day…
It’s also worth remembering that changing the oil and filter is only part of a car’s service. We recommend with new cars that you take them to a qualified professional. That way you will get a stamp in the car’s service history too. And that’s an important way of preserving its resale value.