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How to Change Your Car Oil: Part 1

It takes some practice, but you can save cash and earn the satisfaction of a job well done by learning to change your oil on your own.


  • : Changing your oil can be dangerous, so be careful. If the car is jacked up incorrectly, you can hurt yourself and damage the car.
  • Step 1: Prepare the car Park the car on a level surface, apply the emergency brake, and let it cool off for at least an hour before you start working.
  • Step 2: Check your oil supply Your owner’s manual will specify the right kind and quantity of oil for your car’s specific make and model. Make sure the oil is certified by the American Petroleum Institute.
  • Step 3: Block the wheels Place sturdy, heavy objects (like bricks or rocks) behind and in front of the two back wheels to block them.
  • Step 4: Jack up the car Check your owner’s manual to find the jack point -- the correct placement for a jack -- under the car’s front wheels. Use the jack to raise the car off the ground. Then, slide the jack stands under the car to bear the car’s weight.
  • : Never get under a car supported solely by a jack.
  • Step 5: Remove the oil-filler cap Open the hood, and locate the oil-filler cap. Take it off, and put it somewhere safe.
  • TIP: Most oil caps are marked with an icon that looks like Aladdin’s lamp.
  • Step 6: Loosen the plug Slide under the car and position the oil pan on the ground directly under the engine. With the box or adjustable wrench, loosen the drain plug by turning it counterclockwise.
  • Step 7: Drain the oil Cover your fingers with the towel and remove the plug. Adjust the pan so all the oil drains into it. While the oil is draining, you can switch out the old drain-plug gasket with a new one
  • TIP: The drain plug is usually closer to the front of the car. On some models, it’s labeled. If the fluid coming out is red, you’ve removed the transmission plug by mistake -- screw it back on and locate the drain plug.
  • Step 8: Replace the drain plug After 15 to 20 minutes, when the oil has completely drained, screw the drain plug back on with your fingers. Tighten it with the wrench, being careful not to overtighten.
  • Step 9: Get rid of the old oil Pour the used oil from the pan into a disposable container with a lid, and set it aside. You’re halfway there -- see How to Change Your Car’s Oil: Part 2 to finish the task.
  • FACT: Depending on the make and model, you should change your car’s oil every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.

You Will Need

  • Your car's owner's manual
  • Motor oil
  • Bricks or rocks
  • A car jack and jack stands
  • An oil pan
  • A box wrench or adjustable wrench
  • A towel
  • A disposable plastic container with a lid
  • A new drain-plug gasket

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