Motor Oil, How

In our last post, we covered why motor oil is used, and why it should be changed. In our first post on motor oil, we covered what it is, what the numbers mean, and also that the ability to change motor oil is a skill that we believe that every motorist should have, even if they don’t frequently use it.

Now, how is motor oil changed?

Before getting to step 1, preparations must be made. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual, or other documentation, to determine which motor oil and filter is specified, as well as the oil capacity of your vehicle’s engine. Purchase the specified oil filter and the required quantity of the specified motor oil.

Gather the required tools to complete the job. In my case this consisted of the following items:

  • 13mm box-end wrench
  • Ramps – A jack and jack stands may be substituted. Vehicles with high clearance may not need to be lifted to complete the task.
  • An oil drain pan
  • Wheel chocks

The list above is specific to my application and will likely be different for others. The steps below are also specific to my application- they probably describe greater than 95% of cases, but I’m sure there are some variations out there. For example, I’ve heard that some vehicles don’t even have oil drain plugs and that used oil is pumped out via the dipstick tube. Without further adieu, here are the steps to complete an oil change:

  1. If needed, lift the vehicle using a jack and jack stands or ramps.
  2. Raise the vehicle’s hood.
  3. Remove the oil filler cap.
  4. Place the oil drain pan under the drain plug, slightly rearward, as the oil will stream out at a fair velocity when it first starts to drain.
  5. Loosen the drain plug using the box-end wrench. Once it is loosened, it can be removed the rest of the way by hand.
  6. Allow the oil to drain.
  7. Replace the oil drain plug, being careful not to over tighten it.
  8. Relocate the oil drain pan under the oil filter.
  9. Remove the oil filter and set it on the drain pan face down to allow residual oil to drain from it.
  10. Allow oil to drain from the filter mount.
  11. On the new oil filter, place a light coating of oil on the gasket.
  12. Mount the new oil filter, following the directions that come with it for proper tightening.
  13. Place a funnel in the oil filler hole and add new oil, checking oil levels using the dipstick as you go so you do not add too much.
  14. Replace the oil filler cap.
  15. Start your vehicle’s engine and allow it to run while you check for leaks from the drain plug and oil filter.
  16. Lower the hood.
  17. If you have raised your vehicle, lower it – if you have used jacks and a jack stand, shut off your engine before doing this.
  18. Allow 12 or more hours for the residual oil to drain from the old oil filter before placing the used oil into an appropriate container to transport it (and the old filter) to a recycling facility.

As you can see, it’s a pretty strait forward process and involves loosening and tightening much fewer things than a typical tire change. I will add that throughout this process, I wore disposable nitrile gloves to protect my hands.

We found instructions for changing oil in our vehicle in the Car and Truck Repair section over at In addition to instructions for changing oil in many different vehicles, this site also covers other common automotive maintenance tasks, as well as how to repair common household electronics and appliances.