How To Do An Oil Change

How To Do An Oil Change

Oil Change Reminder Light
This site is all about how to do an oil change on a car, but up until this point I haven't posted about how to do an oil change yourself. I posted about engine oil capacities, the proper way to read odometers, and tools needed for oil changes. I thought that it was finally time to tell everyone just what is involved in doing your own oil change. So let's get started!

What Do I Need For An Oil Change?

I wrote a great post about the tools needed for an oil change already, but I'm just going to sum it up really quick. You are going to need a combination wrench or ratcheting wrench and socket that fits the drain plug on your engine. It is most likely a 13mm or 15mm, but check for yourself to be sure. You will need an oil filter wrench, the cheapest and easiest option is to buy a strap or band wrench that is the approximate right size. You are going to need an oil catch pan to collect the waste oil as it drains out of your engine. You will need new engine oil, make sure to buy the correct amount and type of oil. You will need an oil filter of the correct size. You will need a funnel so you don't spill a bunch of oil. You may, depending on the type of vehicle being worked on, need a floor jack and jack stands to lift the vehicle off the ground (or a pair of ramps). The following items are not essentials, but if you don't get them you'll wish you had: shop rags/towels, safety glasses, heat sleeves.

So just for the people who love bullet points, here's a recap:
    Tools needed for an oil change
  • Combination wrench or ratchet and socket
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil catch pan
  • New engine oil
  • New oil filter
  • Funnel
  • Floor jack and jack stands or ramps
  • Shop rags/towels
  • Safety glasses
  • Heat sleeves

Oil Change Service

Now that we have everything we need to perform an oil change ready to go, let's get down to the steps to servicing your engine. There's not a lot to it, but if you've never done it before it can be overwhelming. So just read up and you'll see how simple an oil change can be.

We are going to start with a summary, a basic overview.

  • Dress appropriately and get your tools ready
  • Park your vehicle on a flat, level surface
  • Open the hood
  • Safely lift the front of the vehicle
  • Remove the drain plug
  • Catch the oil
  • Replace the drain plug
  • Remove the oil filter
  • Install the new oil filter
  • Clean up the oil on the bottom of the car
  • Lower the vehicle
  • Add the new engine oil
  • Start the engine
  • Stop the engine
  • Check the oil level and adjust
  • Close the hood
  • Put away all tools to make sure you don't run them over
  • You're done!

Getting Ready For The Oil Change

You are going to get dirty when doing an oil change so before starting don (put on) your work clothes, work boots, safety glasses, heat sleeves, and latex gloves, whatever you plan to wear during the oil change. 

Next, park your vehicle on a flat, level surface to allow for optimal engine oil draining and safety. Do not park your car on a hill because some of the old oil may not drain out of the engine, and it is more likely that the car will roll away if parked on a hill if the brakes or transmission let loose or it may fall off the jack stands. The rolling away part is unlikely, but you don't want to take a chance of being under a vehicle that starts rolling away! 

You may start the engine and let it idle for a few minutes, I would say no more than 5 minutes, but it really doesn't matter if you don't mind getting burned. By running the engine right before draining the engine oil you heat up the oil which makes it more fluid and thin and will make it drain faster. Cold oil is very viscous and thick and drains very slow. Also, by starting and running the engine you stir up the contaminants present in the oil such as metal filings, dirt, sludge, and anything else you don't want in your engine and leave it for a short time in suspension. Now when you drain the oil you will be removing all that bad stuff as well. If you drained the oil on a car that hadn't been started recently it is likely that most of the contaminants would have settled to the bottom of the oil pan and would not leave the engine.

Opening The Hood

Hood release lever locationYou will want to open the hood at this time. There is a hood release lever on the drivers side around the driver's knees/shins. Pull the lever and you will hear a noise and the hood will raise slightly. Go around to the front of the vehicle and slide your hand in under the hood around the middle. Feel around for a lever that you will push on the fully open the hood. If you don't feel it right away you can look with a flashlight and your eyes, but it's usually very easy to find.

Inspecting The Oil

Oil condition comparison chartIt is definitely optional, but you can check the oil level and oil condition of the old oil. The oil might be very dark and opaque, it may have a burnt smell, it might look like yellow mustard, or it might be exceptionally foamy. All of these things can indicate that an engine oil change is needed and that it might not have been done in a long while. If the fluid level is low it may also indicate that and oil change hasn't been performed in a long time, but more often it means that there is an oil leak somewhere. Usually a quart low or less every 3,000 miles is not anything to worry about too much, but if the oil level is off the stick low, as in it does not even show up on the stick, the dipstick comes out dry, then there is a serious leak that needs to be repaired. By checking the oil level and condition prior to performing the oil change you will be more aware of any leaks to look for.

Raising The Vehicle

Chock Blocks in useIf you are draining the oil on a large truck, then maybe you won't need to lift it in order to be able to crawl under it, but on most vehicle you will need to give yourself a little extra room. Before starting the lifting process you need to chock the rear wheels. Place chock blocks around at least one rear wheel. This will prevent the vehicle from rolling away after the front of the vehicle is raised. You can buy special chock blocks or you can just use pieces of wood. 

The thing that prevents the vehicle from rolling away while it's parked is the parking pawl of the transmission if it's an automatic and the gear ratio in a manual/standard. Most cars are front wheel drive, meaning the transmission connects to only the front wheels, so when you lift the front wheels there is nothing holding it still anymore. After you have the rear wheels chocked you can move on to the lifting procedure. 

You need to put the floor jack under the front of the vehicle, either in front of or behind the front wheel, and find a spot that is structurally strong to lift on. If you line the jack up under the bumper and start pumping the handle you are going to rip off your bumper. If you lift on the oil pan you will probably break the oil pan. Not all parts of the car are meant to be lifted on, but some are very suitable. Find a piece of frame or structure that can support the weight of the vehicle. Some vehicles even have arrows pointing to suggested "Lift Points". 

Jack stand under the pinch weld
The pinch weld is the strip of metal that is in the
U shaped part of the yellow part of the
jack stand.
If the vehicle you are lifting is new and not rusty at all, you will probably be safe lifting on the "pinch weld". The pinch weld runs along the sides of the vehicle. They are just two parts of the car that have been welded together in a strip. If you have rusty pinch welds and try to jack on them, you will probably crush the underside of your car, so only do it if there is no rust. 

Lifted Car
At any rate, find a good lift point and start pumping the jack's handle to raise the vehicle off the ground. Once the vehicle is off the ground as far as you want it, slide a jack stand under the vehicle and line it up under a structurally strong point. Slowly lower the hydraulic jack while checking to make sure that the jackstand remains in the correct spot for a safe hold. After the jackstand is successfully supporting the vehicle, repeat the lifting process on the other side of the vehicle. You will only need to lift the front of the vehicle.

You can also use a pair of ramps that are specially designed for use with automobiles. They need to be strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle. Do not attempt to make something with cinder blocks and wood or anything like that because it could break and the vehicle will fall on you and seriously injure or kill you. Many people use ramps, and when they are the right kind they can work great. I prefer the jack and jack stand method because I feel it is safer and gives me even more room under the vehicle. You can choose which ever is right for you. To use the ramps you simply put them in front of the front tires and drive up onto the ramps. Be careful not to drive too far forward and end up driving off the front end of them, that can cause damage and be difficult to remove them. With either the ramp or jack and jack stand method, don't forget to chock the rear wheels.

Removing The Drain Plug

Crawl under the vehicle and find the drain plug. The bottom of the engine may be hidden by some kind of shield which must first be removed to gain access to the drain plug. Each vehicle is different and so I must be generic when describing it but basically you just find and remove the bolts holding the plate on. 

Drain plug locationThe drain plug is a bolt that threads into the lowest point on the engine. The drain plug will be threaded into the bottom of the oil pan. Be careful not to do anything to the transmission, only to the engine. It is easy to tell the difference if you've seen enough of them, but I could see where a beginner may not be able to see the difference. I've heard horror stories of people draining their transmissions of oil by accident and then filling their engine with oil. That means that their transmission is empty, and their engine is way over filled. Then when the person drives the vehicle their engine and their transmission are ruined! Since each vehicle make and model is different I can't just show you a picture of one under car, point out which is which, and expect you to be able to tell on another vehicle, because they all look different and have different arrangements. In order for you to be able to tell the engine from the transmission you should google pictures of "oil pan" and "transmission pan" and study each part thoroughly so that you can spot them on the fly. You can also ask a friend or neighbor who knows more about cars.

Anyways, you find the drain plug and start trying wrenches until you find one that's the right size. You want a nice snug fit. When you rock the wrench side to side on the drain plug you don't want any play or wiggle room because if there is you will strip or round the corners of the bolt head when you apply torque. So just try different wrenches or sockets until you find the right one for your drain plug. Drain plugs can be metric or standard/SAE/english size. Most drain plugs are either 13mm or 15mm, but that's not to say there aren't exceptions. I have seen 10mm, 12mm, 17mm, SAE or fractional sizes, and more. Some drain plugs even require an allen key or hex wrench!

Once you've found a wrench that fits you will want to place your oil catch pan somewhere under the drain hole and get some shop rags ready. Put your wrench or socket on the drain plug's head and turn it counter-clockwise until the plug frees up enough to be removed by hand. Usually it will only take about half a turn to free it up, but some plugs are stubborn and need to be turn out by wrench until about half a turn from being all the way out. Once the plug can be turned by hand, use your fingers to spin it out and try to avoid dropping the plug. 

Carefully remove the plug from the hold and quickly make sure that the oil drain pan is catching the oil. Now you just wait until the oil is barely draining out in a small stream or fast drops. If you waited until the oil stopped coming out it would take 20 minutes or more, but you get like 95% of the oil out by the time it slows and that's good enough. As the oil comes out slower and slower the stream that is coming out will move and you need to watch it and adjust the placement of your drain pan accordingly so that the oil doesn't splash onto the floor.

Inspecting The Drain Plug

Inspecting a drain plugOnce the oil is drained you can replace the drain plug. You should inspect the plug to make sure that it is still good to put back into service. A couple of things to look for are a gasket that isn't cracked, broken, or missing, and threads that aren't damaged or stripped. If you find that the plug or gasket doesn't pass the inspection, replace them! Whether it's the same drain plug or a new drain plug, you will now thread the drain plug into the drain hole in a clockwise fashion. 

Installing The Drain Plug

Beam style torque wrenchThread the plug in as far as you can by hand and then finish with your wrench from before. If you have one you can use a Torque Wrench, which is a tool that measures the amount or torque or twisting force applied to a bolt, to tighten the plug to specification. You would need to find the proper drain plug torque specification from some source, most likely an online resource like ALLDATA, which is not cheap. It is not worth the hassle and no mechanic ever in any shop uses a torque specification and torque wrench for a drain plug. You just tighten until it's just snug. It doesn't take much to be properly tightened, and remember, all this bolt does is prevent oil from draining out of the engine, it's not like it's holding the car together or the wheels on or something. DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN THE DRAIN PLUG! If you over tighten the drain plug you can strip the threads on the drain plug, in which case you need to replace the drain plug, which is a pain in the butt, but it's not very expensive. You might strip the threads on the oil pan, which is a way bigger pain in the butt and is very expensive to replace and you will need to get the car to a shop to have them replace it. At the very least, over tightening a drain plug makes it more difficult to remove next time than it has to be. So don't reef on the drain plug, just lightly turn it until it isn't easy to turn anymore. I think the specification on a drain plug is something like 8 inch pounds. That's nothing! You probably use at least a couple FOOT pounds or like 24 inch pounds when putting on a tie. So don't go overboard tightening it. I only stress this so much because almost everybody when they do an oil change for the first time wonders and struggles with whether the drain plug is tight enough, and ends up over tightening the heck out of it to be safe, and then end up with problems.

Replacing The Oil Filter

Oil FilterThe next thing that needs doing is replacing the oil filter. The oil filter screens or filters out contaminants from the oil, keeping it cleaner longer. When the oil filter gets plugged due to maxing out it's finite capacity, which is normal with enough time, it stops filtering the oil and a bypass valve opens allowing all oil to pass through unfiltered. This is really bad because it's a cycle that speeds way up in the direction of engine failure. 

The engine naturally wears and small metal filings get in the oil, and some small amount of dirt gets in when you remove the oil fill cap. The contaminants are captured by the oil filter and are no longer a problem. This happens for some thousands of miles and when the filter plugs up, now those contaminants stay in the oil. Where the engine wore slightly when lubricated with good, clean oil, it now wears much more, much faster due to the abrasive material in the oil not being filtered out. The more contaminants in the oil, the more the engine wears, which in turn puts more contaminants into the oil. It's a nasty cycle and will lead to engine failure. Moral of the story, Replace the oil filter on every oil change. I've heard people say they only replace them every other oil change or even less often to save money, but it's not worth it. An oil filter is like $8, and a new engine is thousands of dollars. When you replace your oil filter, compare it's weight to the new one and see how much heavier the used one is. They all weigh about the same when new, so however much heavier it is is how much contaminants it's filtered out of your oil! I've felt some that were VERY heavy for their size and it was almost unbelievable how heavy they were.

Sorry for how much I rant and explain what must seem like insignificant details. What difference does it make what the oil filter does, just tell me how to change it!? The only reason I elaborate so thoroughly is because I remember reading tutorials and how-to articles like this before I knew what I was doing and none of them were detailed and none of them explained why! It was very brief stuff and they just told you to do things. I wanted to know why you had to do the stuff they said the way they said it. What would happen if I did it differently or skipped steps? I want to answer those questions throughout my article to help you gain a deeper understanding of what you are doing.

So now you are going to locate your oil filter. It is usually obvious and easy to see, but some are quite hidden and require some looking to find it. For example some Ford trucks, Pontiacs, and Hondas are difficult to find, there are more but those are the brands that stick out in my mind. Place the oil catch pan under the oil filter, it will drain some oil when it's removed.

Using an oil filter strap wrench to remove an oil filterFirst, try to grasp the oil filter with your hand and rotate it counter clockwise to remove it. That's really all it should take to remove it if it was installed correctly on the previous oil change, but rarely are oil filters installed with the proper torque. It probably won't budge and you'll have to use something to give you a mechanical edge. Grab your oil filter wrench, whether you have the cup/cap style or a strap wrench, and place it on the oil filter. Again, you are going to turn it in a counter clockwise direction and it should come free. Oil will start to drain from the oil filter into your drain pan. As soon as the filter is loose enough, remove your filter wrench and turn it the rest of the way off by hand. Tip the filter upside down and pour the oil in the filter into your drain pan.

Look at the filter to make sure the gasket is still on the filter. Then look at or feel around the place where you removed the oil filter from to make sure that there is no gasket stuck to it. If the gasket stuck to the engine, remove the gasket. Use a clean shop rag to wipe the gasket surface clean, removing any dirt or contaminants that may be present. 

It is essential to make sure that the gasket is not still on the engine. If the gasket is still there and you install a new oil filter which has a new gasket you are going to "double gasket" it and it will prevent a good seal. When the filter is double gasketed the filter WILL leak oil very quickly and if not noticed soon enough will grenade or blow up the motor because it is running without sufficient oil. The second oil change I ever did I accidentally double gasketed because I didn't know to look for that and after I added oil and started the engine almost all the oil came out immediately! I noticed and replaced the oil filter the right way and everything worked out fine other than the huge mess, but if I hadn't caught the mistake I would have ruined the engine. So take the time to check for the clean mating surface and ensure the gasket is removed.

Applying oil to the new gasketNow you need to lubricate the new gasket on the new oil filter. Dip your finger into new, clean, fresh oil and apply the oil to the filter gasket, spreading it around with your finger. If you need to add more oil, do it. Just keep doing it until it's all lubricated. It doesn't take much but it is important. Lubricating the gasket makes for a better seal and also prevents the seal from ripping while spinning the filter on.

Some mechanics say that you should fill the oil filter with new oil before installing it on the vehicle because then when the engine is started it will have oil immediately and won't run dry at all. You can do that if you want to, but I never have, and most mechanics don't and the engines run fine afterwards. The oil pump moves oil very quickly and within about 2 seconds or less the empty oil filter will fill with oil and begin lubricating the engine properly, so if you don't pre-fill the filter it's not a problem. The problem I have with pre-filling the filter is that you usually end up spilling some of the new oil while trying to put the filter on and that's just wasted oil that needs to be cleaned up and I prefer to avoid that. That's not to say if you don't fill it and your engine tanks you should blame me and say I told you not to do it. Not filling your filter is a risk you need to be willing to take for yourself. If you want to be safe, pre-fill the filter. I'm just telling you my experience. I've done literally thousands of oil changes and I stopped pre-filling the filters on about my 5th one and I've never had any problems.

Now you need to install your new oil filter. I'm assuming that you went to the auto parts store and bought the correct filter for your vehicle's engine. It's as simple as going to the parts store and looking it up in a book using your vehicles Year, Make, Model, and Engine. You can also just tell that information to the person working at the parts store and they'll look it up for you and bring it to you. It's pretty easy. 

Anyways, back to the install. Put your oil filter up to the threaded portion and begin to spin it on, being careful not to cross thread it. If there is resistance, then you are crossthreading it. Spin it counter clockwise a bit and try again. Do that until you get it to spin on easily. If you force it and cross thread it, then you will need to buy a new oil filter housing which you will probably need a mechanic in a shop to do and that is going to be expensive. 

Most filters have a symbol on them that shows a hand spinning the
Oil Filter Label
filter on and displays a fractional number. That is the number of turns after the gasket makes contact with the mating surface of the oil filter housing until the gasket makes a proper seal. Some say 2/3, some say 1 1/4. It varies. I usually go tighter than that suggestion just to make sure it doesn't leak. If you tighten the filter by hand, you will usually be able to remove it by hand, but if you use a wrench to tighten it, you will need a wrench to remove it. I usually use a wrench to tighten my filters on, but it's a fine line. Don't overtighten it and don't undertighten it. If you under tighten the filter it will leak. If you over tighten it it will either be very difficult to remove next time, or it may cause damage to the housing. Tighten the filter AT LEAST to the suggestion and maybe a little more. Just like with the drain plug you want to go until it's snug, but don't reef on it.

The filter replacement I've described is for a can or spin on type
Cartridge Type Oil Filter
filter as it is by far the most common. However, there are cartridge type filters as well which require the proper socket or filter cup to remove and then once it's off you remove the old pleated paper cartridge and gasket and discard them. You then install the new gasket and filter to the reusable cap and reinstall the cap.

Oil Clean Up

After the filter is properly installed you should clean up the oil that has spilled onto the engine. You can use a shop rag to wipe up the
Brake Clean
oil and that will be sufficient. A secret is to use a product called brake clean. It will very quickly remove all of the oil and leave no oily residue. The engine will be super clean and will dry quickly. Brakleen works amazingly well and I use it on every oil change. A word of caution though. Be careful because brake clean is more flammable than gasoline and will ignite if you spray it on something hot enough. Usually by the time you've drained the oil and changed the filter the engine is cool enough to use brake clean safely, but not always. Twice I've had brake clean start on fire. Both times it's just a quick flash and then it's all burned up and gone, but it can go bad quickly if it catches something else on fire, like a leaking gas line, or if the flame follows back into the can of brake clean and the can explodes. Brake clean works great, but always be aware of it's potential to go bad.

Under The Car Inspection

While you are under the vehicle, whether you do it before or after you drain the oil and replace the filter, you can look for leaks or parts that need replacing. If you know what you are looking for you can give the vehicle's underbody a thorough inspection to check for anything that needs attention. I'm guessing, though, that if you're reading about how to perform a basic oil change, you won't know what to look for. It never hurts to look, though, because you just might see something that's very obviously bad and then you can take it into the shop to have it looked at professionally.

Lowering The Vehicle

You are now done under the vehicle. You can lower the vehicle by using the hydraulic floor jack to lift the vehicle on a safe lift point and remove a jack stand. Slowly lower the hydraulic jack. Lift the other side of the vehicle and remove that jack stand. Slowly lower the jack again. With the vehicle on the ground and the jack and jackstands placed safely out of the way you can now finish the oil change.

Filling The Engine With Oil

Place your funnel in the oil fill hole at the top of the engine. Pour in the specified amount and type of oil for your engine. I usually put
Filling The Engine With Oil
in about half a quart less than the specification so that I don't accidentally over fill. It is easier to add more oil than to over fill and need to re-raise the vehicle to let some oil out. The specification is a suggestion, but each individual engine is slightly different and may take a slightly different amount of oil. I'm talking about a small fraction of a quart, but still.

Once you've added the oil, remove the funnel using a rag to prevent oil from dripping onto your engine and wipe the funnel clean or set it on a rag so it doesn't make a mess. Install the oil fill cap and make sure the dipstick and cap are in place. Start the engine. Allow the engine to run for about 10 seconds to make sure the filter fills with oil and you get an accurate read on your dip stick. You can run the engine for longer, but 10 seconds is an acceptable length of time. Shut off the engine and check the oil level on the dipstick.

Checking The Oil Level

Using The Dipstick To Check Oil Level
Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a clean shop rag. Insert the dipstick into the dipstick tube and let it sit for a second or two. Remove the dipstick and check where the level is. You want the oil level to be in the safe range. The safe range is indicated by two dots or holes or lines in the dipstick. Most of the time the safe range is also cross hatched. If the oil level is somewhere in that range you are good. You want it somewhere above the halfway point and on the full mark is perfect. The amount of oil it takes to get from the lowest dot or line to the full dot or line is one quart. At one shop I worked at they told us to always fill to the halfway point on the safe range. This was because if you let the engine sit for a long time, like overnight, and check the level then, it will raise by about half a quart because some of the oil clings to the various parts of the engine but over time the oil will drain down into the pan and the level will seem higher. When you fill the engine to the full mark and then check it after it's sat for a while it will appear to be over full. This was all to prevent customers from checking it then and coming in to the shop complaining of their engine being over filled. The engine wasn't over filled and was completely safe, but just to prevent the complaints that was what we did. Anywhere in the safe range is safe and won't cause engine damage. Some dipsticks can be hard to read (Nissan is the one that I can think of) in which case the best you can do is just add the specified amount of oil and hope for the best.

If you find that the level is lower than what you'd like it to be, just remove the filler cap and add more oil little by little and keep checking it until you get it where you want it. You don't need to start the engine each time you add more because the point of starting the engine was to fill the oil filter, which is filled after the first start. After you get the level you want, make sure the oil fill cap and dipstick are installed correctly and you are done!

Inspecting The Rest Of The Vehicle

You can at this point check your engine air filter and top off any fluids that are low such as the windshield washer fluid. Perform a thorough underhood inspection. Do whatever you need to do and then close the hood.

It is a good idea to check your tires at each oil change to make sure

tire placard location
you have good tread and are not driving around on bald tires. Check the air pressure in the tires and fill them if they are low. Most vehicles have a Tire Placard on the pillar by the back of the driver's seat. If you open the driver's door it should be on what's known as the "B Pillar". It will have the tire pressure specification along with the tire size. If you can't find it, a good rule of thumb for most tires is 35psi. 

Oil Change Sticker

The last step is to record somewhere when the next oil change needs to take place. Some people keep a notebook in their car that
Oil change reminder sticker location
they record maintenance information in, but the most common way is to put an oil change reminder sticker on the inside of the windshield in the upper left hand corner. You can get these stickers from auto parts stores. Just write the mileage of the next oil change on the sticker and when your odometer reads that mileage, change the oil again. Most oil requires changing after 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes sooner. Some fully synthetic oils like Mobil 1 and Dexos say you can go up to 5,000 miles between oil changes. Decide which you have, and then add either 3,000 or 5,000 to your current odometer reading and write that mileage on your sticker and apply it to your windshield. Now you are completely done and can enjoy driving your vehicle knowing you're running clean, fresh oil in your engine.

You can perform some of these steps in different order. Like you can check your tires and perform the under hood inspection before the oil change. Obviously you have to lift the vehicle before you can drain the oil. Obviously you must drain the old oil before adding new oil and starting the vehicle. Change the order around if it suits you for the stuff that makes sense to switch around.

There you go, now you have it. Congratulations on doing your own oil change at home! It feels great doesn't it? You saved a bit of money and you did it yourself! Keep reading more on Oil Change Tips and learn to do even more on your vehicle! Thanks for reading. Please share and comment if you found this helpful.

Top 10 Tools Needed For An Oil Change

Top 10 Tools Needed For An Engine Oil Change

An engine oil change is maintenance procedure that you can perform on your vehicle yourself... with the right tools! Changing your own oil at home is a great way to save money in vehicle costs and it's fun, too. I have created this post to tell you, in my own opinion as a mechanic, what are the Top 10 most important tools required for almost any oil change. So without taking up too much space with the introduction, here we go!

1. Combination Wrench

Fractional combination wrenchBy far the most commonly used tool for changing engine oil is the combination end wrench. This kind of wrench has an open side and a box or closed side. The open end of the wrench is great for quickly removing the wrench and repositioning it on the nut/bolt. The open end side has a greater possibility of stripping the corners off of the nut/bolt due to slippage. The box end is great for strength of the grip, because it grabs the nut/bolt all the way around on all of it's corners. The most common drain plugs require either a 13mm or 15mm wrench. There are of course exceptions, but if you could only invest in two wrenches then those would be the two to pick up.

2. Funnel

Funnel used for oil changeYou need a funnel when refilling your engine with engine oil because if you don't have one you are going to spill oil all over the place when trying to pour it into the small oil fill hole. If you have a very steady hand and can consistently guess where the oil is going to go when you start pouring, and if there is no wind or movement, then maybe you won't need a funnel. It is very unlikely that you will be able to do all of that, though. It sounds easy enough, but when you try it you WILL spill engine oil all over under the hood of your car and it isn't worth it. Just buy a funnel. They are usually pretty cheap. You can even buy more expensive funnels that thread into the oil fill hole so that you don't have to hold the funnel! It is well worth the money because you will use it on every oil change on every vehicle.

3. Oil Drain Pan

Oil Catch PanThe oil drain pan, also known as an oil catch pan, is used to collect the waste oil as it pours out from your engine after you remove the drain plug. If you didn't use an oil catch pan then you would have a huge mess with oil splattering all over the ground and staining your concrete/killing your grass. You can buy basic oil drain pans that are just a deep saucer or you can buy ones that have a pour spout on them so that when you've collected the spent oil you can pour it into a jug or other sealable and transportable container, like a milk jug. You can even make a drain pan by cutting the side off of a coolant jug. You can use your imagination and get creative to find things to make a drain pan out of because it is just used to catch oil, nothing too complicated.

4. Floor Jack

Automotive JackFor some taller vehicles like trucks you can just crawl under the vehicle as it sits and do the oil change, but on most vehicles you need to raise the vehicle so that you can fit underneath it. Unless you want to invest thousands of dollars to buy a vehicle lift/hoist you will probably want to purchase a jack. You slide the jack under the vehicle, position the lift point under a solid piece of the frame (not the bumper) and start pumping the handle up and down repeatedly to lift the vehicle. Most jacks can lift the vehicle over a foot, which will give you enough room to get under the vehicle.

5. Jackstands

Jack Stands lowered and liftedYou use the jack to raise the vehicle, but you need jack stands to safely support the vehicle after it has been raised. You could do the oil change with just a jack supporting the vehicle, but the jack is typically in the way and if the hydraulics spring a leak then the vehicle will come down and crush you. You raise the vehicle and then place the jackstands underneath of a couple strong frame pieces, then lower the jack and remove it from under the car. The jack stands are mechanical, meaning no hydraulics to fail, and they can be placed out of your way so you can maneuver yourself under the vehicle. The jackstands can be adjusted to hold the vehicle at different heights. If you want to do a safe oil change and not risk getting killed you will need at least two jackstands.

6. Oil Filter Wrench

Oil filter styles, cap, cup, band, strap, spring-load adjustable, pliersWhen performing an oil change you should always replace the oil filter. If installed properly on the previous oil change you should be able to remove it by hand, but rarely are they applied with appropriate torque. Oil filters are usually really tight and require a special wrench to remove them. You have two basic categories of oil filter wrenches: Band/Strap wrenches and Filter Cup wrenches. Band wrenches come in 3 rough sizes for small, medium, and large oil filters. The band is loose enough to fit around the oil filter and then when you apply force to the handle, it tightens around the filter and allows you a grip with leverage that helps you to remove it. These wrenches can sometimes crush an oil filter that is on way too tight. This style of oil filter wrench is relatively cheap and can be used on many sizes and brands of oil filter. The filter cup wrench is a cup with teeth inside the match the ridges of a specific oil filter. The cup is put on a ratcheting wrench just like you would put on a socket. It fits snug and allows for removal of very tight oil filters. The downside to the filter cup wrench is that it is more costly and will work for only one oil filter size, and so you may have to buy several to do oil changes on different cars.

7. Ratcheting Wrench and Sockets

Ratcheting wrench and socketsJust like with the combination end wrench, the ratcheting wrench and sockets are used to loosen and tighten the drain plug, but faster. With the end wrench you need to turn the drain plug half a turn, then remove it and reposition it to get another half turn whereas the ratcheting wrench allows you to do your half turn and then rotate it it the opposite direction without removing it from the drain plug and then you can do another half turn. Both tools do the same job, but the ratcheting wrench and socket is going to be easier and faster.

8. Oil Capacity Specification

Fluid Capacity Chart found in the Owner's Manual
This chart is for one specific vehicle and engine. It is simply an example
of what the fluid capacity chart will look like in an owner's manual.
Be sure to consult an appropriate source to determine the amount of oil to use.
This isn't a physical tool like the others in this list that allow you to perform a physical task, but it is an information tool. It is important to know how much oil to put into the engine so you don't over or under fill. You can check your owners manual which will tell you the fluid types and capacities for all of your vehicles systems, but some vehicle owners manuals are not with the vehicles because they've been lost, in which case you must find the information elsewhere. On my site I have compiled a list of vehicle makes, engine sizes and fluid capacities that will help you. I put all of that information into a Fluid Capacity Chart in PDF format. The chart is super handy so you should definitely check it out!

9. Heat Shield Arm Sleeves

Heat shield arm sleevesIf you don't use arm sleeves you will burn your arms. It hurts a lot. The sleeves don't cost much and prevents a lot of pain. They are as simple as they sound, just something that covers your arms. A long sleeved shirt will work. You can make them out of tube socks that you cut the toe out of. They do make professional products that cost money, but I'd just make a pair. The sleeve provides insulation between your skin and the hot engine.

10. Safety Glasses

z87 Safety GlassesIf you do an oil change without safety glasses you may be able to get by without problem, but it is better to use them. When the used engine oil drains out of the drain hole it will probably splash and could potentially splash into your eyes. The waste oil contains fine metal filings that can irritate and damage your eyes. The oil is also pretty hot and can burn your eyes. Rust and dirt from underneath the vehicle can fall into your eye and act as an abrasive that will damage your cornea. You only have one set of eyes for life and you don't want permanent vision damage because you tried to save a few bucks, so protect your eyes with safety glasses. They can be purchased for as cheap as $3. It is recommended that you use only z87 rated safety glasses. Z87 glasses have shatter-resistant lenses and a wrap around style that protects from the side of the eye as well as from the front.


Well that's it. I've just covered what I believe to be the 10 Most Important Tools Used To Change Oil! I hope this post has been informative for you, and I hope you learned at least one new thing. I may expand on each of these tools in the future, giving each tool it's own post. I only so briefly touched on each tool, and there is way more to say about each one individually. So keep checking back to see for updates! Thanks for reading and please comment and share!

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