Basic car maintenance is intimidating. In fact, even something as simple as an oil change can have you fretting. However, ignoring these problems is a slippery slope.

Speaking of oil, your car’s engine oil is an essential component of your vehicle’s health and wellbeing. That being said, a lot of people don’t know much about this murky brown liquid and are still unsure of how to change their own car oil.

If you’re wondering how to change the oil in your car or simply want to learn more about this misunderstood liquid, we’re here to help. In our ultimate guide to changing car oil, we’ll cover:

  • Why do we change a car’s oil?
  • How often should you change the oil in your car?
  • How to change the oil in your car
  • Oil change shop or do it yourself?
  • FixMyCar’s oil changing services

Let’s get into it.

Why do we change a car’s oil?

First off, why do we actually need to change our car’s oil? This is relatively straightforward.

Cars have a lot of moving parts. As these parts move and rub up against one another, this friction creates a great deal of heat. This is offset by oil. Your car’s oil absorbs all this heat and allows all of these parts to work together without overheating, although, it can’t do this forever.

Gradually, engine oil breaks down and wears out. And, when it does, it’s less effective at absorbing heat and lubricating the engine effectively.

For this reason, changing your car’s oil and oil filter are probably the most important regular car maintenance tasks you need to carry out. It’ll stop your engine from breaking down and help you avoid any other major engine troubles.

How often should you change the oil in your car?

There are a number of factors that will determine how often you need an oil change. These include:

  • Vehicle age - The older your vehicle, the more frequently you’ll have to change the oil. Older vehicles - and older engines - typically need an oil change every 3,000 miles.
  • Type of oil - Modern engines run off two types of oil: conventional and synthetics. Engines that run off conventional oil have recommended oil change intervals of 5,000 to 7,500 miles. However, if your car’s engine requires synthetic oil, that’s extended to between 7,000 to 15,000 miles.
  • Driving conditions - The amount you change your oil depends on how and where you drive. These types of journeys or conditions will shorten your oil change interval: short trips (under 5 miles), driving in hot or dusty climates, stop-and-go driving, and carrying heavy loads or a trailer on the back of your car.

Are you now trying to work out the perfect oil change interval for you? It’s probably quite difficult to calculate the age of your car, the conditions you live in, and the types of journey you take. However, it doesn’t need to be so complicated.

Most newer cars are equipped with oil-life monitoring systems. These automatically determine when an oil change is needed and notify you with an alert on the instrument panel. In other words, the oil change light will light up. When this comes up, change your oil immediately.

What’s more, you can also eliminate stress this stress by checking your oil once a month or booking a mobile car check-up with FixMyCar!

How to change the oil in your car

Changing the oil in your car yourself is a little bit fiddly and does require certain tools and supplies. That being said, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it! In this section, we’ll go over how you can change the oil in your car.

How long does it take to change your car oil?

Before getting started, you probably want an idea of how long an oil change will take. This will vary. However, we estimate that the first few times will take you about an hour and a half.

Once you’re up to speed, it will probably take you just under an hour.

What tools and materials do you need?

To change your oil correctly, you’re going to need the right tools and equipment. Here’s what you’ll need to complete the fix (check these off as you go):

Tools:

  • A funnel
  • Latex gloves
  • A jack and jack stamps
  • An oil drain plug socket
  • Oil filter removal tool
  • Oil drain pan

Materials:

  • The correct oil (consult your car’s manual)
  • A new oil filter
  • New drain plug washer (depending on vehicle)

Also, and this goes without saying, be sure to wear something you don’t mind getting dirty as this can be a messy job!

How to safely jack up your car

To change your oil, your car needs to be elevated. This needs to be done safely and correctly using a jack and jack stands. Make sure your car is parked on level ground and that you use jack stands to hold the car in place - not just a jack.

Now we’ve got the housekeeping out of the way, let’s break it down:

  1. Place the jack under the part of the vehicle that it should contact when raised. Place the jack stands near the jack.
  2. Lift the vehicle using the jack. For a scissor jack, insert the rod or wrench over the knob and crank. For a hydraulic jack, place the handle into the correction location and pump up and down. What’s the difference between the two? Take a look at this picture from dummies.com below to see the difference between a scissor jack (a) and a hydraulic jack (b).

3. Place the jack stands under the vehicle, close to the jack. Raise the jack stands until they’re high enough and lower the jack until the vehicle is resting on the jack stands. And, to reiterate, only use jack stands to hold up your vehicle.

After you’re done with the oil change, simply replace the jack, remove the jack stands, and lower the vehicle to the ground. While this all sounds simple, it’s important you follow these steps to the letter.

How to drain the oil

Now you’ve got everything you need and you’ve safely elevated your vehicle, it’s time to get your hands dirty and drain the oil. Let’s go through the steps involved below:

  1. Locate the drain plug under your car. This is a large nut or plug located under the oil pan (at the bottom of your engine)
  2. Grab your oil drain pan and place it underneath the drain plug.
  3. Remove the oil cap by unscrewing it counterclockwise. This is located on the top of your engine. Removing this before draining will provide airflow above and below the oil and speed up the draining process.
  4. Unscrew the oil drain plug. Use an old drain plug socket to unscrew the plus. Make sure you protect your hands with a cloth or rag as well as your latex gloves. The oil will now drain out into your pan. The oil will take 2-3 minutes to drain out completely.

How to change an oil filter

After you’ve drained the old oil, you may want to change your oil filter. Whether you do this step or not depends on the advice from your car manufacturer.

The majority of car manufacturers will recommend you switch out your oil filter after every other oil change. However, some car manufacturers recommend you do this every time. For more information, consult your car’s manual or speak to an expert. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Locate the oil filter assembly. An oil filter’s location depends on the car model. However, they’re usually on the front, back, or either side of your engine. They are cylinder-shaped and can be black, blue, or white in color.
  2. Remove the oil filter by turning it counterclockwise. You may be able to do this by hand. However, if not, you’ll need an oil filter removal tool - which kind of looks like a big pair of pliers. Once again, ensure the drain pan is underneath the oil filter when you remove it to soak up any excess fluid.
  3. Prep the new filter by rubbing new oil on the gasket. Lubricating the gasket ring of the new filter forms a good seal and will make it easier to remove the next time you change your filter.
  4. Screw the new oil filter back on clockwise. Oil filters have multiple threads, therefore, be careful to not cross threads. How much you tighten the filter depends on the model, so be sure to consult the box before tightening.

How to add new oil

And finally, it’s time to replace that dirty and murky oil with some brand spanking oil. And while this seems easy, there’s still a right way to do it and a couple of steps you need to take afterward. Let’s take a look:

  1. Pour in new oil at fill hole. You can do this directly into the hole from the jug in one swift motion. However, in order to avoid spillage, we recommend pouring in via a tunnel.
  2. Screw the fill cap back in the oil fill hole. Do this in a clockwise direction. If you haven’t already, remove the drain oil pan and rinse off any spilled oil with water.
  3. Start your engine and check the oil pressure light. If the oil pressure light is lit up, you may not have included enough oil or there may be a leak. Run the engine for around a minute or so to get the pressure up and ensure everything is working smoothly.
  4. Check the oil levels with a dipstick. Last but not least, check your oil levels. However, be sure to do this 5-10 minutes after starting your engine. If the marking in the right place, you’re good to go!

PRO TIP: If you spot a leak, turn the engine back off and let it cool down for 10 minutes. Then, tighten the fill cap underneath the car. This is the most likely spot that oil will leak out from.

After that, you should properly dispose of your old oil at a designated oil collection site. And, if you want to be more environmentally conscious, why not consider looking into recycled oil the next time your car needs an oil change.

Checking and changing your car oil is just one vital piece of car maintenance to carry out, check out the others by reading our car maintenance checklist.

Oil change shop or replace by yourself?

As you can see, it is possible to change your oil by yourself. However, it does require a number of tools and materials and is a pretty messy job. You may have been reading all of those steps and thinking, “do I really want to spend my free time underneath my car?”. We get it.

So, what’s the alternative? The obvious one here is finding an oil change shop near you. That way, you get to skip out a sweaty and oily afternoon and allow a professional to handle it for you. However, this still requires you to drive to the shop and then hang around until it’s done. Do you really want to spend your free time sitting in the waiting room of a mechanics’?

That said, all is not lost! There is another way.

The alternative: have a FixMyCar mobile mechanic come to you

We can carry out a car oil change right on your driveway!

This cuts out any potential dangers or stresses that come with doing it yourself and saves you a trip to a repair shop. What’s more, to ensure you never miss an oil change, you can also sign up for FixMyCar’s Oil Change Membership Plan. Your four-wheeled friend will thank you!

How does FixMyCar work? Check out this video to learn more:

What are you waiting for? Book a quote and get your oil changed from the comfort of your own home now.

Bottom Line

There you have it! Car oil changes can indeed be carried out by you if you follow the steps above. However, like with everything, make sure you get all the proper tools and materials needed and take it slowly.

On the other hand, why go through the stress? Get in touch with FixMyCar to book a mobile oil change or sign up for our oil change membership plan.