On Fridays, I share tips I actually use to save my family money, along with my once-a-month grocery update. The posts will give you ideas to work on saving money over the weekend.
I want to reiterate here that the amount of frugality you want to incorporate into your life is an individual decision. Your time is valuable and there is a balance between the amount of time it takes to save money and the actual money saved. Just take away what works for you, and leave the rest (or share it with someone who may use it!).
Changing the oil in our vehicles is one of the ways my husband has been saving us money for years. The estimated savings on each oil change is approximately $30, depending on the price of our supplies (we stock up on sales!) and how much the service shop charges.
Now this post is a little different. I really wanted to share with readers how to save money on this task, but since I had never, ever changed the oil in any vehicle in my life, I was at a loss. So, I
nagged kindly asked my husband to share, step-by-step, how to change oil. To test out the viability of his instructions, I used his tutorial to do my very first oil change (with the pictures to prove it).
How to Change the Oil in Your Vehicle
1. Buy the oil and filter.
“What kind of oil and filter?” I ask.
Look in owner’s manual for the weight of oil needed and the capacity of your engine (you can also find the weight on the filler cap).
“What if you don’t know where the oil filler cap is?”
It’s usually a black plug with an icon of an oil can on it and says “oil”.
“What type of oil do you use?”
I recommend using full synthetic oil (or at least a synthetic blend) because it doesn’t break down as easily, protects your motor, and lasts longer.
“What filter do you buy and where do you buy it?”
Your car owner’s manual should tell you original equipment filter number, but most places that sell oil filters will have an online cross reference catalog that will tell you similar after-market models that will fit your vehicle.
If your vehicle is still under the manufacturer’s warranty, it is recommended to use an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) filter. Many manufacturers are now using crush rings on their oil drain plugs and recommend replacing them at each oil change. If your vehicle requires a crush ring, purchase it when buying your oil filter.
Auto parts stores, Walmart, and some home improvement stores will carry both the oil and the filters. (We have purchased most of our filters from Amazon).
2. Prepare to change your oil
- If your car is cold, back it out and let it run for a couple of minutes, but don’t let it get too hot.
- Get your ramps out, if they are needed, to allow you to get underneath vehicle.
- Pull car up onto ramps.
- Set the parking brake.
- Get oil catch pan out to drain used oil into.
- Fetch your oil filter wrench, wrench for oil drain plug, new filter (and crush ring) and new oil.
- Open the hood of your vehicle.
3. Now, loosen the dipstick a little bit to allow oil to flow easily out into drain pan.
4. Position drain pan under drain pan plug.
I ask, “What if you don’t know where that is? Is it obvious?” (He’s frustrated with me at this point because I do not know what an oil pan is and I ask a lot of questions 😉 )
It’ll be at the lowest point on the oil pan with a large bolt. The oil pan is under the car and the drain pan plug is a large bolt. Here’s a picture for you (it’s hard to take pics under the car):
5. Use a wrench to loosen the drain pan plug and drain the oil into the catch pan.
I ask, “Does it come flying out, like getting all over me?” (Not that I mind getting a little dirty, but this is oil we’re talking about.)
The oil will come out in a steady stream, but won’t spray.
6. Once the stream slows down to a drop every few seconds, put the drain pan plug back in (If you are working on a vehicle that needs a new crush ring, replace that prior to putting the drain pan plug back in).
“How do you replace the crush ring?” I ask.
It’s like a washer on a bolt, you take the old one off and put the new one on the bolt (or drain pan plug) – this helps seal the drain plug, so if you don’t replace them they could leak.
7. Remove the old filter with your oil filter wrench.
“How exactly do you do that?”
Typically you put the filter wrench around the outside casing of the filter and turn the wrench in a counter-clockwise direction. Have your drain pan handy, because when you take the filter off, there will be some oil draining out.
(I found this step to be most challenging – that oil filter wrench doesn’t work like a normal wrench and has a learning curve to it.)
8. Get out your new filter, but before you put on the new filter, put a little bit of the new oil in the new filter.
Pour some new oil into the center hole of the oil filter. This will help minimize the amount of time it takes for oil to flow out of the oil filter and into your engine when you first start it up after the oil change. Use some of the new oil to put a thin film of oil on the rubber gasket.
9. Install the new filter.
Don’t use the oil filter wrench to install the new filter, just use your hands to put it in place and turn it clockwise as tight as you can get it. (If you are having trouble getting it tight, use some rubber gloves or a towel to get better grip because the oil can cause it to be slippery.)
10. Fill ‘er up
Remove the oil filler cap under the hood. Place a funnel in the filler hole and pour the amount the manufacturer listed as the capacity into the filler hole*. Replace filler cap and push the dipstick back down.
*Keep the oil bottles to put used oil in. Generally the used oil and filter can be returned to the retailer you purchased the oil from, but if not, go to earth911.com to find a local recycler.
11. Start your engine and let it run for about 30 seconds and back off the ramp (don’t forget to release the parking brake!).
12. Check the oil level to make sure your oil levels are in the normal range on the dipstick (add more if too low, carefully drain a little if it’s too high).
Note: It’s also a good idea to check for leaks on the oil filter and plug (we put cardboard under the car for the first day to make sure there are no leaks).
13. Record the date and mileage, type/brand of filter and oil into your maintenance log.
This is important for knowing when you need to change your oil next (we also put a little sticker in the windshield as a reminder), but it also provides the manufacturer and/or future owners with proof you’ve performed necessary service to the vehicle. Save your receipts for the oil and filter.
Cost Comparison: Total cost of oil, filter and crush ring on our Hyundai Sonata is generally around $20-25 (but sometimes less – we stock up on the synthetic oil when it’s on sale). The service department at our Hyundai dealer runs oil change specials (for full synthetic oil) at 3 oil changes/$160, coming out to about $53 each. Therefore we save about $30 on each oil change. After some practice, changing the oil takes around 30 minutes total (just as quick or quicker than going to a service station!)
I would encourage you to run your own numbers before diving in, but typically, if you buy supplies on sale, it will be cheaper to DIY your oil changes.
There you have it. Believe me, if I can do it, you can to! Let me know if you try changing your oil for the first time.
List of Supplies:
- Oil Filter (and maybe crush ring, depending on vehicle)
- Wrench for oil pan plug (bolt)
- Oil Filter wrench
- Catch pan (for used oil)
Do you change your own oil? Did we miss any important information? Would you be willing to give this a go to save some $$$?