How to change your oil

Tuners tips on "How to do an oil change"

How to do an oil change Guide

An oil change is one of the best maintenance tasks you can perform. Regular changes of oil will prolong the life of your engine and reduce expensive maintenance on moving parts.

Garages will charge for this service and it is a simple job you can do yourself. We also note that many garages (3 in 5 we tried) filled up with too much oil with one managing to put a whole litre too much in. Then one garage failed to top the oil up to the min level on the dipstick. So in our experience only 1 in 5 garages filled the oil up to the correct level on the dipstick.

The only way to guarantee a proper oil change is done is to do the job yourself.

Things you will need to do an oil change.

  1. Sump plug washer (use a new one each time.)
  2. Socket or spanner to remove the sump washer.
  3. Oil filter removal tool.
  4. Oil catch tank, tray or bowl low enough to fit under the engine but big enough to contain your engines oil (5-6 litre capacity will suit most engines).
  5. Oil filter (the filter catches tiny metal particles and stops them wearing away at your engine so you will need to replace the filter each time.) Car Tuning Tips recommend that you use a proper OEM or premium quality filter.
  6. Oil flush fluid (only really required if your oil changes have been neglected.)
  7. New oil to the correct spec and grade preferably with a measuring window so you can assess how much to put in.
  8. Thick rubber gloves capable of resisting the heat from hot oil.

A word of warning, engine oil is dangerous and if you get it on your hands it should be washed off immediately - use gloves.

Choosing the correct grade of oil is important. If you are unsure on which grade and oil type to select have a read through this oil grade article.

First off you will need to be parked on fairly level ground and have access to the underneath of the engine, locate the sump plug which is generally placed in the most difficult part to reach!

How to drain the oil.

First you need to warm up the engine, we prefer to avoid letting it get too hot as this can be quite dangerous. If there is evidence of sludge build up in the engine then you should use an oil flush additive but there really is no need to make this a part of your regular oil change regime.

When the engine has warmed up place the oil catch tank under the sump. Undo the sump plug, being careful not to drop it into the oil catch tank and not to scald your hands. (You are wearing the protective gloves at this point aren't you?)

If your car does not have a sump plug (stupid design) then the oil will need to be pumped out.

TIP: Remove the oil filler cap and this will actually help the oil flow rate by reducing any vacuum created by the escaping oil.

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Leave the sump to fully drain and have a look in your cars manual to see how much oil you need. It does help to measure this out into a container with a spout, I've used a clean watering can for this purpose (don't tell the wife though!)

When the oil has fully drained out it is time to replace the sump plug with the new washer. (Don't be tight they only cost a few pence and pretty much guarantee you will not get any leaks and will be able to remove the sump bung next time!) - Forgetting this stage will make you look pretty stupid as the new oil will just drain out of the car.

How to remove the old oil filter.

Now it is time to remove the oil filter (be careful as it can be quite warm). Using the filter removal tool which looks like a bicycle chain with a handle on one end. Wrap the chain around the filter and turn in an anticlockwise direction to release.

Do not puncture the old filter to remove, an old favourite bodge is to shove a screwdriver through it. This doesn't work as there is a lot of thicker metal inside the filter and it will leave sharp edges cutting your hand.

If you do not have a filter removal tool you can use sand paper to get a grip (if your rubber gloves are not doing the job.) Place the grit side around the filter, squeeze and turn.

Putting the new oil filter on (again if you forget to do this you will look daft as your new oil pours out of the side of the  engine. The new filter will come with a rubber ring to seal it, it is recommended to coat this ring with a film of oil for a better seal.

Pour in the new engine oil

Pour in 3/4 of the oil you have measured out and wait. Wait a bit more and then keep waiting for a bit longer. Now check the dipstick and see where the level is. If you have done it right you should be just under the minimum level.

Now top up the oil slowly adding the final quarter you had measured out, and check the dipstick again (after waiting.) If you are unsure how much oil you will need then just keep checking the dipstick and add 1/4 of a litre of oil at a time.

(On a very small minority of cars dipsticks should only be read with the engine running, most are only to be read whilst the engine is off - check your manual. Porsche engines are sometimes the exception.)

Replace filler cap, run the engine for a short period and turn off and wait an hour or so. Check for leaks and that the levels are OK.

Dont' overfill the oil as this can damage your catalyst, encourage burning of oil, break oil seals and cause leaks in a worst case scenario. The crank will also be splashing in the oil in the sump robbing you of power.

If the oil level is too low then you risk oil starvation and loss of oil pressure, although the sump contains a reservoir of oil it is possible for this to run really low as oil is channeled around the running engine.

Check your oil levels regularly, some cars need a litre of oil every 6 months other may require this much oil adding over a period of a week or two! Don't assume that oil consumption is steady either, driving habit changes and ambient temperatures can all alter the consumption rate of oil.

Disposing of the oil should be done properly - it must never be poured on the ground, burned or poured into rivers and streams. Most Municipal authorities have areas for the collection of used engine oils.

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