How To Change Your Engine Oil – Beginners Guide

Most of us change the oil at 5,000 miles or every 6 months. You are used to taking your car to the mechanic and changing the oil there. But, have you ever tried to change it at home? It’s actually not that hard.

To change your engine oil, you need common tools. Lift your car up, go underneath it and locate the draining pan and remove the bolt. Drain your old oil into a pan. Put the drain pan bolt back in place. Replace the oil filter which is located next to the drain pan. Add the new oil.

I have changed oil more than 15 times. Here is a complete beginner guide on how to change your engine oil:

Why Should You Change Your Oil At Home

Changing the oil in a mechanic shop will cost from $30-$90. The majority of the cost will go for the oil itself and the oil filter. But, how would you know which type of oil they will use? Will that oil and oil filter be of high quality? I don’t think so.

Many inexpensive oil change shops will use cheap oil and really cheap filters. So, by changing your oil and filter yourself, you could choose a good engine oil and a top-quality filter. Plus, you get to save some money, and it’s fun to work on your own car.

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lif...
How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lifters?

List Of Tools Needed For An Oil Change At Home

Here’s everything you’re gonna need to change your oil. All of these are common tools and most of us already have them:

  • A socket set that has a ratchet in.
  • Gloves (so you don’t get the oil on your skin because oils are not good for you)
  • Paper towels (to clean up)
  • Oil and filter
  • Wrench (you might need it or you might not but it’s worth to have just in case)
  • An oil catch pan (so you can recycle your old oil)
  • A funnel (so you could fill up your engine with new oil)
  • A breaker bar (just in case your drain bowl is hard to get off, this will make it really easy)

Besides the tools for the oil change, you will need some tools to lift your car up. You can either use Jack and jack stand or stamps. If you don’t have ramps or jacks, you can drive your car up on the sidewalk with one side, which will give you enough room to slide under the car and drain the oil.

How To Choose The Correct Engine Oil And Filter

To figure out what oil your car takes, you could look in the owner’s manual. So, just go grab your owner’s manual, flip to the page where it says oil and capacities and see how much oil you’re gonna need. Most of the cars need four and a quarter quarts.

Also, you want to check the viscosity of the oil. You can either run to the store or order your oil online. If you have an older car you might not need synthetic, but I personally like running synthetic oil even in my older cars. There are a lot of myths out there, and just so that you know you could switch to synthetic and you could switch back to conventional at any time.

Conventional oil is cheaper, but most new cars need synthetic. Plus, synthetic oil lasts longer.   To pick the right oil filter is also easy. If you decide to buy it in the store, there is a big book with all the types and models of vehicles and the oil filters.

Synthetic Or Conventional Oil

There is a big difference between synthetic and conventional oil. They all come from the ground, but the ending process is what makes them very different. Synthetic oil gets refined and distilled. This means that all the impurities are removed from the oil. Your engine will be cleaner because it has been purified from the crude oil.

It also performs better at lower temperatures than conventional oil. It takes less time to flow into the critical components. You can always test which oil is best for your car. If you are not satisfied, you can change the type the next time you change the oil.

When To Change The Oil

You should change your oil at the recommended mileage that’s listed in the owner’s manual. Many cars have an oil life monitor that’ll tell you when you need to change your oil, so just go by that. If you can’t find any information on when you need to change your oil, I change the oil in my cars at around 5,000 miles and I never had any engine issues.

When To Change The Oil Filter

This depends on who you ask. Some people say that you can reuse the oil filter, some say that you have to change it every time you change your engine oil. My personal opinion is to replace it every time you change your oil. Why?

Well, your oil filter can trigger the service engine light to turn on. And we all get scared when that light gets on, thinking that there is something wrong with the engine itself. Then you will take your car and spend a ton of money on diagnostics, and then you will come to the conclusion that your oil filter needed changing.

The oil filter is a critical component of the engine. Its mission is to remove grit and dirt from your oil. Having a faulty oil filter means that you will have dirt and grit running through your engine, which may cause bigger problems. That is why it’s important to change your oil filter every time you change your car oil.

How To Change Your Engine Oil – Beginners Guide

1. Lift Your Car Up (With Jack Or Ramps)

Now that you have your tools, oil, and filter, it is time to start with the oil change. The first step is to drain the oil and to get to the oil drain plug, you have to go underneath the vehicle. So, you gonna have to lift the vehicle up. There are 2 methods:

  1. First Method: If you’re not completely sure how to jack your car up, you could check the owner’s manual. It tells you exactly how to jack the car up, to change your spare tire, etc. Before you jack the vehicle up, you need to block off the rear tire so the car doesn’t roll. The other thing you want to do is if you have an automatic transmission, make sure it’s in park. If you have a manual, put it in first gear, and also pull the emergency brake which will prevent the car from rolling. So, get your jack and place it underneath the vehicle jacking points. The jacking points have these little indents in them, which makes them easy to find. After you lift your car, put the jack stands.
  2. Second Method: I prefer this method because it’s easier and safer, and that’s using ramps. Also, the ramps lift the car pretty high, which makes you enough room to go under the car and work on it. Slide two ramps right under the wheels and then you just drive the car up the ramps. It’s that simple. Make sure that you pull the emergency brake and block off the rear tires. Before you go under the car, even when you have the car jacked up, what you want to do is you want to just shake the car with your hands. The car should not move anywhere. You’re just shaking it back and forth as hard as you can and it should be stable.

2. Drain Your Old Oil

You might get a little bit confused and unable to find the draining pan, but no worries. It’s actually pretty simple. When you get under your car, look for a black pan. The black pan should have a bolt-on it. That’s your oil drain pan. There are things that look like it, but this should be pretty easy to find. What you’re looking for is that bolt and you’re looking for the black pan. But you could also see another drain pan, but that drain pan doesn’t have any bolts to let fluid out. That is the transmission drain pan. So, it’s really simple to find the oil drain pan. Behind the drain pan, you will locate your oil filter. In some vehicles, the oil filter is actually on top of the engine.

  1. Before you remove the drain plug, get your oil collection pan and slide it under your car. Loosen up the bolt. On most of the cars, you will need a 14-millimeter socket on your ratchet. If you are unable to loosen it, don’t be discouraged. There’s an easy trick to use, and that trick is to use one of the long breaker bars which will give you much leverage.
  2. Some people say that you should run your car for 10 minutes so the oil is warm and it flows easier. In reality, it doesn’t matter. If you want to change your oil, with the car sitting there, you just Jack it up and the car is cold. All that oil is gonna be in the oil pan. You’re not gonna risk burning yourself and sometimes it just makes the job easier. Now, if you’re gonna put your car up on the ramps, then you’re starting your car anyway. Just make sure if you run your engine, you let it sit for like five to ten minutes. Let it cool off a little bit so you don’t burn yourself.
  3. Also, on some oil drain plugs, there’s a gasket to help seal the plug. These gaskets are generally one-time use, so take off the old gasket and replace it with a new one. Some people have reused these gaskets one or two times and never have a problem with leaks and I’m one of those people. But in general, I suggest you replace the gasket.
  4. Once the oil is completely drained, put the bolt back in place and tighten it.
  5. Wipe the area around the bolt, so just in case you have a leakage, you will know it.

Now you are ready for the next step.

3. Replace The Oil Filter

  1. Place the oil collection pan and place it under your filter. As I said before, the filter is located next to the oil drain pan. The filter is in a cylinder shape. You should be able to remove your oil filter just by hand.
  2. After you remove your old filter, what you want to do next is fill the new oil filter with oil. The reason why I prefer doing this is that when you start the car, it will automatically have oil in the filter. As you know, it takes time for the oil to come to all the critical components, so this way you are avoiding your car to run without oil.
  3. After you fill out your oil filter, slide under the car, and tighten it back on.

NOTE: On some car models, you won’t be able to fill your oil filter with oil because of the position. On most of the cars, the filter is in a vertical position, but there are some models that have their oil filter in a horizontal position.

4. Add New Oil

You can do this step with the car lifter or you can get the car on the ground. Just make sure that you don’t start the engine with no oil in it. When you’re looking where you add your oil, it’s usually at the top of the engine.

  1. There is a cap with an oil sign on top of it. Don’t take this cap off just yet. You want to clean the area first because you don’t want junk falling into the engine. So, just get your paper towel and clean it well. Now that that’s clean, you can take the cap off.
  2. Place your funnel so you could fill the engine up with brand new oil. On the side of the bottle, there is a scale that tells you how many quarts or liters you have.
  3. Go ahead and add the new oil.
  4. Get the car off the jack stands or the ramp on level ground and check the oil. Since you added oil you can start the car and make sure that there is no oil light on.
  5. Turn off your car and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Now you need to check our oil levels. Go to the front of the car, pull out your oil dipstick, wipe it with a towel, and place it back. Take it out again and see the level of the oil. There are markings on the dipstick with Low and High. Anywhere in between is good. I prefer trying to get it to the high.
  7. Turn on the car again and take it for a ride.
  8. You should check the oil levels the next morning again, just to make sure that the bolt from the drain pan isn’t leaking.

5. Dispose Of The Old Oil

All that oil that you drained from your vehicle (around 4 quartz) needs to be disposed of. You can put the oil in some corner of your garage. Collect it in some old oil containers, a milk container, orange juice, whatever you can find. What you should do is you just fill up these containers and you go to your local auto parts store, your local garage, your local recycling center, and places that sell the oil. Most of those places will take the oil and they’ll take it for free so that they could recycle it so it doesn’t become an environmental hazard.


So, you’ve gone through the whole article and you still think that you are not up for the task. That is okay. What I would suggest is to call a friend that knows how to change the oil and just watch him how he does it. If you don’t have a friend that knows how to change the oil then you can call a friend that doesn’t. He will open this article and read the steps while you do them. It’s really not about saving $20-$30. It’s about knowing what oil and oil filter you are putting in your car. Bad oil means a bad engine.

Is your engine oil due for a change? Visit our Car Fluid Guide Website to learn the importance of changing your oil on time, which type of engine oil is best for your vehicle, and much more.

Car Care Hacks

Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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