How to Change Your Own Oil (Bottom-Mount Filters)

How to Change Your Oil

More than $8000 was spent by each of us in 2016 on our vehicles, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The purchase of new or used cars accounted for $3634 per consumer; $1909 was spent per person on fuel and motor oil; and $1149 went toward insurance policies. Once those numbers were combined with additional costs such as licensing and maintenance, the total 2016 figure per consumer was a whopping $8427.


Since owning a car is so incredibly expensive, it is easy to start to cut corners. Although skipping routine maintenance such as oil changes is understandable, it certainly comes at its own long-term cost. That is for two primary reasons, per Bankrate:


  1. The total cost of collisions caused by unperformed maintenance on cars is $2 billion, according to 2004 data from the nonprofit Car Care Council.
  2. You will knock down the life of your car if you skip regular maintenance – losing up to 50,000 miles.


Regardless how much you want to save money, you certainly do not want to avoid or delay maintenance. At Independent Motors, we would rather your car stay healthy regardless your immediate situation, so we provide here a four-step plan to change your oil. You will need about a half-hour, but allot at least an hour the first time you try, since there is a bit of a learning curve. Here is a relatively standard nine-step process to change your oil yourself:


Step 1 – Look at your manual.


Probably the best page-turner that you have in your possession is your car manual (right?), so flip it open and look in the index for oil guidelines (type and amount). You will need several standard 1-quart containers of oil to do the job. Edmunds director of vehicle testing Dan Edmunds suggests staying away from 5-gallon jugs of oil despite the lower price since they are bulky and can be difficult to handle – but either way.


Be certain that you know the specific type of oil that suits your engine (from the manual), since getting oil that is at the right viscosity level is critical. The manual also might direct you to use the synthetic variety. Some manufacturers specify their own brand, so make sure you use the correct oil.


Step 2 – Be prepared.


You will want to put together an oil drain pan; a socket or box end wrench for removal of the drain plug; and an oil filter removal wrench. Also purchase or otherwise gather a funnel, latex gloves, oil filter, and… don’t forget the oil. Plus, it may be necessary to elevate your vehicle in order to be able to perform the work, which would mean that you will require steel ramps, or a floor jack and safety stands. Finally, a drain plug washer may also be needed. You can actually make sure that the oil filter is compatible with your wrench in the auto parts store. Be careful about band-type filter wrenches, since they can be annoying if you do not have much space to use it.


Step 3 – Get the car ready.


You want both the engine and its oil to be warm, although not hot, when you begin working. You want to wait a few minutes after the car is turned off to get to work, but you do not want it to be completely cold. How do you get your car to the right temperature? If your car is cold, you want to turn the ignition and keep it on about 5 minutes to introduce a bit of heat. Then, or if you have just been driving it, wait about 30 minutes before you begin.


Raise the car if necessary, as long as you have safety stands in place. If your car was manufactured recently, it may have an undercover that conceals the oil filter and oil drain plug. You may have to take this piece off the car, or you may find that it has a hatch through which you can access these elements.


Step 4 – Figure out where the drain plug and oil filter are.


Almost all cars will have an oil filter that is screw-on and bottom-mounted. Depending on where these two items are located, you may need to move your drain pan once you have drained the oil and are ready to remove the filter. These instructions are for cars with bottom-mount filters, but we will address top-mount filters in a second blog.


Step 5 – Drain your oil.


Now, time to actually get to work on your car! You want the drain pan beneath the drain plug; however, it should not be right under it since the oil will not drain straight down. Move the pan just a few inches to the side so it catches it.


Take off your oil filler cap under your hood. Why? You will typically find oil will drain faster when that cap is not in place.


Now, grab your gloves. You should be able to take off the drain plug with a common end wrench. Do this step gradually, being conscientious that your arm is not in the way when the oil streams from the car.


Step 6 – Put your drain plug back on the car.


You can start this step while the oil is draining. Check the plug and clean it. At this point you can replace the drain plug washer if you need one; however, many cars have permanent O-rings, in which case you won’t have to get a washer. Tighten the drain plug. A combination wrench’s box end will help you tighten the plug appropriately. You do not want to overtighten it since someone will need to remove it at a later point.


Step 7 – Switch out the oil filter.


Making sure the drain pan is in the right place, take off the filter. It may be challenging to remove it because of a swollen sealing gasket (typical). The wrench is only necessary for a moment really. You will be able to get the filter loose relatively quickly. Oil will start draining out at the edges as soon as it is loose, so you will want to switch to loosening by hand almost immediately.


You may end up spilling a bit of oil here; that is not uncommon. Make sure that you have rags available since you may get a slight amount of oil on your arm. Keep hold of your filter tightly once it starts to loosen so it does not fall into the pan. Take the rags and wipe away as much oil as is possible. Take the new oil bottle, and put just a small bit of it on the O-ring of the new filter.


Now it is time to put the new filter on the car. You may want to remove your gloves so your grip is improved. Since this step is often botched, it is a good idea to check your manual or the box for the oil filter, to see how exactly to perform this tightening. Typically an oil filter wrench will not be required; you should be able to use your hands. Also make sure the old filter o/ring comes off with the filter and does not stay on the engine block.


Step 8 – Put in the new oil.


Once you know that the filter and the oil drain bolt are in place and tight, pour in one quart below the amount that is advised in the manual. Put on the cap. Go ahead and start the car, and leave it running for about 30 seconds to ensure that the oil has circulated properly. Turn off the vehicle, and look where you were working to ensure there is no leakage. Bring the car down from the ramps or jack stands.


Step 9 – Verify the oil level.


Once you have the car onto the ground again, it is time to check your work. The oil should come up to the hash mark or upper hole. Add the leftover quart of oil. Finally, proper disposal of the old filter and oil is very important. We can actually take care of that part for you at Independent Motors if you would like. Alternately, you can bring it to the Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management Facility.


Getting help with your car


Does this sound interesting but too complicated, or are their other auto maintenance services you need? Do not put off your oil change because you do not want to be aggressively upsold or treated unethically by an auto shop. At Independent Motors, we treat our customers the way that we want to be treated – fair and honest. Meet our staff.