How to Change the Oil in Your Car or Truck

Changing your oil is easy. Follow these tips from an expert, and you're sure to be successful.

| Feb. 19, 2009

changing oil

Use a filler spout or funnel to avoid spills when filling an engine with oil.


Changing your own oil can be easy to do, and it’s not expensive. Regular oil changes will prolong the useful life of an engine.

But if you just want to do your own oil changes to save money, consider that express oil change outlets change the oil for little more than it costs to do it yourself, usually anywhere from $25 to $40. Further, you’ll have to dispose of your old oil, something the oil-change folks do for you. It might not be worth the time or hassle to change the oil yourself. But for many people, especially those outside metro areas, the options narrow to the local garage, which will often charge $30 or more for a change. At that price, doing it yourself (typically about $20) becomes a better proposition. Plus, you'll have the satisfaction of maintaining your vehicles — and you'll know it's been done right.

Tools and Equipment

If you decide to change your car or truck oil yourself, you’ll need a few basic tools. First, you’ll need a set of ramps or a pair of jack stands and a jack. Many people find working with ramps easier, for the simple reason they require only a steady eye and a light foot on the gas to get your vehicle at working height.

Second, you’ll need an oil filter wrench. In older vehicles with lots of clearance, a strap-type wrench (basically a strap of steel that tightens around the filter when it’s pulled tight by its handle) works well. But many newer cars with tightly packaged engine and transmission assemblies require an oil filter socket wrench — basically a large, pressed-steel can that fits around the outside of the filter, turned with a 3/8-drive socket wrench and extension. The length of the extension will vary depending upon oil filter location.

Third, you’ll need the correct-sized tool to remove the oil drain plug, either a box-end combination wrench or a socket wrench. Again, ease of access will determine the correct type. I prefer a box-end wrench for the simple reason it’s easier to get good leverage for pulling a stubborn drain plug loose.

Fourth, you’ll need a good drain pan. I strongly recommend a 10- to 15-quart round, plastic oil drain pan, available at any auto parts store. Look for one with a capped drain spout for easy emptying and a screen to catch the hot drain plug when it falls from the oil pan.

4/14/2015 1:53:28 PM

This is a very helpful guide. I never realized that it was so easy to change the oil yourself. Is this true of newer models as well or is it easier in older models? It seems like the tools necessary are getting more and more specialized. Thanks for sharing your tips with us!

8/8/2014 4:10:26 AM

This is really an informative article and we should know all the details whenever we are planning to go for oil change whether its for BMW car or Truck. So we just need to understand the right direction for it and if you are not sure then just go for the best mechanics who can help you to do that, dont try yourself, it will lead to some other problems to your car. So just select the best mechanics for the best output.

5/10/2014 5:09:51 AM

For any car owner it is not easy to take the car to the service center again and again. So you need to know some part of car repairing. This will not only save your money but also your car too. So you need to know some tips about car repairing. You need to go for time to time oil change. Also you need to check the tires and also you need to wash the car regularly. This will save from car from any kind of problems. For more tips you can visit

2/22/2013 4:53:56 PM

how to get off of ramps, if you can not start engine ? if i push the car it has no boby in it to stop it

nick stageberg
1/30/2012 2:28:08 AM

Nice walkthrough, I have my own little how-to video on changing your oil here: Hope you find it useful!

charles cohn_2
12/16/2009 3:35:11 PM

My Chevy van calls for 4-1/2/ quarts of oil. Instead of opening 5 quarts and leaving half a quart lying around, I put in just 4 quarts. This brings the oil level to just between the full and add-oil marks on the dipstick, which is a quite acceptable condition. When the oil gets down to the add-oil mark, only then do I add more oil. I have never seen any of my vehicles need any oil added between changes.

howard harms_1
12/16/2009 9:05:07 AM

Why roll off the ramps before adding oil? Consult the owner's manual and just add that amount of oil. Drive off the ramps. Shut off engine and check for leaks. Wait a bit and check dipstick. Add oil if needed. If the filter mounts vertically, it is a good idea to pre-fill the filter with clean oil and then screw it into place. This allows earlier oil flow when first starting the engine as the filter does not have to fill up before oil flows. When removing the old filter, make certain that the old filter gasket comes off with the filter. I once had one stick to the engine. When the new filter was installed, it leaked because the old gasket and the new did not totally seal. Change your own oil and the money saved can be used to upgrade to synthetic oil instead of conventional. Synthetic is superior as a lubricant especially at high temperatures (no breakdown) and flows better at very cold temperatures also.

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