Save Money By Changing Your Own Oil

I’ve never changed my own oil on a car and have no interest in learning how to do so. I’m terrified that I’d screw something up and ruin my engine. Yet it comforts me to know that some enterprising people — regular guys who don’t know everything about cars — can take it upon themselves to learn the fine art of oil changing and save themselves hundreds of dollars a year.

Edmunds checks in with a comprehensive-seeming how-to-change-your-oil guide that I can only assume works well, considering its authoritative source. I must admit that the story lost me somewhere around the first mention of “oil plug.” The very fact that there’s a plug down there terrifies me. For all I know, there are trolls and erector sets labyrinths laden with mouse traps down there. This is a link for those braver than I.

For those of you who do dare to change your own oil, what tips can you offer up to the less enlightened?

How To Change Your Oil (The Real Down And Dirty) [Edmunds]

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  1. QrazyQat says:

    Think about the fact that when you’re driving your freshly changed car down the street after having someone else do your oil change, you don’t know if they screwed the filter or the drain plug on tight enough and either may come off at any time, and emptying your oil on the street, possibly damaging your engine badly, not to mention leaving oil all over the road, just ready to create an accident — namely anyone behind you as you grind to a halt may lock up their brakes in the slippery stuff and slam into you.

    Or you could do it yourself and have it done right. It’s easy.

    • outlulz says:

      Or you could do it yourself and do it wrong and have the above result. Hypotheticals are fun!

    • TheUncleBob says:

      Likewise, I wouldn’t know if I screwed the filter or the drain plug on tight enough… but, at least if they screw it up, I can attempt to make them cover the damages. If I screw it up, I’m completely SOL.

      • racshot65 says:

        You can get the torque values from most service manuals so you know you’ve done it up just right

        • Crim Law Geek says:

          You have to buy the shop manual _and_ the proper torque wrench. Both of these would probably kill any savings you might get from doing your own oil changes.

        • TheUncleBob says:

          What’s a “torque”? :D

        • layton59 says:

          I torque my oil drain plug to 30 ft/lbs and the oil filter to 15 ft/lbs. Every car I have owned had those same specs in the shop manual. I wonder if any cars differ from those numbers?

    • PTB315 says:

      Or to echo Uncle Bob and Outlulz; The point of being a professional is to get paid to do something right, and be held responsible for the effects of doing your paid service wrong. Oil changes are not self explanatory, it’s possible to screw them up (with absolutely dire effects, such as ruining your car).

      Cars are complex pieces of machinery, and if something goes wrong when you’re doing 65 on the highway, you could kill yourself or others. You honestly don’t understand why some people just trust a professional to maintain their car?

      • The Walking Eye says:

        The phrase “idiot simple” gets thrown out a lot, but I think this is one where it’s true. If you have a place to put your car on ramps, all it is is unscrewing a plug and a filter, replacing the filter and plug, then pouring oil into the top of the engine. It’s very easy, and anyone can do it if they have the place to do it.

        I also wouldn’t refer to most people at Jiffy Lube as professionals, and that’s not meant to be derogatory. The guys out there replacing the oil, in my experience, are generally young kids and are pushed to work quickly. They aren’t mechanics and the skills required for oil changes are minimal, so I don’t defer to their judgment automatically.

        I do my oil when I can because it’s easy, cheaper, and I can choose the brands I want without having to pay extra for them. This whole post probably seems a lot smugger than it’s meant.

      • Putaro says:

        Jiffy Lube != professional

    • MTFaye says:

      I had this exact thing happen to me. I got my oil changed before moving across country. A little while after the move, the truck starts running funny, and the oil light comes on. Turns out the oil filter fell off at some point. I’m never taking that chance again, and will change it myself from now on. I’m the only person I can trust enough to care whether or not my engine burns out.

    • RandomHookup says:

      As someone who screwed up his own oil change, I don’t think doing it yourself means it will always be done right.

    • c_c says:

      With my mechanical tendencies (or lack thereof), I would be more worried that I didn’t screw in the filter in tight enough (or screwed it in too tight and stripped the treads)…

      It takes me long enough to change a damn headlight on my car, it’ll take a while for me to work my way up to changing the oil…

      As long as you can go to a trusted local mechanic (ie not Jiffy Lube) I think the avg. person probably has a better chance of screwing it up themselves than the professional making a mistake.

      • c_c says:

        *threads, not treads. I’m not quite that lost on car matters!

        • MrEvil says:

          Unless you’re using a filter wrench to tighten the filter, the outer shell of the filter will begin to deform before you can screw up the threads. The key thing to remember is to use your hands to put the filter on… unless the filter is as smooth as a baby’s behind like the filters on my pickup.

    • chrisexv6 says:

      And dont think you are immune from those issues if you even bring it to the dealer too.

      My sister in law brought her (basically brand new) Civic in for its first oil change, right to the dealer she purchased it at. They changed the oil, all seemed well. She gets home and as she is walking inside notices a stream of liquid on the street into the driveway and a puddle under her car.

      Yep, they forgot to screw the filter on all the way. She made them flat bed the car back to the dealer to fix the whole disaster.

      If you want something done right, do it yourself.

      • perruptor says:

        I still remember the time an engineer I worked for forgot to tighten the drain plug on his Porsche 911 after changing the oil. I think it took something like 11 quarts – 11 quarts that wound up on the street.

        Doing it yourself is not always a guarantee of the work being done right.

    • Shadowfax says:

      I’m generally a do-it-yourself guy. But oil changes are a pain. The actual work is easy, but storing/disposing of the old oil is a headache, at least where I live. It’s a lot easier to let the dealership do it – they’ve recently gotten competitive with the quick change places, and wash my car, and use higher-quality filters than the chain stores.

      If they screw up and cause damage then guess what? They buy me a replacement engine. So I’m not terribly worried about them messing things up.

    • layton59 says:

      The neighbors son took his truck to Fir_stone. After driving the 15 miles back home he looked under the hood and noticed the oil filler cap was missing. Similarly, my stepfather used to change my mom’s Dodge truck oil. She started taking it to WalMart when he lost the oil filler cap. Long story short, there are no sure things. Do whatever works for you.

  2. KillerBee says:

    Tip 1: If you’re uncomfortable, get some one knowledgeable to help you through the first change. You’ll be a lot more comfortable about it once you see how easy it really is.

    Tip 2: Most auto parts stores (Auto Zone, Advance, Pep Boys, O’Reillys) will also take used oil. In fact, I leave my used oil in the garage until the next time I do a change. Take in the old oil and pick up the new stuff at the same time. Saves a trip.

    Question: Contrary to the article, I always remove the oil fill cap before I drain the oil. I learned that this was the proper thing to do to get the oil to fully drain properly. Anyone know if this really matters?

    • GTI2.0 says:

      Yes, your engine is a vacuum. You want air to fill the void that’s left by the oil as it drains, otherwise it’ll just sit there.

      • edman007 says:

        Doesn’t work that way, the oil isn’t under a negative pressure (the vacuum you are thinking of is taken from the intake, above the pistons where there isn’t much oil and the filler tube doesn’t go there), especially when the engine is off, and there is plenty of air with the oil, the filler tube is too big and too high to have oil in it that might be held with a vacuum. Taking the top off first will help it flow a bit better at the start as air won’t have to go up the drain hole, but towards the end the oil is draining slow enough that oil can come up that hole either way.

        If you want to get all the dirty oil out a better method is to just change the oil, run the engine for 20 minutes with the new oil, and change it again, that will wash the parts that don’t drain well with the new oil and get the dirt into the new oil which can then be drained, it’s a lot more expensive and time consuming, but I have friends that do that with their high end cars.

        • reynwrap582 says:

          I think he didn’t mean a vacuum so much as he meant airtight. When draining the oil, air needs to move in to fill the void, and if you open the filler cap air will come in through the top instead of trying to go up through the drain plug. It’s like filling a 2-liter bottle with water and then flipping it over, it’ll glug as air is sucked up through the water to fill the void left by the draining water.

          I’ve done it both ways, it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference though, but it does flow a little faster and smoothly with the cap open.

          • dean says:

            What you are describing is a vacuum. There are ways for air to get in besides the fill cap.

            • LastError says:

              I leave my cap off, but I am not sure it matters a lot. There is air flowing in once the drain plug is out and has drained enough oil so there’s air going in while the oil is still flowing out and all of that is happening right where the action is, so to speak. That air is going to have more of an impact than air coming in the top of the engine.

          • barty says:

            Except an engine is far from being airtight. Older vehicles (60-70s) have open crankcases, there is a draft tube or open breather element(s) to vent the crankcase to atmosphere. One of the earliest pollution controls was the PCV system, which creates a closed circuit by which the gases in the crankcase are drawn into the intake manifold and burned in the engine, instead of simply being vented to the atmosphere. In any case, there is a tube that is used to draw “fresh” air into the crankcase that is always open to the atmosphere. So when you drain your oil, it serves as the vent you refer to.

      • PSUSkier says:

        Actually, the area in the crank case (everything below the pistons heads) is not remotely sealed. If you look in your engine you’ll see a line coming off your air intake that runs into the block and another one on the other side that goes into your intake. This is to allow for the pressure differences when the pistons are pumping inside the block, but it’ll certainly let air into the block while the oil drains. Bonus (not that it really matters): the air coming in that way is filtered.

    • kt_ems says:

      It might drain a bit faster if you do, but I’ve never done it.

      Was also talking to my auto teacher a few weeks back and asked him that same question. He said that he’s always done it, but not a big deal if you don’t.

    • ALP5050 says:

      Oil is going to drain at equal speeds if the cap is off or not. It does not matter.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        It’s about airflow. It’s the difference between poking one or two holes into a can of tomato juice. The second hole is to maintain air pressure on the liquid so that it flows through the first hole smoothly.

    • Jimmy60 says:

      I always remove the oil fill cap first, not to help it drain better, it won’t, it reminds me I haven’t put oil in it yet.

      When I am done I double check the plug and filter before starting. After running a few minutes I recheck for possible leaks.

    • kobresia says:

      I remove the cap for another reason– so it’s obvious the vehicle is out of service. the fill cap and dipstick are always the first things off during an oil change, and the last things back on. It can never be too obvious that the engine is lacking oil and the car cannot be started or driven, but if all you’ve done is take out the drain plug, it’s a little less obvious that the oil has been drained.

    • ktetch says:

      I usually do it, if for nothing else than to drop a slug of new oil in, and then drop-down quick and see what colour it comes out (when it comes to the end of the drain, and bits can be left on the edge by the trickle of oil left, a fresh slug can knock it out, and itit’s mixed with any oil left in a crevice, can let you know it’s not clean. My car takes 4.25qts (and it’s written on the top of the airbox quite clearly in yellow marker that that is the case – another trick I learnt years ago), so I’ve got about half a quart spare, after filling the filter.

    • NumberSix says:

      Taking the oil cap off seems to prevent the oil from gurgling out in spurts since air doesn’t have to go back in the same hole oil is trying to get out of. Helps with the mess but I don’t know if it helps the oil get out any faster. A warm engine will get the most oil out though.

  3. minjche says:

    One slight hassle is disposal of the spent oil. If you know the proper channels then it isn’t an issue, but it’s certainly not something you can pour down the drain (legally).

    • DoodlestheGreat says:

      As it should be. Your local auto parts store more than likely will take the old oil.

    • JayPhat says:

      I’m not saying that I have ever done such a thing, but I have witnessed old oil being burned in a bon fire of old burnables on a farm. The cops showed up (this was 5 miles out of town, nearest neighbor at least a mile) because they wanted to check and make sure the house wasn’t on fire. Hottest fire I have ever been near, maybe 10-15 gallons of old on old couches and waste wood.

    • citking says:

      In Wisconsin it is a state law that any place that sells oil must take used stuff free of charge. I think it is limited to a few gallons though to keep people from sending their entire day’s work over there.

      • bender123 says:

        I love Wausau Wisconsin…On garbage pickup, they take used motor oil with the recycling at curbside. Just pour it into your oil jugs and put it on the curb.

    • Griking says:

      This is why I can’t be bothered to do it myself. If I’m going to have to save it, pout it into a container and then bring it to an auto shop then I’d rather just have them do it for me while I’m there.

    • Extractor says:

      My cousin uses used oil to heat his garage in the winter. His favorite is synthetic and he gets a gallon next weekend.

  4. veronykah says:

    Of you can pay way more, get dirty and have to dispose of the oil yourself.
    Just because its easy doesn’t mean its worth it, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say this.
    Not to mention, “hundreds of dollars a year”? How much are people paying for oil changes?

    • Right On says:

      Agreed. You can pay $12 for the oil and a new filter at Walmart and do it yourself, or pay a local shop worker $15 to do it for you.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      An oil change on my Jetta costs about $70 and gets done every 10,000 miles. Since I drive about 30 miles a week, it’s worth it to me to have in done professionally once a year.

      • dohtem says:

        Silly question but how come your oil changes are so far apart? Is that what VW recommends?

      • IssaGoodDay says:

        Once every 10k miles!? Sure, that may be the “Manufacturers Recommended Interval” but anyone who knows anything about cars that I’ve talked with says that’s ridiculous, as it WILL have lost most of it’s lubricating qualities and broken down at that point. While it may only be REQUIRED every 10k miles, I wouldn’t ever go more than 5,000 miles between changes, regardless of the manufacturers recommendation…. I religiously change my own every 3,000. I figure, it’s cheap (bulk Mobil1 Synthetic at Costco – case of the stuff for $25 with a coupon and a two-pack of Purolator filters for $11 from Amazon covers me for ~6months), and will keep my car running much longer.

    • TasteyCat says:

      This. While somebody who knows what they’re doing is changing the oil and I’m inside not getting dirty or worrying about it, they’re also topping off fluid levels, retorqueing and tightening, checking the tires/brakes/batteries, vacuuming and washing the car, etc. Could I do it cheaper myself? Probably. But whatever the savings it’s not worth the headache to me.

      • The Walking Eye says:

        They’re filling with the cheapest stuff, though. That’s where you get the savings.

        Go to Jiffylube or Walmart, and let’s say it’s $20, which is usually what I see in the Midwest. This is for a change on dino juice, not synthetic, which is usually 2x the cost. You also get Fram oil filters because they’re cheapest, and the reason they’re cheapest is because they’re poorly made and I wouldn’t dare put one in my car. (Check http://www.bobistheoilguy.com for detailed info on oil and filters)

        Or, go to Autozone and get 5 qts of full synthetic and an OEM or top quality filter for less than $30, if we go dino juice you’re looking at about $15. As for other fluids: washer fluid is cheap and you pour it in the tank, really simple; coolant type varies by car, and I don’t trust the people at Jiffylube to know the difference between the green stuff and the orange stuff, I’ve read of many mix-ups on this.

        The not getting dirty thing…understandable, but come on, it’s a little oil and you sound like a prissy princess. Get dirty, and learn a little more about how your car works. It’ll make you a better person and impress the ladies, or gents.

        • veronykah says:

          I know how my car works and can certainly change my own oil but considering its a 1991 Celica and I use whatever oil is cheap I am not saving any money and don’t need to remove the plug and drain the oil to “learn how my car works”.

    • PTB315 says:

      I don’t have numbers to support this, but my understanding is an acquaintance’s Toyota hybrid cost like twice or more compared to a non-hybrid for oil changes.

      • minjche says:

        Well see there’s a smug surcharge for hybrid oil changes.

      • tomm says:

        And let the hybrid bashing begin….

        I have an 05 Prius and it costs me about $18 to do it myself and I use mobil 1 and puralator filter. Don’t know why you wouldn’t check ur facts.

        Best thing you can do is install an oil drain valve. Makes oil changes 100x easier and less messy. Plus, you don’t have to buy a new crush washer. Fumoto makes good ones.

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      I had to question that “hundreds of dollars a year” too. My car only needs its oil changed eery 6,000 miles. For me, that’s twice a year. I could go to Walmart and probably get oil and a filter for about $15, or I can take it to the shop down the road from me where they’ll charge me $25. Doing my own oil changed won’t even save me dozens of dollars a year, let alone hundreds.

    • Extractor says:

      I dont get dirty. I wear junk and use up several pairs of surgical gloves in the process. I just take a shower afterwards but its not messy if you have the right containers and drain pans.

    • ajlei says:

      Yeah, for a while I considered changing my own oil, but I’d have to buy various parts to do the oil change, buy the oil/filter each time, and an oil change for me usually costs about $19.99. I’m saving maybe ten dollars a year. Totally not worth my time.

      Now, I changed my own brakes last year and it cost me about $50 to do it myself, rather than whatever my mechanic charges. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend just anyone change their brakes themselves.

    • George4478 says:

      I have two cars, three oil changes each per year — $150 a year for oil changes, plus a free car washes with each change.

      Doing it myself — $120 and I pay for car washes.

      Hmmm. Not seeing hundreds of dollars in savings. Not even seeing any possible way to get hundreds of dollars in savings unless I start needing oil changes every 1000 miles.

    • makxmachine says:

      I know that at a BMW dealership, the cost of an oil change is around $130. Factor in that the European certified synthetic oil, which BMW uses can be had for $8 a quart, (x6 quarts = $48) and an OEM filter can be had for $15. That brings the total to around $65. At an Acura dealership, you get charged around $70 for a synthetic oil change. You can get 5 quarts of synthetic and a good oil filter for about $35. Even if you only change your oil twice a year for one car, you’re already saving a good amount. For people who only use conventional oil, it’s probably less enticing since the savings are only minimal, but the peace of mind that comes with doing it yourself is generally the deciding factor.

      • ecwis says:

        Some types of Mobil 1 are approved by BMW. I’m not sure what kind of car you have but you can check to see what oil to use on bimmerfest.com The Mobil 1 quarts sell for $6.27 at Wal-mart and Mann (OEM) filters sell for about $10 on Amazon.

        German cars are actually easier for changing oil since the oil filters are accessible from under the hood. In most American cars, you have to access the filter from under the engine.

    • DJ Nihil says:

      I pay $17 at the local oil change place including disposal fee for my ’92 Corsica. If I bought the oil and filter at my local stores, including WalMart it would cost about $2 more than that and I’d have to do it myself.

      Plus, in addition to not having to do it myself, I have a bad back anyway, I get to save money. Win-Win situation.

  5. GTI2.0 says:

    I’m actually all for changing your own oil, but let me relay the story of what happened the last and final time I changed my oil (after having done it ~20 times myself):

    After struggling with the nut for 20 minutes, trying to not strip it – whoever put it in last did a helluva job – I got it off and let it drop into the (brand new) oil catch pan under the car.

    I then scooted out from under the car while it drained, turned my back for about 30 seconds to mak ea call, and when I turned back around I saw a GIANT puddle of oil surrounding the entire car – in my shared garage.

    Frantically I try to figure out what to do (This isn’t a professional shop, obviously, so I don’t have cleanup tools), run downstairs, google some info, and run out and buy as much cat litter as I can find.

    80lbs of cat litter later, I had most of it cleaned up. I then look at the new oil pan, and see that one of the seams isn’t molded correctly and it just leaked straight out of the bottom. Suck.

    I swore off ever doing it again after having to explain to my neighbors what happened and deal with getting rid of the (technically) hazardous waste. I then decided about 6 months later to do it myself again and managed to drive up off to the side of one of my ramps by like 2″, which then crushed and destroyed it. I threw away the remaining one and took my car to a nice shop down the street. That was the end of it for me.

    • KillerBee says:

      I had a similar experience once, although it was entirely my fault. I didn’t notice that the gasket on the old filter had stuck to the car and I put the new filter on over top of it. It didn’t drip at first, then I turned the engine on.

      Holy Mother of God. It looked like the Exxon Valdez had crashed in my driveway (this was before the BP spill so I have to use that analogy). Tons of kitty litter and a bottle of Dawn got it all cleaned up eventually. I also had to bear the embarrassment of calling a friend of mine to drive me back to the store to get more oil since my only car now had no oil in it.

      I chalked it up to a learning experience and it’s never happened again. Now I know to check that gasket every time.

    • Michaela says:

      I think you touched on a good point. Many people don’t have the professional equipment that makes any screw-ups not as bad. When nothing goes wrong, doing your own oil change is pretty easy, but if something goes wrong, most people just don’t have the stuff for quick troubleshooting.

      Luckily, my step-father is a mechanic. I can either take my car to Lexus and let him use his materials there to do my auto-care, or we do it in his garage (which is fully equipped for simple car maintenance).

    • AllanG54 says:

      You’re just unlucky. I’ve been changing the oil on my cars for 42 years and have never had a problem like that. But, I’ve never changed the oil IN the garage. Always out on the street so that if there’s a little spill it’s in the gutter and not on the garage floor.

      • GTI2.0 says:

        Ah, yeah, you’re right – I should just f*ck up the local water supply so that I can save $1.99 on my oil change. That’s responsible consumerism!

        • goodfellow_puck says:

          A lot of shit ends up in the gutter drains. That’s why we clean the water before it goes back into your home.

  6. DanRydell says:

    Funny, Consumerist just told us this week (by way of a different source) that this is a bad way to save money: http://consumerist.com/2010/10/personal-finance-roundup-168.html Make up your minds, guys!

    Changing your own oil is a really bad way to save money unless you’re really poor and already have or can borrow the necessary tools. It’s so cheap to have it done at Walmart, you really aren’t going to save much money for the time you spend doing it.

    Saving money isn’t really why I change my own oil. I use a better filter and oil than an oil change place would use. I could bring my own oil and filter to a place to have it changed, but 1. I won’t know for sure if they actually used my oil (and it’d be a pain to find out if they used my filter), and 2. I’m still paying for their oil and filter that they didn’t need to use because I brought my own.

    I use AMSOIL synthetic and Purolator Pure One filters. The Pure One filters are Purolator’s premium filters. They’re a great value and are just slightly inferior to much more expensive filters (and significantly better than cheaper filters).

    • stuny says:

      An easy way to check if they use your oil is to watch them pour it in. An even easier way to see if they used your filter is to open the hood or peek under the car and look. Most cars, the filter is readily visible, especially since it will be the only clean thing under your hood.

      • JayPhat says:

        Unless you own a GM vehicle. I swear to god if I ever meet the engineer that designed the 95-02 cavalier/sunfire, heads are gonna roll. The process of changing the filter should not involve a step in which removing the tire is a good option to take.

        • Wombatish says:

          To replace the battery on my boyfriend’s car requires the removal of two braces and a portion of the headlight assembly + one of the fluid reservoirs. Not -really- that bad, but no auto-zone like place will do it, requires a real shop and the minimum hour of labor to go with.

          That’s not -that- bad, until the zombified extension terminals they’ve included bite the bullet. Now it’s either replacing them (which a lot of shops won’t touch, and would be expensive regardless for what is ultimately a solution that sounds more like something out of a news story about how a hick electrocuted himself), or removing all of that to jump the notoriously fickle car that likes to die, a lot, due to various other issues.

          That doesn’t even begin to touch all other other issues the car has had over the years, including all four doorhandles breaking from the outside over the course of ~4 months.

          SO GLAD he’s -finally- decided to start thinking about the process of replacing that nightmaremobile.

          • layton59 says:

            The battery on my 2000 Chrysler Cirrus LXI is accessed at the front driver wheel well. I am not sure if all the Chrysler cloud cars (Cirrus, Stratus and Breeze) are like that. It may just be the ones with the V-6 engine. The engineers did put a hook up for jump-starting it under the hood. Changing the 3 rear platinum spark plugs requires removing the large metal intake manifold. Still, it is a fun car to drive and gets 30.3 miles to the gallon on the Interstate at 65 mph with 115,000 miles on the odometer.

        • Jfielder says:

          If it’s hard to get your filter off on your cavalier it’s because your doing it wrong! Haha. Now don’t do this with a smokin hot engine, but you do want it a little warm. Stick you hand down into the engine compartment between the power steering pump and the fire wall, the filter is right there, you’ve even got room for a filter wrench, and lots of room to get the old filter out. It’s much easier than getting it from the bottom. Believe it or not this car is easy compared to some…. like the Mazda Miata, Lexus RX350/400, or when you get a nice stuck filter on a trailblazer with the 4.2. Good opportunities to get burned on all of those, especially the Lexus. I know this because of my unfortunate summer working at a quick lube shop… I was a mechanic and sadly the only place with a job was this place…. I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

      • DanRydell says:

        At the places I’ve had my oil changed, they don’t let you hang out inside the garage where I could see what oil they’re pouring in my car.

        Thanks for your really stupid suggestion on how to determine if they used the right oil filter. I wish I had thought of that! Oh wait, it was obvious from my comment that I do know it’s possible to find out if they used my oil filter, it’s just a pain to do it. From that an intelligent person (i.e. someone other than you) would conclude that my oil filter is not visible from above the engine, and it would be necessary to put my car on jack stands or ramps to look at it from below. If I’m going to put my car on jack stands, I might as well just change my own oil. Which is what I do.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          No, your oil filter on the vast majority of cars is visible by just looking under the car. No car lifting necessary. While you might not be able to see the item number on it, it will be clearly new as it’s the only clean thing under the chassis.

          And further, it’s your car are you are empowered as a consumer. Demand to see the filter before they drop the car from the lift, and/or ask to see the old filter.

          Lastly, don’t be an ass either. That gets you nowhere.

          • Jimmy60 says:

            My 2009 Corolla has moved to a cartridge type filter. It would not be possible to tell if the filter was changed simply by looking.

            I suspect we will start seeing more cartridge filters (my motorcycle also uses one) as they are more environmentally friendly than a spin on. I have a reusable stainless steel filter for the bike.

        • layton59 says:

          DanRydell, don’t drink that pi$$, if you find it in your cheerios. Do you put a chip on your shoulder much? Why such a bad attitude? Maybe YOU’RE having a rough day. Sidebar: I used “you’re” correctly and not “your”. Seldom happens in my posts. Capitalized for emphasis.

    • jeff_the_snake says:

      I change my own just because wal-mart always makes me wait an hour.

      • Extractor says:

        You ever try going there at 8 or 9 am on a Sunday. Dont even have enough time to shop. Sometimes I’ll call and see if they have a wait.

    • sparc says:

      best comment in a long while… consumerist giving advice both ways… LOL

    • Extractor says:

      I bring my own oil and filter to walmart because I need reciepts for my extended warranties. I have 2 warranties on my SS. Warranty Direct requires reciepts and certain intervals, especially the first oil change after getting the policy. It requires professional changing within 60 days of the policy or your sol for $1300. Mine was changed 30 days later and they have paid for Transmission work about 35,000 miles ago and now at 140,000 I will be getting a new trans. When I ordered my SS in 2000 I spotted a $100 option, Synthetic option which gives the entire drive train a 500,000 mile warranty. Need to coordinate both policies this week since trans has been slipping for past 5000 miles.

    • LastError says:

      I’ve started doing my own because I like a decent Wix filter or one from the dealer and synthetic oil (alas AMSOIL is hard to get where I am; the independent dealers are all too busy to sell me any).

      Last time I took the car to the dealer and asked them (as I always do) to use the oil in the passenger seat, the brought the car back to me with my oil still sitting there. I had to throw a fit to get them to redo it, but it occurred to me the tech could have just taken the oil and let the car sit for 20 more minutes too.

      So I am done with that.

      Changing the oil in my car is a pain. The engine cover has to be taken off and the filter is in a canister thing, and I got badly burned the first time I did this car. So there is another local shop where I can go, where I trust them and can observe every bit of work they are doing. When I don’t feel like dealing with the hassle, I take it there.

  7. madtube says:

    As the guy who offered up free advice for people and their cars, changing your own oil is one of the best ways to keep up on the status of your car. And I do not mean simply the oil. If you get underneath your car, take a few moments and check out everything. Spotting a leaking CV boot or a broken sway bar link could save you loads of money as preventative maintenance. Changing your oil is good insurance against having something break down the line and shelling out big bucks then.

    For the record, my automotive offer still stands: madtube@gmail.com

    I have spinal surgery in a little over a month. Up until then, I will try to answer what ever questions come my way. My specialty is Honda/Acura, as I am a master certified tech for American Honda. But ask anything; I will endeavour to answer if I can. If I do not know, I will let you know.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      And most civilians haven’t a clue where their CV boot is, let alone what it looks like when it’s leaking.

      • ajlei says:

        Yeah, I know about a CV boot and I’ve had to replace a CV joint before but hell if I know what it means if it’s leaking — I thought it was a boot?

        • jeffbone says:

          Older CV boots may develop cracks in the inner portion of the “ribs” from the constant flexing due to steering and suspension movement. Once that happens, the heavy grease inside the boot will leak out and be flung around by the rotation of the axle. It’s not something you’d necessarily see from the outside of the car, but usually very obvious when the car is on a lift.

  8. davabran says:

    1. Safety first. On SUV/Trucks you can change most without needing to jack up the car. On most cars though you will need to jack up the car to work under it. Use ramps, or always use jackstands after jacking up a car. Take the extra minute it takes to place jack stands. Having a car fall on you sucks.

    2. Oil the new seal of the filter with some new oil.

    3. You only need to tighten the oil filter by hand (as tight as you can only using your hands) don’t use a wrencht to tighten or the filter will be very hard to get off next time.

    4. Have extra rags or newspaper around.

    5. I like to change the oil when its hot, because it’s more viscous. (personal preference)

    • The Cybernetic Entomologist says:

      I think you mean *less* viscous. Oil gets more viscous as it gets colder.

    • LastError says:

      An increasing number of cars are using canister filter cartridges rather than the old screw-on filters.

      On mine, you have to remove the engine cover (two screws and four nuts), remove the canister cover (requires a rubber strap wrench), remove the old filter, remove and replace two O-rings, install new filter cartridge, reinstall the canister cover, reinstall the engine cover and six bolts.

      It makes a lot of sense for technical and environmental reasons but there’s more to it than unscrew old filter, install new one.

  9. sadolakced says:

    My advice? Don’t do it unless you have multiple cars you can change the oil on yourself.

    Yes, you save some money. You also spend an hour or two, plus the time it takes to dispose of the oil. Is your time worth 20 dollars an hour?

    Of course, it’s something worth learning to do. Every man should know how to replace the fluids in a car. But actually doing it? Well, that’s a different story.

    • balthisar says:

      Agreed completely. I suppose that if I were on the clock, sneaked out of work, and did it myself, then I’d be coming out ahead. Otherwise, I have other things to do with my time off.

      There are a lot of Consumerist readers, though, that probably aren’t as lucky as you and I. When my earning power was substantially less and when I also had less things to fill my free time with, I always changed my own oil (and did my own brake jobs, and replaced my own wheel bearings, water pumps, alternators, and all that good stuff when necessary).

    • Extractor says:

      My 2008 Impala 3.5L V6 takes a total of 10 minutes to change the oil. What are you guys doing wrong? Ive been doing my own oil changes since I was licensed in 1972.

      • balthisar says:

        Let’s see. Saturday morning. I wake up, and want to change the oil. So, I get into the car, and drive it for 15 minutes (you shouldn’t change the oil cold). Get home, and dig out the jack stands and jack (I don’t have a hoist or lift), find the oil pan, the crate of oil, the filter (never mind that they don’t sell oil and filters at the grocery store — that’s another 15 minute store run). The plug comes off easily, and so does the filter. Wait a few minutes for the oil to drain. Change the filter, put in the plug add the oil, store the jack stands and jack, get into the car, find some place that will accept my old oil for free, get home, find the muriatic acid because a few drops dripped onto the concrete, get out the hose to wash away the acid, find the Go-Jo to clean up my hands, change into my non-oil-change clothing.

        Or, pay my mechanic $20 to do it on the way home from work.

        • jeepguy57 says:

          Is your mechanic sitting there, with nothing else to do just waiting for you to show up?

          I make a great salary and, by your logic (any many others) should hire someone to change my oil. But I have found that to be more time-consuming, sitting in a waiting area, waiting for the cars before mine to be done. I can change my oil in less than 30 minutes on a Saturday morning before my family is out of bed.

  10. deadandy says:

    Despite this article’s casual “Now slide under your car…” most people will not easily fit under their cars. I drive a VW Rabbit and there is no way I’m getting under there without lifting it. Even if I did there would be no room to work. DO NOT use the jack that came with your car to lift your car and work under it. Those things are not very sturdy or stable and if you do anything wrong or torque on the oil plug too hard, you could end up dead.

    If you’re going to change your oil and you can’t fit under your car, invest in two of those heavy-duty metal ramps and get your car firmly up onto them and in gear with the parking brake on before you begin.

    • SabreDC says:

      One of the first things anyone learns when changing their oil is to use the jack to lift the vehicle and use jack stands to keep it up. Never, ever, ever let it sit on the jack itself.

    • Sandstar says:

      In Edmunds.com favor, they DID say that you should never get under a car held up by jacks, and should always use jackstands.

    • Extractor says:

      Rhino ramps for low clearance cars and when not in use I drive into the garage until I tap them. Then Im in just far enough to close the garage. They are solid plastic and wont damage the finish of your car.

    • partofme says:

      As others have said, it should be well known to never get underneath a car on jacks. You should always have jack stands or a true hoist. I will admit, though, that I broke the rule a lot after we sold our shop. It turned out that the curvature of the road, combined with driving one set of wheels up on the curb (aided by a driveway opening to get up on it), would leave my car almost perfectly flat with a wonderful amount of room underneath for me. Granted, it was a nice peculiarity of where I used to live, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for all. Use jack stands!

    • ktetch says:

      Yeah, I had thejack collapse on me right before DragonCon (I had a flat, just as I was taking the first nut off….)

      I also had my car fall off the jack as I was taking it off the jackstand. Wheel was on, I was just cranking it up, so I could drop the stand, when it fell (I only ever remove the stand using a hooked bar)
      http://ktetch.blogspot.com/2009/11/auto-repair-safety-warning.html

  11. Me - now with more humidity says:

    My time is worth more than the aggravation. I used to do it, but then did the math. My local shop charges $17.95, plus they rotate my tires and give my car a complete inspection.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I don’t get the formal “inspection”, but $20 gets me an oil change,rotation, and ocassionally a “we noticed this…” heads up from the mechanic. I like to have my tire rotations documented for warranty purposes as they are 80,000 mile tires. I’ve thought about doing it myself, but I would be investing quite a bit in equipment to properly (and safely) raise the front end of the car and have negligble savings on the oil and filter (although mine would be higher quality). Plus the time to rotate my own tires without a lift, and properly dispose of the oil.

      Maybe if I had a car that ran me $100 per change I’d consider it.

  12. Big Mama Pain says:

    Hundreds of dollars? Yeah, more like tens of dollars. Oil change shops have driven the price so low that it’s hardly worth it unless you enjoy the work; plus, they top off all your other fluids and will continue to do it in between oil changes, something to factor in.

    • dg says:

      It’s $34.95 each time at the local National Pride place… I let them change the oil and filter, nothing else because they’ve been known to leave an aircleaner nut lose, or cap uncapped. When they focus on the oil only – they do it right. And when I pull out, I go across the street to a parking lot, pop the hood, and check things just to be doubly sure…

      I end up paying about $90 or so per year, and it takes 15 minutes or less everytime I go. I often stop by on the way to a job. And with what I bill out my time at, it’s a freekin’ bargain…

      I’ve done the oil change thing in years past with Dad… Acquire filter, oil, lift up car on ramps, remove drain nut, drain oil into pan (then bottle), wrestle with filter, get the filter off, check the gasket ring to make sure it’s not still jammed in the groove on the car, pry that out if you need to. Replace filter, replace drain nut, fill up with oil. Run engine for a bit to make sure there’s no leaks, then drop off the ramps and screw around with storing the used oil and cleaning up… Later on, schlep used oil someplace that takes it (w/o spilling it in the vehicle)…

      PITA that you can avoid for a few bucks… Cut back on HBO or cigarettes… Spend the savings on the oil changes and get on with life…

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      When they top off your other fluids, what types of fluids do they actually use? Do they use coolant that’s specifically recommended by the manufacturer (doesn’t have to be OEM, just compatible) of the vehicle or do they use universal fluid (eg, Prestone)? For your transmission, do they use compatible and licensed fluids or universal with an additive pack? For power steering, do they use generic ps fluid or actually what’s recommended?

      This is why I’m incredibly dubious of any oil change shop that tops off all fluids — there are dozens of car manufacturers with many different specs. Even the same manufacturer will recommend different fluids for different models (not all Fords require HOAT anti-freeze), Pontiac Vibe is closer to a Toyota than a GM fluid-wise, etc. A quick lube shop isn’t going to keep dozens of different fluids available or consult the book (or computer) every single time. They’re going to use universal fluids and additive packs or at worst use the incorrect fluids.

      Many Honda and Chrsyler transmissions have been destroyed from incorrect fluid or incompatible additive packs. Universal coolant is also a good way to ruin your 5 year/100,000 fluid and gunk up your radiator.

      This is why I highly recommend going to an actual mechanic. Drop your car off at 8:00am and he’ll call up NAPA, Autozone, or the dealer and order what is specifically needed for your vehicle and have it delivered.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Other than antifreeze, none of the fluids in your car should need to be “topped off.” Your car’s fluid systems are closed. Missing fluid means you have a leak.

  13. Why is this on Consumerist? says:

    I have a local oil-change place do it, because they will notice other things that need to be done (new brakes, ripped CV shaft boot last time), then I can have them or someone else repair them.

  14. Minj says:

    This is one of those things that don’t really make sense to advertise or persuade people to do. If you know and love cars, you’re going to do it anyways. You won’t need any persuasion. If you don’t know and love cars, there really isn’t much reason to do it. You won’t save much money. You’ll probably hate it. And if you don’t know much about cars, you won’t really know all the other details that you should be doing at the same time that make it meaningful. If someone explains them to you, it’ll just make the whole thing seem like more of an ordeal.

    If you feel like you should be doing more or just want to learn a bit, I’d start not with changing oil but with regular look overs. Every two or three weeks, pop the hood and check fluids. Make sure nothing looks substantially different from last time such as spraying fluids or frayed belts. Check your tire pressures. Lastly, clean your windows (inside and outside). Just doing those couple tasks is a good idea as they take very little time, don’t require a garage, can stave off more trouble down the road, and may get you more interested in doing more intensive maintenance.

  15. coffeeculture says:

    When I add in the car wash, inspection, and getting work done at the dealership because it has wi-fi and no “home” distractions….I come out ahead going to the dealer. The oil change was almost at-cost anyway.

  16. Tim says:

    And, for those of you who park in an apartment lot/garage that doesn’t allow you to do car maintenance … or on the side of the street, for that matter …

  17. Gulliver says:

    Well I negotiated a years worth of oil changes and tire rotation into the car I bought in July, I will pass on this. The dealership can inspect for other issues during this time, and I don;t need to get covered in oil. Here is how I can justify any of it. I work from around 7 am to 6 pm Monday thru Friday. I’ll be damned if after working all day I want to come home change into grubby clothes, change the oil, then take a shower and still fill greasy. My weekends are my time, and I can take that time changing my oil, or doing other projects that will save me far more money (I could do a garden to save my food bill, or home construction projects). I value my time, and am willing to pay those who are paid to do this for a living. I am wondering how many people would say, ya know I can save some money by filling my own cavity, or removing a mole. People who are trained and do the job all day should be the ones doing it.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Haha, if you’re getting covered in oil, you’re doing it wrong : ) But seriously, you negotiated maybe…two free oil changes? Good job killer, you’re a tough negotiator!! I bet they were thinking “Phew! We almost might have had to do something in between service visits that this guy has to show up to maintain the warranty anyway! Really dodged a bullet on that one!”

      Ok snark aside, you’re describing an oil change the way an infomercial tries to hawk it’s shit that is supposed to make your life easier. Why can’t you just say it’s totally worth the expense of having someone else do it for you?

    • Extractor says:

      I let others do my dental work and I have no insurance and Ive never paid a penny for any of it. But of course, Im a Dentist and we all work on each other at no charge. Just wish I could give myself my own shots since Im told I give the best ones. Ive even been asked to teach at U-M, but its like a dog going to the vet. 30 years later, the torture during school just makes me tremble and you need a steady hand when injecting. And I rarely miss.

  18. smallcreep says:

    There are pumps that will suck the oil out through the dipstick tube. This is how Mercedes does their oil changes.

    • Snullbug says:

      A good many of the “instant oil change” shops do this as well. This is a good way for sludge (dirt, microscopic pieces of metal, etc) to build up in the oil pan. If you are going to pay to get it changed go somewhere where they do it right.

  19. dkev says:

    Most new cars only need there oil changed twice a year at most. You won’t save anything by doing it yourself.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Depending on how many miles you drive, sport.

      • The Walking Eye says:

        And that is why I will most likely continue to buy new cars or only CPO used. The shear number of people who ignore any and all maintenance on their cars, especially leases, keeps me away from most of the used car market.

    • ecwis says:

      If the car only needs the oil changed two times a year, then it requires synthetic oil and perhaps a special oil filter. Most oil change places have a limited variety of synthetic oil so they’ll probably put the wrong kind in your car. That’s what they always did to my car at least. Unless you go to the dealer or a reliable independent shop, you’ll most likely receive the wrong oil and filter.

  20. ChoralScholar says:

    I change my own oil, because

    1.) I have a shop where I can do these kind of things without laying in the driveway..
    2.) Autozone/O’Reilly/Advance almost always has an oil change special where you can get 5 quarts and a filter for 12-13 dollars
    3.) I do all my own automobile service. I can’t remember the last time I paid a mechanic. But, I grew up doing it, and am a competent mechanic in my own right.
    4.) It gets me out of the house for a couple hours of solitude. Crank up the radio, change the oil – detail the car while I’m out there.

    But I realize that one size does not fit all. I don’t know if it saves that much money, unless you go to those 10 minute places that change your oil while you’re in the car. They tend to be pretty expensive – 30-40 dollars.

  21. HenryES says:

    I used to change my own oil, but I decided my time was worth more that the $30 I spend to have my reliable mechanic do it while I’m at work earning more money.

  22. BuddhaLite says:

    6 Quarts of Mobile 1 is like ~$45 and a quality filter ~$10 but if I go to a local independent place that doesn’t upsell at all it’s cheaper and faster. I fail to see where the savings is.

  23. Torchwood says:

    Before you start changing your oil, check your owners manual. Some newer vehicles don’t need an oil change every 3 months/3,000 miles.

    The biggest problem I have with people changing their own oil is that they do not properly dispose of the old oil because they don’t want to pay the oil recycling fee. Used oil, IIRC, is considered a hazardous material.

  24. dgm says:

    Changing your own oil is ridiculously easy. I’d like to dispel a few things people are saying in the thread:

    1. No, your engine is not a vacuum. If you leave the oil fill cap on, the oil will still drain just fine. The BEST reason for taking the oil fill cap off before draining, is that it’s a reminder to refill the engine when you’re done draining.

    2. Most auto parts stores accept used oil. Just bring it in a kitty-litter bucket and drop it off. They’ll take care of it.

    3. Most quick oil change places are full of people who aren’t good enough mechanics to work at Pep Boys, i.e., arguably one of the worst chain auto repair companies in the country.

    4. Those “14-point checks” are complete BS. We caught Jiffy Lube in a lie on my GF’s car. They said they checked her power steering fluid and its level was OK. Guess what feature her car does NOT have?

    5. Putting oil filters on doesn’t require any sort of precision torque. Just read the directions that are printed on the side of the filter. Half the reason why people have trouble with the filters is that the morons at the quick-change chains screw them on way too tight.

    6. The only thing you’re likely to mess up is the oil drain plug, and it’s actually not that hard to get it right. Just use the right size wrench, and don’t over-tighten it. If you need any serious torque to loosen it, the last people who did your oil change over-tightened it.

    7. If you do your own changes, you control what kind of oil and filter are used, and you control how much oil goes in. These are important things. Most chain quick-change places aren’t going to use high quality oil and filters. If you bring your own oil, they’re likely to steal it. This happened to my GF. She put a 6-pack of Mobil-1 synthetic in the car, and said “use this oil to fill my car”. When she got the car back, ALL of the oil was gone. They insisted they had “used all of it” in the oil change. Her engine doesn’t take 6 quarts, so either they overfilled it (negligent) or they stole it (illegal). Eventually they gave up arguing with her and didn’t charge her for the oil change.

    Finally, doing your own oil changes is a great way to spend a little bit of quality time with your car. Looking at the engine and underside of the vehicle over time will get you acquainted with what it should look like. You can start to notice leaks, cracked hoses, etc. all by just spending half an hour doing your own oil change. It’s well worth it.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      re: 4 and 7: So happy that your experiences means everyone will have the same experiences. Thanks for saving the world!

      /sarcasm

      As for spending quality time with my car, I prefer to do that DRIVING… after my trusted local shop has changed the oil, rotated the tires and inspected it for me. And I even get to talk to the mechanic while he does the work — who’s special now, huh?

      /snark

    • ronbo97 says:

      Thanks for posting this. I was going to post virtually the same thing. Just to add to your list:

      Being able to change your own oil means that you can do it whenever you want and don’t have to leave your car at a mechanic’s shop, which is a major pain for me. I would never use a Jiffy Lube or other 30 minute oil change place. Too many horror stories.

      Using a wrench on a drain plug will eventually round it off. Get the correct socket and this won’t be a problem.

      Used oil disposal: Most Pep Boys, etc. that have a repair shop will take used oil. Our town also has a recycling center that will take most hazardous liquids, including oil, antifreeze, old paint cans. Empty one gallon jugs that formerly contained milk, iced tea, windshield washer fluid etc., are great for storing used motor oil until you’re ready to drop it off.

      My post applies to folks interested in doing this and have the necessary facilities. If you’re in a condo complex, live in a high rise, don’t have a garage or driveway, etc. then you can ignore this post.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        The correct wrench is just as good as the correct socket, especially if you use the boxed end of the wrench. Did you mean to say “adjustable wrench”?

        • Jimmy60 says:

          I do a lot of work on race cars and such and I noticed that experienced mechanics tend to avoid socket wrenches. They have their place but the drain plug is better off attacked with the right size box end wrench.

          The length of a wrench will help apply proper torque. Give it a nice tug. It’s easier to over torque with a socket as it is the same length regardless of the size of nut.

    • Jimmy60 says:

      I would add that an OEM filter from a dealer is going to be amongst the best quality filters you can get. If you aren’t sure which filter to get go OEM. They are usually only a couple of dollars more.

      • ecwis says:

        Or buy them on Amazon. I’m not sure about American cars but they sell OEM filters for German cars on Amazon.

  25. tricky1 says:

    Let’s see, so far this weekend I have spent $135 on an Alternator, $27 on fuel lines that didn’t fit the vehicle, $26 on an Alternator Belt and countless gallons of gas all to get a “FREE” car that was given to us working…Next thing on my list an oil change, which by far will be the easiest thing ever as my WIFE will be doing it since the car is for her and she asked me if she could do it. I will be there to supervise…but really it’s not THAT hard.

    • LastError says:

      A family member once bought a car for a dollar, just so a bill of sale could be legally issued. That dollar car ended up needing assorted manifolds, a radiator, a gas tank, tires, brakes, carburetor work, tune up, oil change, muffler and probably five other things, and still stalled going up hills.

      It finally died one night on the side of the road. It got towed to a junk yard where someone stole it (apparently it ran a little) and it died on them on the side of the interstate the next day -I happened to pass it on my way to work. The car was old and very distinctive and easy to spot.

      Anyway the moral is that free or dollar cars automatically need $2000 in work. This is a rule I made up.

  26. humphrmi says:

    The only advice I can give when changing your oil is, be very very careful of the threads on the plug and the filter. Don’t rush, don’t force anything, if you can’t get it to give with normal hand strength, take it in to the shop.

    • Optimistic Prime says:

      Couldn’t agree more with this one. I got an old car for free and the oil probably hadn’t been changed in years. The oil filter was so stuck I had to use the screwdriver through the filter trick. I hate that trick, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up removing the filter body and the top will still be left on!

  27. citking says:

    Once you change the oil a few times stepping up to other repairs becomes a little easier. I started with oil, worked my way up to batteries, alternators, valve cover gaskets, and brakes. None of these is terribly difficult but the savings over time adds up significantly.

    Just today I changed my wife;s brake pads and rotors. The rotors were $15 each and the pads came to $45. Total was $75. The garage she has her oil changed at wanted $350 for it. (The only reason she changes her oil there instead of having me do it is because Chevy likes to put their oil filters in the most difficult-to-reach areas…hers is halfway down the firewall blocked by all sorts of vacuum tubes, wiring, A/C hoses, and other fun stuff).

    Don’t be afraid to spend a few hours with a buddy, handing him or her tools in exchange for learning and experience. Never work on your only car – always be ready to run to the tool or auto store to get something.

    • terrillja says:

      $15 rotors? New? Mine are at least $100 each, I find it hard to believe that you could buy a precision machined component for $15.

      • ecwis says:

        Do you buy your parts from the dealer or something? $15 is a pretty good price but rotors for a Toyota can be had for $20. Rotors for my car are $50 each.

  28. pinecone99 says:

    I think I’ve paid someone to change oil maybe twice in my entire life over the past 25 years. This includes two cars and at least two motorcycles that I own at any given time. Part if it is the cost savings and part of it is a control thing. I can think of two times when things went wrong. The first was when I was 16 and I didn’t have the right wrench to remove the old filter. Ended up trying the screwdriver trick which just tore the filter apart and I ended up having the car towed to a shop to finish the job. (Major embarrassment.) The other time the old filter gasket didn’t come off with the filter and I didn’t notice, so when I started up the car, oil sprayed out all over. Easy fix, but I ended up having to clean the engine compartment. So, my word of advice would be to always check your gasket! By the way, I’m a woman and not too many people know about my secret life wrenching on weekends.

    • TTFK says:

      “This includes two cars and at least two motorcycles that I own at any given time. “

      Motorcycles can be a different story because of how oil changes are charged.

      While car oil changes can be had for a song, having a shop do an oil change on a motorcycle is usually charged at an hourly rate that can often reach over $80/hr.

  29. ldub says:

    In addition to some of the reasons mentioned already, I also paid professionals to do this so I had a paper trail to show we maintained our cars to help get a the best price possible in case we decided to sell one of them.

  30. OnePumpChump says:

    The only thing hard about changing oil is, on some models, the filter.

    On my car, the driver’s side wheel has to come off to reach it (well, unless you’ve got a lift or a pit).

    On my dad’s car, the motor mounts are shot, and you’ve got to jack up the engine to get at the filter.

  31. LorgSkyegon says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but here the oil disposal fees don’t make it worth it. 5 quarts of oil plus a filter plus the disposal fees come to about 15 bucks. It’s usually about the same price to just get it down at a shop.

  32. george69 says:

    I can rebuild a vehicle, but do not bother with changing oil, its messy and worth the few extra dollars to have it done by someone else

  33. leprechaunshawn says:

    Wait…

    You mean to tell me that you can save money by doing something yourself.

    Thank you for pointing that out captain obvious!

  34. Eugene says:

    I see the “my time is worth ” argument against it a lot, but when you add up the time its faster to do it yourself. It takes more time to drive somewhere, wait in line then wait while they do it then drive home than it does to just change into old clothes and do it myself. I combine work as well, do the grease fittings and rotate the tires at the same time, inspect all the brakes and lights and such.

  35. Beave says:

    Instant oil change places charge $19.99 everywhere here and some use a synthetic blend that’s good to 5000miles. I can’t buy 5 quarts of blend and a filter for under $10, so I’m saving maybe $12 after tax is figured in. For that $12 I can sit in my car and not have to worry about disposing of the waste oil. Seems like a no-brainer.

    • gman863 says:

      The extra cost of synthetic (or synthetic blend) oils is only a plus in certain situations. If you believe the myth full synthetic oil gives you a free pass for extra miles or months between oil changes, you could actually be damaging your engine in the long run.

      Two ASE Certified Mechanics have told me the major reason to have your oil changed on schedule is dirt building up in the oil. This is a no-brainer: oil is clear when new; jet black when drained at even 3000 miles. Like your furnace filter, the oil filter only traps larger particles. The smaller ones stay suspended in the oil; too many will result in more friction and engine wear.

      Synthetic oil’s main marketing pitch is the fear of regular oil gunking up at extremely high engine temps. While a few standard engines (mainly certain Toyota and Mitsubishi models) have design flaws allowing regular oil to reach these temps and cause sludge buildup, 90%+ of cars on the road today will see very little (if any) benefit from the extra $20 you’ll spend for synthetic at each oil change.

  36. Running_Fool says:

    Sure I could change my own oil, but who’s gonna give me a mani for my now oil covered fingers? That’s easily $30, factor that into the oil change and suddenly taking it in is cheaper.

    • Extractor says:

      You ever hear of latex or notrile gloves? about $5 for 100. I go thru 2 boxes a day at work. The ones that remain in my clinic coat are saved and I have gallon zip locks filled with them on the floor behind the drivers seat. Use them when i fill my tank. Only mess is with the powder from the gloves since I prefer the powdered ones.

  37. kimdog says:

    “it comforts me to know that some enterprising people — regular guys who don’t know everything about cars”

    Way to be a sexist dumbass. I’m a girl, and I got my first car at 16, and my mother taught me to change my own oil (and rotate my own tires, and jump/change the battery). It’s because we were struggling to make ends meet, and an extra 10 or 15 bucks wasn’t so easy to come by. Once I reached my 20’s and had a fairly steady job, I was thrilled to let a mechanic do it. But Jeebus, car maintenance is not the exclusive fucking domain of men.

  38. drburk says:

    Back when my wifes car and my car were on the same oil change schedule I’d change them both on the same day. In the fall I’d start my car before a football game finish it during commercials. I’d start her car at half time and finish during commercials. Now we have new cars and are getting free oil changes and have to have other stuff checked so the car has to go in anyway since the car is in the shop I get an oil change. What I don’t do is pay $35 for them to change my air filter.

  39. muzicman82 says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever paid for an oil change. Advance Auto Parts has incredible deals on oil change supplies every month.

  40. Costner says:

    The post says people who change their own oil could “save themselves hundreds of dollars a year”… so I just have one question – how much are people paying for oil changes??

    In my area, oil changes typically cost $25 to $35 for conventional oil. I’ve seen $19.99 oil change offers from time to time, and some more “upscale” dealerships will charge $40 or more, but I have two different vehicles and pay right around $30 pretty much every time.

    I also drive at least 5,000 miles between oil changes if using conventional oil, and 7,500 or more if using synthetic oil. In fact the last few vehicles I have owned all recommend changing it no more often than every 5,000 miles, and my Honda even has a oil life monitor that tells me when to change it… and it has never been less than 5,000 miles – ever.

    So lets keep the math easy and say I drive 15,000 miles a year (which is more than the American average of around 12,000 miles). That equates to no more than 3 oil changes, which will cost me around $90. Sure I can do it myself – but the oil and filters will cost me around $9 or $10 so in actuality I’m only paying around $60 a year to have someone else change my own oil.

    In fact, the local Ford dealership where I live will take my own filter and oil and use their guys to change the oil – and they charge me a whopping $8. So if I was to do that three times a year it would only cost me $32 a year more than it would cost me to do it myself. I don’t have to worry about finding the time to do it, I don’t have to find a way to dispose of the old oil, I don’t have to feel guilty about tossing the old filter in the garbage, I don’t have to worry about dropping my car off the ramps or spilling oil on my garage floor or anything else.

    So how exactly could I save hundreds of dollars a year?

  41. Extractor says:

    I run synthetic in all my cars and 2 require reciepts so walmart does my SS with Castrol Syntec. I change the Impala with Valvoline Synthetic and use AC oil filters.
    I have a 26 gallon compressor and change my brake pads whenever I rotate my tires since the pads have lifetime warrantys and the total time for all 4 with rotation and new sliders is about 2 hrs. Eventually I would like to build an engine.

  42. Kesov says:

    I’ve been told I’m a terribly slow mechanic(Think James ‘Captain Slow’ May from Top Gear, always arranging his tools), but I do my own basic vehicle maintenance. Oil and filter changes, minor/moderate repair work(Damn you ’83 Oldsmobile and ’88 Cadillac). One thing I *always* recommend to people, mechanically inclined or not, is buy a Haynes or Chilton’s manual for your car if you can get one. They rip apart the car, bit by bit, and put it back together again. With photographs, and step-by-step instructions and lists of the tools and parts you’ll need for whatever task you’re doing.

  43. FrankReality says:

    I’ve been changing my oil for over 40 years. Yes, you can usually save a few bucks if you shop around and buy the oil and filters on sale and if you can recycle the old oil and filters without a fee.

    Another advantage is that you have control over the quality of the oil filter. Some of the low cost oil change places use extremely cheap filters, I prefer a higher quality filter than they use.

    One thing I recommend is for the first oil change on a NEW car be done by an experienced mechanic – sometimes those factory installed filters are severely overtightened and can be a serious struggle to get off. I’ve seen a pro spear a stuck filter on a new car with a four foot crow bar to get one off.

    Of course, I do a whole lot more than oil changes – last week I replaced spark plugs and wires. The last two weekends I worked on repairing some rust spots on my truck. I’ve done brake pads and rotors, serpentine belts, alternators and even a starter once. I’ve started doing stuff like this for the fun of it, but you can save some serious money doing your own repairs if you have the aptitude.

    If you are really interested in doing more extensive work beyond oil changes, either get a subscription from ALLDATA for your car or buy a set of the factory manuals.

  44. Can't Buy a Thrill says:

    I’ve rebuilt engines and rebuilt transmissions and I’d say paying someome else to change your oil is the most economical way to go. I can get my oil changed for less than $30 at my loocal dealer (meaning competent mechanics). I can change my own oil for about $15 but I have to change the oil, make sure I don’t spill any on my driveway and then take the oil to a mechanic to dipose of the old oil. I happily pay $15 to someone else to handle those issues. Yes you can save hard dollars by changing your own oil but its a false economy. Pay a professional for this task.

  45. Ragman says:

    “Oh, and maybe another ten bucks or so when you say no to the guy at the quick-lube place trying to sell you a five dollar air filter for $14.95.”

    A little out of date there – my airfilters run that much at walmart. Better off getting a K&N that’ll pay for itself by the time it needs recharging.

  46. trbofun says:

    Am I the only one who actually enjoys changing my own oil? Then again I do everything on my car… with the exception of tires, they are a pita.

  47. InsomniacZombie says:

    Based on how much I drive (3k every 2 months) doing my own oil changes has saved me a significant amount of money, about $20.00 each time I do it, so it is worth it for at least me. You can also get great specials if you look. I picked up 5 quarts of oil and a filter for $16.00 at Pep Boys, which is less than a third of what I’d pay a dealership to do. Another plus is you get to know your car, and if you do it over and over again you’ll notice if something looks different from one time to the next if you’re under your hood once in a while.

  48. gman863 says:

    5 quarts 5W-20 Oil & Filter at O’Reiley or AutoZone: $15 (on sale)
    Heavy Duty Cleaner for getting used spilled oil off the driveway or garage floor: $5
    Extra trip back to the parts store to dispose of the old oil: 20 minutes

    Spending the same 20 minutes and $25 total at AutoCheck watching someone do it for me: Priceless and worth every penny.

  49. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    First of all, compared to the $20 oil change place on the corner, the likelihood that you’re going to save much, if any, money doing your own oil changes is slim to none.

    Secondly, if you’re challenged by the process of changing the oil in your car…well, maybe you should be buying shoes with velcro instead of that confusing “shoestring” setup that’s so intimidating.

  50. LeftCartridge says:

    My opinion? It depends.

    We have two cars – a 2006 Honda Odyssey and a 1997 Nissan Maxima.

    Honda has ALWAYS made it a pain to get at the filter. The Odyssey is even worse than my other Hondas – there’s a shield thing you have to take off, too. In order to “slide under” the Odyssey, you need to put it up on ramps. That’s not fun to do, and, if you hit the gas at the wrong time, etc. you may have a little disaster on your hands.

    My Honda dealer often has web-only coupons for oil changes – $19.95. They’re hoping to find something else to fix, but $19.95 is dirt cheap.

    The Maxima? It’s a cinch. All I have to do is pull into the garage, turn the wheels to the right, and I can get at the filter and oil drain plug without having to put it on ramps. It takes me 15 minutes to do.

    I use a large yellow (typically used for Diesel fuel, but I’ve never used it for that) container for my waste oil. The county has a place where I can take it in for free, but most local auto parts stores take it, too. I just take it in when I fill the 5 gallon thing up.

    Taking the filter off can be messy, so here’s what I do. I use a sharp tool (like an old screwdriver, punch, etc) and hammer to pierce the filter before I unscrew it. That way the oil comes out of the filter in a nice predictable stream. Once drained, I simply unscrew it.

    And, for God Sakes, HAND TIGHTEN THE FILTER and GO EASY ON THE DRAIN PLUG!

  51. golddog says:

    I’m reasonably mechanically inclined. I’ve stripped a motorcycle and its engine down to its individual components and (successfully) rebuilt it. And yet somehow I’ve managed to – twice in my life – mistake the transmission drain plug for the oil pan drain plug, then proceed to put 5 more quarts of oil in for a grand total of 10 quarts of oil and minimal quarts of transmission fluid.

    Both times were the first changes on new vehicles, although that’s no excuse. My point is, if you’re undertaking this as a new endeavor, be clear on the distinction. And as others have pointed out, I got sick of dealing with the old oil and having my neighbors give me dirty looks when I poured it in to the storm drain.

  52. elkhart007 says:

    To keep from making a mess place your catch pan downstream from the direction your plug faces. The oil comes out with force. Removing the fill cap makes no diffference if it did then the oil would glug glug out the drain hole. And lasly when removing the drain plug, break it loose with a socket wrench and remove by hand. While unscrewing it keep pressure on it back into the drain hole. When you know it’s fully unscrewed then pull it up and out of the oil stream. This helps you not get so much oil on your hands or the ground. Don’t super tighten the drain plug or filter. The oil on them both helps seal and keep them from loosening, I’ve never heard of any of them falling out. Make sure you use the perfect size socket wrench, it’s better to have to tap it on then for it to slip and round the corners, and I really mean just tap not pound.
    I can change the oil in my car, my sisters car, wifes van, dads truck, and moms SUV in 90 minutes and I’m no gear head.

  53. elkhart007 says:

    While it would be a valuable service if shops were honest when they do the “complete inspection” I’ve never found one that was. They’d recommend replacing parts I had recently done myself or parts the car didn’t have or parts you don’t replace til they’re bad. A shop might give reasonable prices but it still doesn’t mean they’re being dishonest about needing additional work done.

  54. greg g says:

    Don’t forget to check the oil before and after you run the car. The oil filter itself can hold up to 1/2 a quart (liter) of oil.

  55. Putaro says:

    I used to change my own oil. I don’t have a garage any more so I stopped. It’s not that hard but it is hot and messy. Most of the pain is in not making a mess with the used oil.

    I would NOT recommend using old milk jugs to hold the used oil. All you need is for jug to fall over and the top to pop off while you’re driving to dispose of it. I used to use a gasoline container (marked clearly and only used for used oil). Most of the places you will go to will make you pour the oil out of the container so having something that’s easy to drain helps as well. The gasoline container I used had a second cap to let air in so it didn’t “glug” while draining.

  56. Ragman says:

    I just hang onto the 5qt containers I buy oil in to hold the used stuff. Wait until a couple are filled up then take them to Autozone.

    I REALLY save money by changing the oil on my motorcycle. Buying my own:

  57. Chip Skylark of Space says:

    I’m in my 50s, and I grew up with a father who did oil changes and spark plug changes, and all sorts of arcane 1960s automotive stuff. When I got my first car, I did my oil changes under the tutelage of my father and friends, and was able to do them well, except for a car that had the oil filter in an very inaccessible location. 30 years later, I’m paying the $25 to have it done for me, and then they screw it up, my receipt entitles me to have them fix their f*ck ups. I’ve had a car with transmission issues because an oil change place said they did a tranny fluid check when they didn’t. I got a new transmission out of the deal, based on my receipt. Instead of a morning, I can get someone else to change my oil in 30 minutes. That reminds me- I need to get my oil changed before winter sets in.

  58. sp00nix says:

    I personally, don’t like other people messing with my toys. I will do what i can on my own, and if i can’t, there is only one other guy i trust to do the work.

  59. Krusty783 says:

    I always change my own oil and disc brake pads. But, my father was a mechanic for 20 yrs so I helped change timing belts, water pumps, heater cores and other in-depth repairs when I was younger. If you buy decent quality oil and an oil filter, you don’t save much doing it yourself as opposed to taking your car somewhere, but you know it what you’re using and the job will be done right.

    Most of the oil change companies -Jiffy Lube, Valvoline, etc- employ young guys and they don’t care how they get the job done. My brother-in-law had the oil pan on his accord cracked in half cause the Valvoline shop didn’t care to turndown the torque on their impact gun when they re-installed the oil plug!! And, I had to come over and help him make a red-neck oil filter wrench to take off the filter cause it was torqued on with one of those oil filter sockets! [red-neck oil filter wrench = drive a screwdriver thru the filter]

    Also, I used to have a dodge dakota and I took it to a jiffy lube for the first oil change it needed, cause I had things to do. They stuck me w/an extra $25 Truck/SUV charge cause it was a truck!!? What BS!! There’s nothing magical about changing oil in a truck/SUV as opposed to a car and usually it’s easier due to the higher ground clearance/better access.

  60. wrbwrx says:

    Big Thumbs down on this article. My wife went to a local shop that charged $9.95 plus tax and disposal fees for a whopping total of $13. She took a walk while they did the work.

    Cant beat that.

  61. swicklund says:

    Surprised no one has said this yet – it’s fine to get your oil changed by these shops. Just never let them change your air filters – especially the cabin air filter! It’s 5 minutes of work and you can save $10-$40 a pop doing it yourself.

    • dolemite says:

      Yeah, that’s the real swindle. “Changed your air filter…$25″. Umm, it’s a $5-$10 part and takes like 60 seconds in some instances.

    • The Cybernetic Entomologist says:

      More to the point, don’t let them do anything you didn’t walk in the door intending for them to do. They live for the upsell. Cabin air filters, engine air filters, and wipers are the worst offenders (and biggest profit centers).

  62. watch me boogie says:

    A very timely article – I was just going over the instructions for changing my car’s oil because for the 30th time, I really want to do it myself. But like the author wrote, it’s all scary under that chassis and oil is such a vital component that I’m paranoid I’ll mess it up. However, neither do I really trust a lube monkey not to mess it up.

    Mostly I really don’t want to burn myself on the exhaust bits.

    • Jimmy60 says:

      If you aren’t willing to get a couple of little burns or abrasions then you should probably not work on your own car. I’ve twisted so many wrenches that I rarely skin a knuckle now but it still happens occasionally.

  63. dolemite says:

    I changed my oil for years. You would save around $10-$15, but the last time I did it, the bottom fell out of my drain pan (plastic seam came undone) and I ended up with oil all over me, my tools, tarp and driveway. Then carrying it in for disposal is always messy (but free). I’ve been paying the $25 to have it done since the oil mess fiasco. That took like 2 hours to clean up.

  64. I just blue myself says:

    I don’t change my own oil and have been going to the same guys for years. It saves me the aggrivation of having to do it myself, plus I can go in at the month and a half mark and get all my fluids topped off for free. It doesn’t take more than 20 minutes and they are always nice enough to offer me a cup of coffee and a donut :) Totally worth the 30 bucks I spend.

  65. El_Fez says:

    Hundreds of dollars a year? My god, what are you guys having Jilly Lube put in your cars? Oil with gold flakes hand delivered from Persia by 50 nubile virgins?

  66. mrbucket says:

    Same things my old man taught me,don’t over-tighten the drain plug or cross the threads, and ‘kiss’ the old filter to the new filter so that the gasket is lubricated…

    I can do my own oil changes, but damn if it is not convenient to pay someone else to do it… maybe if I get a garage some day… :)

  67. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Oil changes are one of those things that I highly recommend either doing yourself or having an actual mechanic perform.

    If you’re paying $9.99 or $19.99 for an oil change, it’s because:

    1) It’s a loss leader and they’re trying to up sell
    2) They’re using exceedingly low quality oil and filters
    3) They have very low paid lube techs doing the work

    Outside of #2, there’s nothing inherently bad about any of those things. You just need to accept that the “30 point inspection” most likely never happened or was half assed, any fluids topped off are probably with universal fluid (or universal + additives), the vehicle likely never sat long enough to drain the preponderance of the oil, torque was never verified on a tire rotation, etc., etc.

  68. 401k says:

    This is rather ironic considering the other day consumerist was posting an article about things people do themselves that are best left to the professionals, and oil changes were one of those things. Flip flop much?

  69. james says:

    A Blitz oil receptacle is a crucial thing to own, as it can catch the oil drain plug (when it inevitably slips out of your fingers) on its grid, and it can also catch all the oil, even if not exactly positioned. Better yet, it slides under the car without the need to get the car up on a lift, ramp, or jackstands.

    It also allows you to pour the used oil into the empty containers in which your new oil came, for recycling. You must recycle oil, and every auto parts store accepts it for recycling.

    http://www.blitzusa.com/products/oil/Oil%20Drains%20and%20Pans/podp6od.htm

    Please – no changing oil with only a car jack under the car. Jackstands, or go to quickie-change!
    Too many cars fall on people as it is.

    Been changing my own oil on my 1982 Volvo 240 Wagon since…. umm.. 1982.
    I do it now in a parking garage in Manhattan, so I am hardcore.

  70. ganzhimself says:

    I can change the oil in my 05 Impreza WRX in just under 20 minutes, in my wife’s 08 Chevy HHR it takes me about 15 minutes. Most of that time is waiting on the oil to drain. A big plus? Neither car requires me to put it up on ramps or jack stands to get to the filters or drain plug.

  71. Optimistic Prime says:

    Two things missing in the article: Warm up the engine a little before changing the oil. This will help the oil flow out of the nooks and crannies a little easier. Second, if you’re filter is a regular “from the bottom” type, fill it half way with clean oil. Obviously if you have the filter on the top of the engine, this would just create a mess.

  72. Lear100 says:

    Wait until you knock over a container of oil on your garage floor or driveway. You’ll always take it back to the shop every time for oil changes from that point on.

  73. Bobby Creek Water says:

    I actually enjoy changing the oil in my cars but I honestly spend the same amount changing it myself that I would to pay someone else. Thus, a few months ago, I decided that I probably wont change my own oil any longer since I’m not saving any money…

  74. nffcnnr says:

    Having someone else change my oil costs me $160 per year at $40 per.
    5 quarts of motor oil and a filter = at least $35 per oil change. Add to this my time and effort and doing it myself actually costs more.
    There’s several things i do not do as an adult with a job: Change my oil, mow my lawn and do my laundry. These things i hire out for a very low cost. i’ve done the calculations on these and factoring in time/effort/stresses makes it well worth it.

  75. Thorzdad says:

    I have always changed my own oil. Always.
    I have personally seen the results of mistakes made by the quickie-lubes on friends’ cars and know better than to take the chance. Ever seen the mess that results from a quickie-lube neglecting to put back the oil fill cap?

    Plus, I can use a higher quality oil and filter for much less than a similar such change would cost me at the quickie-lube. Those cheap prices are only for their lowest-quality, non-synthetic oil with a dirt-cheap filter.

    The only downside is that I currently drive a VW, and they make that oil filter highly difficult to remove without making a huge mess.

  76. adamburnside says:

    “…saving themselves hundreds of dollars a year.” Yeah, if you do the mythical 3,000 oil change and are changing oil on a dozen cars a year, then maybe. I have changed my oil in the past, but I would guess it only saves my about $20 a change. Twice a year, two cars? That’s only $80. My “Glee” watching time is worth more than that.

  77. proscriptus says:

    “Terrified you’ll screw it up?” Can you boil water? You can change your oil. If you can’t do basic maintenance don’t own a car.

  78. TheWraithL98 says:

    you have no business owning a car if you don’t know how to at the very least:

    change your own oil, check and top off all your car’s various fluids, change a tire, change a battery, change your air filter, and fill up your own gas. I know several people who would have little clue how to do any of these, and plenty more than that who can only fill their own gas.

    In every household that owns any vehicles out of warranty, there should be at least one person capable of doing basic maintenance – scanning and interpretting trouble codes (especially on 96 and up cars), fuel filters, trans filters, plugs, wires, alternators, radiators, brakes, etc. If not, you are flushing money down the toilet.

    Yes, there certainly are circumstances where you might not be able to change your own oil (living in an apartment or condo in a big city for example), and there is very little you have to do if you buy a vehicle every 3-5 years to keep an active warranty, but honestly, if you don’t have the basic concepts down of how a vehicle works, you shouldn’t be driving it.

  79. damageddude says:

    I leave my car with my mechanic (not Jiffy Lube or WalMart — the guy who takes care of my car) and make in less than an hour what it costs me to have him empty and dispose of the old oil, add new oil and change whatever filters need to be changed — plus have him give the car a once over to see all is well and top off my other fluids. Ignoring that the better use of my time is spent working in the office than under my car, it is not that much cheaper to do it myself — especially when I add in the inconvenience and expense (figure a dollar or so for gas plus my time) of disposing of my old oil.

  80. shuffle69 says:

    By the time i was done collecting basic shop materials to do this correctly (after about ~4-5 oil changes with improper equipment) I would have ended up spend the same amount to go get it done. But it relaxing and its fun to me. Just me and my old Honda, bonding, nursing it past its second 100,000 miles. Plus you get better filter and oil for the same price as getting it done at a shop which to me and my baby is worth the sweat and grime.

  81. km9v says:

    I bought a new car. It requires 8 qt. of synthetic oil. It costs about $100 to pay someone to change the oil. Cost for me to do it

  82. olivetree says:

    I change oil on my cars for years. It is simple to do with the right tools but you will get your hands dirty. For safety’s sake, use strong support stand together with the jack from your car and put bricks against the two rear tires. I had an experience that while the car is jacked up, it moves forward and drops. Fortunately I was not under it at that moment.
    For some cars, the hardest thing to do is to remove the old oil filters. They may be hard to find and difficult to reach. You need the right tool and some patience.
    Always remember to put the oil cap back before you start the engine. I had it happened to me twice (my bad), and the fresh oil was splashed all over under the hood. A big clean up job.
    For the used oil, I cut the gallon water bottle in half and use it as a big funnel to pour oil into the big 2.5 gallon corn oil bottle (from Costco.) Most stores will accept 5 gallons of used oil. When I fill up 2 big bottles, it is exactly 5 gallons.

  83. Tedicles says:

    Wow…never knew so many people were not able to perform this simple task themselves. Changing your oil is the EASIEST thing you can do on your on car. This takes about 15 minutes (after spending 1 hr the first time figuring our where everything is located). It really is a simple thing. That said, here are a few pointers that may help out:
    1. Whether you, or some store does it for you, ALWAYS make sure to fill the filter with oil before putting it on (9/10 shops will not do this, and can lead to a air bubble in the system that fries the head, gaskets, etc)
    2. If a store does it for you, make sure to get all ‘old parts’ back (y, I know you will have to dispose of it yourself, but usually the local highway admin office in your neck of the woods has a oil recycling bin outside)
    3. Get to know your car, not all vehicles benefit from expensive synthetic oils or mixes, some may actually break because of it.
    4. Do a simple Google search and I am sure you will find all the information about changing the oil of your specific vehicle without any problems
    5. Do not over-tighten your filter, this will lead to more problems down the road. Screw on by hand until; snug, and then another 1/4 to 1/2 turn.
    6. Screw in drain plug properly, if worried use a safety wire (as we always are required for racing) and it will never fall off! :)

    Good luck…..

  84. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I’ve done it–on my old Plymouth– but it scares me to get under the car. Also, I left my ramps at my ex’s house and since that was ten years ago, I don’t think I’ll go back and ask for them. They might not even be there anymore.

  85. The Cybernetic Entomologist says:

    I recently bought a car which is much easier to change the oil on than my Corolla – SO I went down to the local auto parts store.

    1 gallon oil (nothing special): $18
    1 Filter: $5
    Total Consumables: $23

    I also would have had to get a drain pan ($15) and suffer through the aggravation and mess of draining the oil and disposing of it in a legal manner.

    I can get the oil changed down at the local NTB for about $25 out the door. Save money? I think not. For one, oil changes are a loss leader at places like NTB, and two, they buy their oil by the drum, and filters by the crate, and get it a whole lot cheaper than I can.

  86. The Cybernetic Entomologist says:

    The way you save money on oil changes is by changing it based on the auto manufacturer’s recommendation (7500 miles, typically, 5000 if difficult driving conditions), not the recommendation of the oil change place (3000 miles)

    The 3000 mile oil change was a concept invented by Jiffy Lube.

  87. hansolo247 says:

    If you have a performance car, you really should do it yourself.

    When you have a cast aluminum oil pan, for example, proper torque matters…a lot. Stamped steel like on most cars…not so much.

    Plus, doing it yourself basically gets you a free upgrade to synthetic and the filter of your choice.

    On my S2000, an oil change runs me $30 (filter plus 5 qts synthetic). The same oil change is $70, and even then you are not assured they didn’t use cheap oil or over/undertorque something.

    Then there’s other shortcuts the oil change places don’t even mess with, like using crush washers. That kind of stuff matters when your soft metal oil pan runs $500+

  88. sopmodm14 says:

    for the avg joe, its not worth the hassle to learn and do

    for repair shops, they do 100’s a day, and are experienced

    for a regular person, they do it once every 3 months….versus 100’s a day ?

    if you wanted to save money, don’t do the oil changes , and break your $10’s of thousands car

    or eliminate your phone bill, $35-$45 per month, which is equal to an oil change roughly

  89. Flower Of High Rank says:

    Me at age 18: Oh, man, it’s so cool to change the oil in my Volksie- and it’s gotta be done every 3,000 miles, according to Muir’s book. And then, it’s to the crags to pull down some big climbs, a Dickies concert and dating my ex’s sister! Punk rock!

    Me at 47: I bought it at the dealer, lifetime oil changes, nine bucks forever and they check for recalls, lube the hinges and refill the fluids, change dead bulbs, etc. I have to go make money and chase kids off my lawn.
    (I still like punk rock, though…)

  90. msky says:

    Sorry, but you can save money by doing everything yourself. Oil change rarely cost more than $15.00, and when you take into account the cost of materials, the cost of driving around getting them, plus the time you are going to waste on the actual work, does it really save you anything?

  91. goodfellow_puck says:

    Changing your oil is quite easy, and I have done it on my vehicles before. I can’t say that I get excited about working with about 16 bolts to get it done, when it costs so little to have someone else do it. I’m glad I have the knowledge, but it’s up to you whether the savings is there or not.

  92. greatish.ten says:

    While I don’t trust places like Jiffy Lube myself (teenagers working on, what’s most often, your second most expensive purchase?), as someone who works as a service writer in an automotive garage, I can guarantee that more of the people that come into our shop with problems have caused them themselves, rather than one of our technicians having made a mistake. From botched tune ups (ever seen how much power it takes to put a dent into the hood with a single spark plug? we have.) to failed battery installations (one person switched the terminals).

    Professional mechanics have already made all the mistakes and know already what not to do. Sure, working on your car can actually be therapeutic and possibly entertaining at times, but it’s real easy to screw up something on a relatively late model car considering the amount of electronics and complex systems involved. And often more modern cars are easier to work on than other classic cars (I hear about “back in the day you could work on cars yourself!” all the time, and believe me, they are just as complex and more unforgiving than modern cars.) considering extremely helpful things like OBDII and electronic ignition and injection. Systems that most people have no idea what they do. Ever tried adjusting, to spec, a four way carburetor manifold?

    If you feel comfortable enough working with them, however, all the power to you. Just remember to take it to a real mechanic when you screw up.

  93. wackydan says:

    I change my own oil. I’ve never screwed up an oil change and I’ve done dozens upon dozens on my own vehicles and friends.

    Now… I have a county that allows me to drop my oil and filters at a local recycling center… Making it easy.

    Do I save money? A little bit on the cars. – save probably $10 a change on both cars. Main thing is, I get to use the oil and filter I want, I’m not up sold into anything different, and all my fluids and air are done to my own satisfaction.

    On my Bike…. an oil change at the dealer is $150+. Doing it myself is $60. You do the math.

    When I had company vehicles, and when I lived in apartments and used jiffy lubes or the dealers… I always… and I MEAN ALWAYS ended up with rounded over drain plugs and one time a stripped oil pan.

    It is not rocket science… doesn’t take long to do it safely and you will save a few bucks.

  94. CajunGuy says:

    I’ve been changing my own oil for a while now, but I have some reasons.

    First, I strictly use synthetic oil (Mobil 1 Extended Performance and the matched Mobil 1 filter), and for good reason. It’s recommended for my car, a 2007 Hyundai Accent SE, and it’s guaranteed for 15,000 miles between changes, though I don’t go that long. Local shops around me want to charge upwards of $70 to use sythetic, and I don’t have much control over which one they use.

    Secondly, and tied to the first, I drive 120 a day for work. That’s my actual commute from home to work and back. If I used dino-juice, I’d be wary of going over 3000 miles between changes, and due to the distances I drive every day I’d be changing my oil about once a month. Hence, I use the aforementioned synthetic and change it about every 7-8000 miles. No sludge, no break down. In fact, I probably could go the guaranteed 15k, but I don’t want to push it.

    So in the end, I really do save quite a bit doing it myself. The whole kit costs me somewhere around $40 a change for 4 quarts and the filter, which is the singular most expensive part. I even custom built ramps for my car since it’s so low to the ground, though that’s not something I necessarily recommend.

  95. TTFK says:

    Changing oil yourself is one of the biggest money-saving MYTHS of all time.

    Besides the cost of the oil and filter, you need to factor in your time to:

    1. Drive to the store, purchase the oil and filter, and drive back home.
    2. Wait for car to cool down so you don’t scald yourself with scalding hot oil.
    3. Pull out the jack and jack STANDS (you ARE being safe about it, right?) that you had to buy to get at the oil.
    4. The actual time to wait for the oil to drain.
    5a. The actual time you are cursing at the filter because it doesn’t want to come off easily
    or
    5b. Dig out the oil filter wrench (strap or otherwise) you BOUGHT to do the job with. If non-strap variety, perhaps it is the one using the wrench you had to BUY to do the job with.
    6. Cleanup time.
    7. Drive back to the store to drop off the used oil.

    Go ahead now, add up the REALISTIC time it will take you to do this.

    Now, multiply that by a REALISTIC monetary value of your free time.

    Got the figure? Good.

    So, how much more was it than the $18.95 I paid to have someone else do it while I took a few minutes out of my day to sip a cup of complimentary coffee, read a complimentary newspaper and just RELAX for a small portion of my day?

  96. CajunGuy says:

    I’ve been changing my own oil for a while now, but I have some reasons.

    First, I strictly use synthetic oil (Mobil 1 Extended Performance and the matched Mobil 1 filter), and for good reason. It’s recommended for my car, a 2007 Hyundai Accent SE, and it’s guaranteed for 15,000 miles between changes, though I don’t go that long. Local shops around me want to charge upwards of $70 to use synthetic, and I don’t have much control over which one they use.

    Secondly, and tied to the first, I drive 120 a day for work. That’s my actual commute from home to work and back. If I used dino-juice, I’d be wary of going over 3000 miles between changes, and due to the distances I drive every day I’d be changing my oil about once a month. Hence, I use the aforementioned synthetic and change it about every 7-8000 miles. No sludge, no break down. In fact, I probably could go the guaranteed 15k, but I don’t want to push it.

    So in the end, I really do save quite a bit doing it myself. The whole kit costs me somewhere around $40 a change for 4 quarts and the filter, which is the singular most expensive part. I even custom built ramps for my car since it’s so low to the ground, though that’s not something I necessarily recommend.

  97. NumberSix says:

    I don’t see the point. 5 quarts and a filter cost me more than the local lube place will charge me to do the whole job. Even less when I use the coupon they send out every week. Never mind my time to do the job and bloody knuckles.

  98. MrSnarkyPants says:

    The last time I tried changing my own oil, I cursed the people who designed the engine and wished they had to crawl under there and remove the filter from a really inaccessible spot. But I felt like I accomplished something.

    On the other hand, I haven’t had the desire to crawl under my car and try it again in about 4 years.