How To Change Your Oil

One of the cornerstones of do-it-yourself car maintenance jobs is the home oil change. It's a simple process that requires few tools, and it's a sure way to save some money while you avoid the hassle of sitting in a dull waiting room somewhere reading outdated magazines.
More than anything, the basic oil change is a great way to connect with your vehicle and take some control over its maintenance. The time you spend under the hood and under the car affords you an excellent opportunity to look around and see if anything else needs attention.
Tools Required:
  • Wrench to remove drain plug (box end or socket)
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Latex gloves
  • Jack and jack stands or ramps (optional, depends on ground clearance)
Materials Required: 
  • Oil
  • Oil filter
  • Replacement drain plug washer (depending on application)
Let's get started.
Change Your Oil
Before heading to the auto parts store to buy supplies, consult the owner's manual to confirm the type and amount of oil that's required.
The amount is easy. Here, our 2012 Ford Explorer requires 5.7 quarts, so I'll buy six. Five-quart jugs are tempting because they are cheaper than smaller sizes, but I find them heavy and hard to pour steadily. And a huge container of leftover oil will take up a lot of shelf space.
Make sure to match the oil's viscosity to your engine. The 2.0-liter Ford EcoBoost requires 5W-30 oil. If I had read the manual carelessly, though, I could easily have brought home 5W-20 instead. That's the oil specified for the 3.5-liter V6 engine.
Check to see if the manual calls out other specific oil requirements as defined by the by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the International Lubricant Standardization Approval Committee (ILSAC.) Sometimes synthetic oil is expressly called for. Sometimes it's not necessary. And sometimes its use is implied by additional requirements.
Change Your Oil
In addition to oil, you'll need an oil filter, an oil-filter removal wrench, a wrench to remove the drain plug, a funnel, a drain pan and some gloves. You may also need to raise the car to gain access, in which case you'll need a floor jack and safety stands, or a pair of purpose-made steel ramps. For this kind of work, never use the flimsy jack that's supplied with the car.
Yes, my funnel is an empty, dry water bottle with the end cut off. Also, my drain pan has a screw-on lid and pour spout, which makes it easier to transport and recycle the old oil. The only other "tools," not shown here, are a T-shirt and grubby jeans.
Change Your Oil
You can buy filters at the dealership or at an auto parts store. Make sure to ask if you'll need a new drain plug washer. Some dealers automatically include a new washer, if you need one. Others charge extra for it. In this case, I didn't need a new washer, as you'll see later.
I like the sort of filter wrench that engages the serrations on the end of the oil filter. Wrenches like that are available at most auto parts stores for a few dollars and they snap onto the end of any common three-eighth-inch-drive ratchet. There are many sizes, but it's easy to make sure you buy the right one if you match the wrench to the filter right there in the store.
Band-type filter wrenches are more familiar, but they can be frustrating to use if you don't have enough space — especially if the old filter was over-tightened.
Change Your Oil
Your engine and its oil should be warm when you get started, but not hot. Let the car sit so the exhaust system cools off some, but don't allow things to go stone cold.
If you need to raise the car for better access, this is a good time to do it. Make sure you install proper safety stands, of course. Oftentimes you don't need to remove tires, but I did it anyway so our photographer, Elon Schoenholz, could have a clear view of things.
Change Your Oil
If necessary, take off the undercover. Some newer cars have these aerodynamic covers to improve fuel economy and keep things clean. Unfortunately, the covers can hide the engine's oil drain plug and oil filter. Some covers have built-in access hatches and they're usually labeled. Sometimes you have to remove the undercover entirely. The good news for us DIYers is that most cars don't have them. The Explorer does, but it's held in place with four twist-release clips that don't require any tools for removal.
Change Your Oil
Now it's time to locate the oil filter and drain plug. The vast majority of cars have a bottom-mount screw-on filter, such as the one shown here.
In this case, the plug and filter are far apart, meaning I must reposition the drain pan after I drain the oil and before I remove the filter. For this reason, I'm going to completely finish draining and replugging the engine before I work on the filter. If these elements were closer (or if my pan were bigger) I could begin removing the filter while the last of the oil was still dribbling out.
If yours is one of the growing numbers of new cars with a top-mount cartridge filter, the following oil-drain and refill steps are the same, but the filter change process is not. I'll cover the process for changing a top-mount cartridge filter in another piece.
Change Your Oil
With the preliminaries out of the way, it's time to drain the oil out of the engine. It's important to place the drain pan under the drain plug — but not directly under it. The angle of the drain plug will cause the oil to stream out at an angle, so I'm offsetting the pan to that side by several inches. If I were doing this outdoors, I would also account for wind. No, really. Those last wispy ribbons of oil can blow around and make a mess.
Change Your Oil
Remove the oil filler cap. You've held your thumb atop a drinking straw filled with water to keep it from running out, right? It's not quite the same here, because oil would still drain with the oil filler cap on, but it does seem to flow out more smoothly and quickly with the cap removed. If nothing else, taking the cap off now serves as a reminder to put the new oil in before you start the engine.
Change Your Oil
It's time to put the gloves on. When you remove the oil drain plug, things start getting messy.
You can usually remove the drain plug with a common end wrench and a bit of muscle. The hex end on a typical drain plug is almost always a common size that comes in a standard tool assortment, but even the domestic carmakers tend to use metric in the 14-17mm range. A three-eighth-inch drive ratchet is perfectly fine, of course, as long as you remind yourself not to use its extra leverage to over-tighten the drain plug when you put it back later.
Change Your Oil
Go slowly as you remove the drain plug and keep your hands away from the expected path of the oil. It's going to come out quick and warm. If you miscalculate, it could dribble down your arm. This is another reason why it's best not to change oil when the engine and its oil are piping hot.
Change Your Oil
I almost got away clean, but not quite. On the other hand, I usually fumble the drain plug into the pan as the oil comes out. Not this time.
Change Your Oil
Inspect and clean the oil drain plug while the rest of the oil is draining. This is where the new drain plug washer would go if one were needed. But as you can see, this one has a permanent O-ring instead. If your drain plug does need a replacement washer, make sure the old one isn't stuck to the engine's oil pan — you don't want to inadvertently stack a new washer atop the old one.
Change Your Oil
Tighten the drain plug. Theoretically, there is a torque specification for drain plugs, but they're almost never published in the owner's manual. Even if you do find the spec, it's unlikely that the half-inch drive torque wrench you bought to tighten lug nuts will go low enough for this job.
The drain plug is properly tightened if you use the box end of a combination wrench and tighten it as much as you can without using a hammer or slipping a pipe over the wrench for extra leverage. A standard-length three-eighth-inch drive ratchet will work if you choke up on it a bit, but anything longer or larger can lead you down the path of over-tightening. You want the bolt to be tight, but you don't want to strip it out.
Change Your Oil
Remove the oil filter. New filters that are properly installed don't go on terribly tight. But they can be hard to get off later because their sealing gaskets swell over time.
Here I've added an extension to my ratchet to get a little extra knuckle room. But I'm not going to use the wrench much beyond the point of breaking the filter free. Filters loosen in a hurry, at which point oil starts to gush out all around the perimeter. Go slowly and switch to unscrewing the filter by hand as soon as you can.
Unlike drain plug removal, there is no way to avoid making a mess at this stage. Make sure you reposition the drain pan before you start. Have rags handy and prepare to get some oil down your arm. Don't let go of the filter once it starts to come off.
Change Your Oil
Hold the filter over the pan to drain it, but try not to drop it in. It makes a very messy splash.
Change Your Oil
Use rags to clean as much oil away as you can, paying special attention to the filter sealing surface. Make sure to remove the old filter's O-ring if it stuck itself to the surface. This rarely happens nowadays, but it's one of those things you check anyway because a double stack of O-rings won't seal, allowing your new oil to pump out and ruin your engine.
Change Your Oil
The last messy step involves smearing a dab of new oil on the new filter's O-ring.
Change Your Oil
Install the new filter. At this point I like to take the gloves off so I get a good grip. I'm spinning the filter on gently until the O-ring makes first contact with the sealing surface.
Change Your Oil
Before I tighten the filter, I draw a reference line on it with a marker or paint pen. Generally, oil filters are tightened no more than three-quarters of a turn to a full turn beyond the point where the O-ring first contacts the sealing surface. Consult your manual or the oil filter box to confirm the proper amount.
Change Your Oil
Here I'm at three-quarters of a turn with no tools. This is enough. You can go to a full turn if you can manage it by hand, but don't resort to a filter wrench just because you want to tighten it more than the recommended amount. In most cases you'll only need a filter wrench for tightening if access is too tight or if your hands are too oily for a solid grip.
Change Your Oil
After you reconfirm that the oil drain bolt and filter are both in place and properly tightened, it's time to add oil. Add approximately one quart less than the recommended amount. Ford's EcoBoost 2.0 engine requires 5.7 quarts, so I'm adding five now and holding the last one back for later. I also like to hold the bottles on their side for a smooth pour.
Change Your Oil
Now it's time to replace the oil cap and start the engine. Run the engine for 30 seconds or so to circulate the new oil, then shut it down and check your work area underneath the car for leaks.
Once you're satisfied that everything is OK, lower the car off the jack stands or ramps.
Change Your Oil
Now that you're on flat ground, check the oil level. Because I short-filled it slightly, it was no surprise that I had to add a little more oil. As usual, you'll know the level is full when the oil comes up to the upper hole or hash mark.
The only other step now is to properly dispose of the old oil and filter. Most auto parts stores that sell oil will take your waste oil at no charge. If yours won't, local municipalities often have household hazardous waste drop-off points.
That's it. We're done. Once you've done an oil change a couple times and you are familiar with your car's idiosyncrasies, the whole job takes less than 30 minutes. If you stockpile oil and filters in your garage, you'll save both time and money compared to going to a mechanic. And once you get comfortable with the basic oil change, a whole slew of other maintenance tasks begin to seem within easy reach.

Changing your motor oil : Manual

Motor oil is a critical part of your car’s engine and should be regularly checked and changed to ensure your vehicle runs properly. However, there are a number of myths about motor oil and its use. Some of the myths might have been true in the distant past but no longer apply with modern cars and oils.
To help clear up any confusion, here are some common motor oil myths that you can finally put to rest.
  • Oil should be changed every three months or 3,000 miles. The truth is motor oil should be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. For most late-model cars, the oil change interval is much longer. Changing the oil more often than necessary simply adds expense and wastes oil.
  • Oil should be changed when it turns black. It’s completely normal for engine oil to turn black after a couple thousand miles. The color does not mean it’s lost its ability to lubricate and protect the engine. Some cars have sensors that monitor engine oil quality; if your car is not equipped with such dashboard indicators, you can always have the oil checked by a trusted mechanic to see if it needs to be changed.
  • City driving counts as “severe” driving. According to this myth, most cars should have their oil changed on the manufacturer’s recommended schedule for severe driving conditions. But those more frequent schedules are designed for truly severe driving, such as police cars or trucks pulling heavy cargo.
  • You should never change the type of oil used in your car. At one time, it was thought you shouldn’t even change oil brands; today, many people think you shouldn’t put synthetic oil in an engine that’s used to conventional oil or vice versa. However, there’s really no problem changing types of oil as long as it’s the correct viscosity.
Keeping your engine maintained, without unnecessarily changing the motor oil too often, can help you save money overall.

How often should I change my oil?

Most vehicle manufacturers recommend changing the oil once a year or every 7,500 miles in passenger car and light truck gasoline engines. For diesel engines and turbocharged gasoline engines, the usual recommendation is every 3,000 miles or six months.
If you read the fine print, however, you'll discover that the once a year, 7,500 mile oil change is for vehicles that are driven under ideal circumstances. What most of us think of as "normal" driving is actually "severe service" driving. This includes frequent short trips (less than 10 miles, especially during cold weather), stop-and-go city traffic driving, driving in dusty conditions (gravel roads, etc.), and driving at sustained highway speeds during hot weather. For this type of driving, which is actually "severe service: driving, the recommendation is to change the oil every 3,000 miles or six months.
For maximum protection, most oil companies say to change the oil every 3,000 miles or three to six months regardless of what type of driving you do.
A new engine with little or no wear can probably get by on 7,500 mile oil changes. But as an engine accumulates miles, blowby increases. This dumps more unburned fuel into the crankcase which dilutes the oil. This causes the oil to break down. So if the oil isn't changed often enough, you can end up with accelerated wear and all the engine problems that come with it (loss of performance and fuel economy, and increased emissions and oil consumption).

Oil Analysis

Truck fleets often monitor the condition of the oil in their vehicles by having samples analyzed periodically. Oil samples are sent to a laboratory that then analyzes the oil's viscosity and acid content. Oil is then burned in a device called a spectrometer that reveals various impurities in the oil. From all of this, a detailed report is generated that reveals the true condition of the oil.
Oil analysis is a great idea for fleets and trucks that hold a lot of oil. But most consumers would have a hard time justifying the cost. Having an oil sample analyzed typically costs $12 to $20 for the lab work and report. Most quick lube shops charge $16.95 to $19.95 for an oil change. So why spend your money on a report that will probably tell you your oil needs changing? Just change the oil every 3,000 miles and don't worry about it.
Regular oil changes for preventative maintenance are cheap insurance against engine wear, and will always save you money in the long run if you keep a car for more than three or four years. It's very uncommon to see an engine that has been well maintained with regular oil changes develop major bearing, ring, cam or valve problems under 100,000 miles.

What About The Oil Filter?

To reduce the costs of vehicle ownership and maintenance, many car makers say the oil filter only needs to be replaced at every other oil change. Most mechanics will tell you this is false economy.
The oil filters on most engines today have been downsized to save weight, cost and space. The "standard" quart-sized filter that was once common on most engines has been replaced by a pint-sized (or smaller) filter. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a smaller filter has less total filtering capacity. Even so, the little filters should be adequate for a 3,000 mile oil change intervals -- but may run out of capacity long before a second oil change at 6,000 or 15,000 miles.
Replacing the oil filter every time the oil is changed, therefore, is highly recommended.
An engine's main line of defense against abrasion and the premature wear it causes is the oil filter. The filter's job is to remove solid contaminants such as dirt, carbon and metal particles from the oil before they can damage bearing, journal and cylinder wall surfaces in the engine. The more dirt and other contaminants the filter can trap and hold, the better.
In today's engines, all the oil that's picked up by the oil pump is routed through the filter before it goes to the crankshaft bearings, cam bearings and valvetrain. This is called "full-flow" filtration. It's an efficient way of removing contaminants, and it assures only filtered oil is supplied to the engine. In time, though, accumulated dirt and debris trapped by the filter begin to obstruct the flow of oil. The filter should be changed before it reaches this point, which is why the filter needs to be replaced when the oil is changed.
If you wait too long to change the filter, there's a danger that it might become plugged. To prevent this from causing a catastrophic engine failure due to loss of lubrication, oil filters have a built-in safety device called a "bypass valve." When the pressure drop across the filter exceeds a predetermined value (which varies depending on the engine application), the bypass valve opens so oil can continue to flow to the engine. But this allows unfiltered oil to enter the engine. Any contaminants that find their way into the crankcase will be pumped through the engine and accelerate wear.

Filter Replacement

If you do your own oil changes, make sure you get the correct filter for your engine. Follow the filter manufacturer's listings in its catalog. Many filters that look the same on the outside have different internal valving. Many overhead cam engines, for example, require an "anti-drainback" valve in the filter to prevent oil from draining out of the filter when the engine is shut off. This allows oil pressure to reach critical engine parts more quickly when the engine is restarted. Filters that are mounted sideways on the engine typically require an anti-drainback valve.
CAUTION: The threads on a spin-on filter must also be the correct diameter and thread pitch (SAE or metric) for your engine. If you install a filter with SAE threads on an engine that requires metric threads (or vice versa), you can damage the threads that hold the oil filter in place. Mismatched threads can also allow the filter to work loose, which causes a sudden loss of oil pressure that may ruin your engine!
Some people say it's best to change the oil when the oil is hot (like right after driving), while others say it makes no difference. CAUTION: Hot oil is thinner and runs out faster but can also burn you if you're not careful. In any event, avoid unnecessary skin contact with oil because oil is a suspected carcinogen (causes cancer).
Changing the oil when it is cold may take a bit longer because the oil will drain more slowly from the engine, but there's no danger of being burned. Also, most of the oil will have drained down into the oil pan when the engine has sat for a period of time, which means you'll actually get a little more of the old oil out of the engine than if you attempt to drain it while it is still hot.
Used motor oil should be disposed of properly. The Environmental Protection Agency does not consider used motor oil to be a hazardous chemical, but it can foul ground water and does contain traces of lead. The best way to dispose of used motor oil is to take it to a service station, quick lube shop, parts store or other facility for recycling. Your old oil will either be rerefined into other lubricants or petroleum products, or burned as fuel.
Do not dump used motor oil on the ground, down a drain, into a storm sewer or place it in the trash. Many landfills will not accept used motor oil even if it is in a sealed container because it will eventually leak out into the ground. If you can't find an environmentally-acceptable way to dispose of the stuff, maybe you shouldn't be changing your own oil. Service facilities that do oil changes all have storage tanks and recycling programs to dispose of used oil.

Semi-Synthetic vs Fully-Synthetic

Why synthetic is better than ‘natural’
Natural products are traditionally considered to be ‘better’ than synthetic ones. In the case of engine oil, however, Shell scientists have succeeded in developing a range of synthetic products with better properties than their natural counterparts – and fewer of their shortcomings.
Synthetic base oils give enhanced performance because they are manufactured using advanced chemical processes, so their molecular structure and hence, their properties, can be closely controlled. For example, fully synthetic oils like Shell Helix Ultra are designed to flow more easily at start-up temperatures (which is when most wear occurs). They are more resistant to heat and more easily protected by antioxidant additives (oxidation is a natural degradation process that occurs in oil over time). They are also less volatile than mineral oils.
For example, compared with a normal API SG/CD mineral oil, a fully synthetic engine oil such as Shell Helix Ultra is found to deliver:
  • Up to five times better cleansing.
  • Up to three times more protection.
  • Less than half as much engine wear.
AdvantagesKey advantages of synthetic engine oils include:
  • Higher purity and quality than mineral base oils – which means fewer unwanted components including sulphur-containing compounds and reactive or unstable hydrocarbons.
  • More uniform and consistent molecular composition – which reduces the fluid friction levels.
  • Can be reliably tailored to meet the requirements of modern engine manufacturers (requirements that oils like Shell Helix Ultra don’t just meet but often exceed).
  • Shell Helix synthetic oils are designed to perform under the more extreme conditions encountered in modern engines.

Why do synthetic oils perform so well?

Properties of synthetic oilsResulting benefits
Low overall viscosity and reduced friction in the fluid means superior flow properties.
This results in improved engine efficiency and fuel economy, and lower oil temperatures.
Thanks to the oil’s high viscosity index, the viscosity is affected less by temperature changes than with normal mineral oils.
The oil does not become too thick when cold, or too thin when hot. This reduces engine wear at temperature extremes.
Less viscosity modifier is needed, which leads to lower levels of deposits.
In high temperatures, viscosity and shear resistance are retained.This means better engine protection at high speeds or when heavily loaded.
In low temperatures, oils do not thicken unduly.This means easier starting with less strain on the battery. Oil circulates quickly around the engine, giving protection from the outset. The engine warms up faster and reaches optimum performance sooner, which improves fuel economy.
Low volatility means fewer volatile components in the oil and so less evaporation or burn-off.This results in lower oil consumption, fewer top-ups and less oil thickening, which helps to maintain fuel economy and reduce engine wear.
High oxidation resistance means that the oil molecules are less likely to breakdown or degrade, especially at higher temperatures.This keeps the engine cleaner through reduced formation of sludge and corrosive acids, fewer engine deposits and less oil thickening – all helping to maintain fuel economy and reduce engine wear.