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Changing Your Oil: What to Avoid, What to Do

Changing Your Oil

My father had recently taught me how to change the oil on the family
car a few months previous:

“Now, don’t try this on your car until I can
be there to help you,” he cautioned me.

“Aw, it’s OK, I know how to do it now,” was my cocky teen response.

“I’d still rather you wait until I can help you, just to make sure you got it,” he said.
Of course I didn’t listen. I was a teenager. I knew everything. And I
was going to prove to my dad and my brother that I could change my own
oil! “Won’t they be surprised when they come home and find out I did it
all by myself!” I thought proudly.

I drove to K-mart, looked up everything using the chart as my dad showed me, proceeded home, and set about changing my oil.

I set up my car ramps, just as I had been shown, and got in my car to
drive up them. I drove up them just fine. The problem came when I kept
driving. I drove right up and over those darn things. It was a hard
crash when I drove off of them, let me tell you. I just sat there in

Finally, I got out to look at the damage. The car was sitting on the
car ramps and had shoved them into the ground. There was no way I was
getting it off by myself and I trembled at my father’s reaction when he
saw it.

I figured since the car was “kinda up off the ground,” I might as
well try to redeem myself a little bit and finish the oil changing
process. So, with what little space I had, I crawled under the car and
began to change my oil.

All went smoothly until I took the plug off and oil began to run everywhere. I had forgotten the oil pan.
Needless to say, my father was not a happy camper when he got home
and found the situation, and my brother had teasing leverage with me for
years afterward.

It is possible for a woman to change the oil in her car, however, despite my poor example. All it takes is the following steps:

Oil is best changed when your car is warm, but please make sure you never change it when the car is still hot! If you have just gotten back from driving, give the car time to cool down.

Step 1: Gather your supplies: 4-6 quarts of oil, a
new oil filter, an oil pan, a funnel, an open-ended wrench, an oil
filter wrench, and a rag.
You can purchase your oil and oil filter at a local Wal-Mart or
K-mart. Look up in your owner’s manual which grade your car takes, such
as 10W30 or 10W40, and how many quarts.

There are books and little computer systems at the store that can
help you choose which oil filter you need as well. You’ll need to know
your car’s make, model, year, and cylinders in order to use these.

Step 2: Jack your car up. You can either do this
with car ramps (have someone help guide you when using these so you
don’t do what I did) or a pair of jack stands. Never change the oil with
just a jack! Buy a pair of sturdy jack stands and learn how to use them

When using your car ramps or jack stands have your car in first gear
(standard) or park (automatic) with your emergency brake on.

Step 3: After you have determined your car is firmly jacked up, slide underneath it. Place your oil pan underneath the oil plug.

Step 4: Unscrew the oil plug with your open-ended
wrench. The rule to remember is “lefty-loosy,” or counter-clockwise. Be
prepared for the oil to begin coming out as soon as the plug is
loosened and removed.

Step 5: Allow all of the oil to drain out.

Step 6: After the oil is drained, replace the oil plug. (“righty-tighty,” or clockwise)

Step 7: Remove the old oil filter by placing the oil
filter wrench around it and turning left. This will have old oil in it
as well, so be prepared for more drainage once this is removed.

Step 8: Take your new oil filter and lubricate the rim and top with new oil.

Step 9: Screw your new filter on by hand. You do not
need to tighten using the oil wrench; screwing it on by hand should be
adequate. Make sure you screw it on firmly, however. Remember again,
“righty-tighty,” a.k.a. clockwise.

Step 10: Move your car off of the car ramps or jack stands.

Step 11: Using your oil funnel, put the new oil in
your car. This will be clearly marked on the top of your car engine
area. Fill with as many quarts as your owner’s manual states your car
takes. Replace the oil cap.

Step 12: You can double check your oil level by
running your car for 2-3 minutes and then checking the fluid level on
your oil dipstick. Wipe the dipstick with a clean rag, then re-insert.
Pull it out and see where the level is. If it is below “full” add
another ½ quart to quart of oil.

Step 13: Make sure that you take your used oil and
oil filter to a local garage that will recycle it for free. Never throw
these things in the trash!

Step 14: Feel like every woman because you just changed your own oil!

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