If you are confused about motor oil—the right time to change it, how often to change it, what is the best oil for your car—we can help you!
To reconcile the varying points of view, you’ve got to consult your owner’s manual and use a little bit of common sense.
Most owner’s manuals for newer vehicles will tell you it’s acceptable to go 5,000 miles between oil changes under normal conditions.
But you should drop to 3,000 miles if you drive under severe conditions.
Severe driving conditions can take a toll on just about every part of your car — both inside and out.
But what exactly are severe conditions? AAA defines them as the following:
1. Driving on short trips of less than five miles in normal temperatures or less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures.
2. Driving in hot weather stop-and-go traffic.
3. Driving at low speeds of less than 50 miles per hour for long distances.
4. Driving on roads that are dusty, muddy or have salt, sand or gravel spread on the surface.
5. Towing a trailer, carrying a camper (if a pickup truck) or transporting items on a roof rack or in a car-top carrier.
If you are just driving back and forth to work during the week, and to soccer fields and baseball games during the weekend, then there’s really no sense in changing your oil every 3,000 miles.
A couple of years, a Consumer Reports study put the brakes on the myth of the 3,000-mile oil change. They found no noticeable difference in engine protection whether you changed the oil every 3,000 or 7,500 miles.
Ultimately, this one has to be a personal decision. Maybe you’re comfortable changing every 3,000 miles and think 7,500 is too long to wait. Then why not split the difference and do it every 5,000 or so miles? You’ll be saving about a third by going those extra miles between oil changes.
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To start your DIY oil change, warm up your engine for 2 or 3 minutes so the gook gets churned up and can flow out of the engine easily. You don’t want the engine so hot that you burn yourself. When it’s slightly warm to the touch, shut off the engine.
Then, complete the following steps to change your car’s oil:
Look under your car to find the drain plug.
The drain plug is a large nut or plug located under the oil pan at the bottom of the engine. If you can’t reach your oil drain plug easily, you’ll have to either crawl under your car to reach it or jack up the car.
Place a container under the oil drain plug.
You want this container to catch the oil, so make sure it’s big enough.
Unscrew the oil drain plug.
Protect your hand with a rag or some paper towels, and be ready to move your hand out of the way. The oil now drains out of your engine into the container.
Remove the cap from the oil filler hole at the top of your engine and unscrew the oil filter, using a wrench if you can’t do it by hand.
To unscrew the filter, twist it counterclockwise. The filter will have oil in it, so be careful not to spill it when you remove it. If any remnants of the filter’s rubber seal remain on your engine, remove them.
After the filter is empty, wrap it in newspaper and set it aside to take to a recycling center with your old oil.
Open a new bottle of oil and dip a finger into it.
Use the oil to moisten the gasket on the top of the new oil filter.
Screw the new filter into the engine where the old one was.
Follow directions on the filter, or turn it gently by hand until it “seats” and then give it another three-quarter turn.
Wipe around the place where the oil drain plug goes.
Do this step only after all the oil has drained out.
Replace the oil drain plug and use an adjustable wrench to tighten it.
Use a funnel to pour all but 1 quart of the fresh oil into the oil filler hole.
Pour slowly to allow the oil time to run down.
Replace the oil filler cap and run the engine for 30 to 60 seconds.
Check for leaks from the oil drain plug and around the filter.
Shut off the engine and wait 5 to 10 minutes for the oil to settle into the oil pan, and then check the oil level again.
Remove the oil dipstick, wipe it with a clean, lint-free rag, and shove it back in. Pull it out again and check it.
Keep adding oil a little at a time.
Check the stick after each addition until you reach the “Full” line on the dipstick.
Remove the drain pan from under the vehicle and give the car a test drive.
Go around the block a couple of times.
Let the oil settle down again for 5 to 10 minutes, then recheck the dipstick.
If it’s still at “Full,” you’re good to go!
You have successfully learned how to change your oil! As a final step, dispose of the old oil by taking it to an auto parts store or other oil-recycling center.