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How to Change Oil

Changing your own oil can be rewarding and can potentially save money compared to taking it to a service center, but it's important to do it right!


For beginners1, it's important to change your oil while the oil isn't too hot. If you were just driving the car, wait for it to cool down before attempting to change the oil. The first thing you need is something to drain the oil into, preferably one pan big enough to hold all of it. You can find these at nearly any auto parts store. You will also need a safe way to lift the car off the ground.

Getting the right kind and amount of oil before the oil change is important as well, especially if you won't be able to get to the store while your engine has no oil. Your engine will typically take one viscosity of oil, but some models may have more than one option based on region and/or season. The amount of oil will be important, too; overflling or underfilling the engine can cause significant damage.

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Draining the Old Engine Oil

Most vehicles have an oil drain plug on the oil pan (the bottom of the engine). After placing the drain pan under it, remove this bolt with the appropriate socket wrench, hand-loosening when it becomes easy enough to do so. Remember that the oil will come out as soon as the bolt is gone, and you will most likely get oil on you, which is why the engine needs to cool down first. If you are also changing the oil filter, now is the time to do so. Oil filters might come off by hand, but you often have to use an oil filter clamp to remove them (note: some new oil filters are made with a bolt head for convenience). After all the oil has drained out, clean the drain plug threads, the oil filter sealing points, plus what you feel is important to clean and then (Important!) put the drain plug back on.

Draining Versus Extracting Oil

This video by of talks about the process of extracting oil versus draining it, a method used by many professional oil change techs. This video was published on September 25th, 2019. Charles is a professional tech and is showing how to perform this process on a Volkswagen Golf R (MK7.5) as part of its 5,000 mile service.

Tip: Oil Drain Plug Torque

You don't want your drain plug falling out while you're driving! Engine vibrations can shake loose an oil drain plug, so applying enough torque will ensure the drain plug stays where you want it. It also means you won't be over-tightening it, which can strip out the threads on the oil pan (which can still cause the drain plug to fall out, but usually causes a leak). Find the correct torque value for your oil drain plug (in the owner's manual, a repair manual, or from a reputable online source) and use your torque wrench to tighten it to the correct value.

Adding New Engine Oil

If you are installing a new oil filter during this oil change, you should put some of the new oil in the filter (just pour it into the hole slowly) before reattaching it. If you are not changing an oil filter, or you have completed the previous task, you can begin adding new oil. Your car's owner's manual should tell you how much oil and what kind you need, but if you don't have that, you can either look it up online or add the recommended type of oil gradually until it shows up on the appropriate place on the dipstick (usually a textured or otherwise marked area). Most engines have a large cap on one of the valve covers labelled "Oil" or with the type of oil you need to add (example: 5W-30). Use a funnel to help add the oil without spilling it.

How to Change Oil in a Truck

In this classic video, changes the oil in his father's 1997 4.2L V6 F150. This video was published on September 30th, 2017, but was recorded well before then in .


This is simplified advice which may not apply to certain cars. If you are not sure about something, consult a professional. Cars Simplified and its affiliates are not responsible for information errors here or damage resulting from it or human error. Make sure you attach the oil plug! Failure to do so will cause all new oil to leak out, leading to major engine damage. Using the wrong oil may reduce performance or damage the engine. Do not attempt to start the engine without oil. Too much or too little oil can hurt performance or damage the engine.

Be sure to clean up any spilled oil and take your old oil to a recycling center. Used motor oil is also a health hazard, so get it off your skin as soon as possible to minimize how much your skin absorbs.

  1. Professionals don't wait for the oil to cool down because they need to change it quickly. Changing while hot not only eliminates waiting time, but hot oil drains from the engine faster. Since a beginner is very likely to get oil on them, it is highly recommended to allow oil to cool completely before draining it.
  2. If this is your first oil change, you probably aren't performing it on a vehicle with more than one oil filter. An example of a car with more than one oil filter is the Lexus LFA.