For first-time car owners and those who want to change their own oil (but have never picked up a wrench), your first DIY oil change may seem like a daunting task. The number-one rule when working on your vehicle (or anything for that matter) is SAFETY, SAFETY, and SAFETY! Changing your oil and filter isn’t a complex process, but it does require focus and attention-to-detail. Basically, if you can tie your shoes then you can change your oil. This is a two-part post about DIY oil changes. This article, Part One, covers the basics of the materials and tools necessary to change the oil and filter for the vast majority of vehicles on the market.
The process for your vehicle and working conditions may warrant additional safety precautions that are not covered in this article, so the lesson to take away from this is that safety is your responsibility, and yours alone. If you are not familiar with proper techniques and confident in your abilities, then we recommended consulting a professional mechanic or experienced service technician to service your vehicle.
The Right Tools:
Every model of car is different, so there may be additional tools needed besides our “basic oil changing toolkit”. If you have access to the tools, you’re one step ahead of the game. The basic necessary tools are safety glasses; a vehicle jack; wheel chocks; jack stands; an oil filter wrench; an oil drain pan (preferably with a pour spout on the side); a fair amount of shop towels/rags; and a pair of mechanic’s gloves, snug fitting vinyl gloves, or latex gloves.
Be aware that there are different types of oil filter wrenches. The easiest type to use is one that looks like a cap (as shown here in the pictures), and seats on the end of the filter. Your particular oil filter determines what size of wrench to purchase, as different car models may use different size oil filters.
Socket wrench sets on the market either come in standard or metric measurements. A good set includes both, as well as two or three extension bars. Extension bars are great for accessing filters that may be difficult to reach, hidden up high in the engine. Get a set with both types, because many vehicles have both metric and standard measurement bolts. Nothing is more frustrating than taking the time and effort setting up for the job, only to find you don’t have the correct tools.
Get a good vehicle jack (rated to support the weight of your vehicle) and get a robust set of jack stands. Jack stands are rated for specific vehicle weights, as well. Select jack stands which support the vehicle you’ll be working under. Spend a few extra dollars, and get the highest-rated jack stands. It’s a one-time investment of $35-$50 that pays for itself over time. You’ll use them for work on just about any vehicle you own in the future.
One final note is another call for safety. You should never crawl under a vehicle that has not been supported properly with jack stands designed to accommodate the weight of your vehicle. Doing so can likely result in tragedy.
Safety will again be covered in our “Part Two” post of this series. In Part Two, we’ll also discuss the actual steps to change your engine oil. For specifics on your vehicle, be sure to