Oil Change Tips

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I just finished changing the oil and filter on one of our daily drivers and realized that over the years I have changed up the way that I perform the work to make it as hassle free as I can, yet still save money doing it myself.

Given that I changed the oil and filter on my first ride over 50 years ago, it’s probably not strange that I have changed a few of my habits but there are still a few items that I stick to no matter what happens. The main one and a lesson I learned from my Dad was if you’re changing the oil, you change the filter. As he said one time, “why would you add a quart of dirty oil to the clean oil?” He’s correct of course and for the cost of a quart of oil and filter, it doesn’t make any sense to not change the filter with the oil change.

My favorite tools at the moment for changing oil are rather basic:

  • Correct sized wrench for the oil drain plug
  • 15 Quart drain pan with a drain nozzle
  • Large pair of water pump pliers
  • Good sized funnel
  • Clean rag or paper towels
  • 5 Gallon metal can with cap

A couple of those items might need an explanation. I need the 15 quart drain pan to handle the diesel truck I have. The engine takes 13 quarts with another 2 quarts in the filter. If you do not have this situation then a smaller drain pan can be used, I would get one with at least an 8-10 quart capacity just to avoid spillage. I use the large water pump pliers to remove about 95% of the filters that I change. I got tired of filter wrenches that slip, bend, break or simply can’t get a filter off. The water pump pliers have not failed me yet. And you don’t need anything expensive but make sure to get some that will fit the largest filter you think you will encounter. The last one is the 5 gallon metal can with a cap. I drain all of my old oil into the metal can and when full, I recycle the oil at my local center. Trying to use the old 4 or 5 quart bottles that the oil came in is an option but I just prefer the metal can and it’s a number of oil changes before I need to empty it. A good source for the cans is a automotive paint and body repair. A lot of thinners come in 5 gallon cans – they usually have a few empties sitting around and just one will last you a very long time.

And speaking of 5 quart containers – a lot of oil today comes in that size versus the previous 4 quart containers. But what if you have an engine that only takes 4 quarts? My little tip for this is easy. Prior to pouring the fresh oil in the engine, I look at the side of the container – almost always marked with quart and litre numbers. If I need to put 4 quarts in the engine, I sit the container on a level service, take a Sharpie marker and mark the “1 Quart” mark. This way I can pour the fresh oil in the engine and as I get most of it in, I can keep bringing the container upright and checking the Sharpie mark at a glance. When I am finished, I take that Sharpie again and write the name of the vehicle on it (we have a couple of daily drivers) before putting it on the shelf. At the next oil change and assuming I haven’t had to use any of that left-over oil, I put that single quart in first and then mark the new container at the “2 Quart” mark. One quart from the old container and three quarts from the new one. Eventually I will end up with a container that has 4 quarts in it and then I start over again.

While I am under the hood or under the car, I take a look around to see if any issues are developing and check fluids, topping up things as needed. The last thing I do is to record the oil change. There are a number of ways to do this; you can keep a little notebook in the glovebox or the manufacturer may have provided a maintenance guide, you can create a spreadsheet on your computer or in my case I use a specific software to track maintenance and repairs. I use Automotive Wolf – a good program that gives you a lot of options and is very reasonably priced. If you have a lot of vehicles to keep up with, it’s worth the few dollars.

My last tip is a website that I recently found. Are you not sure of how much oil or when you should change it? Try this site: https://oil-change.info/

So that’s it for my oil change tips. If you enjoyed this article please share it!