Changing Your Car's Oil: It's Easier Than You Might Think

car keys with a girly keyring on a desk next to a macbook

Oil plays a crucial role in your car; it ensures that all moving parts remain lubricated, that the engine is performing correctly and that you're getting accurate gas mileage. While I knew that changing oil in your car was something you needed to do, me being clueless I left mine far too long, and later found out I'd put my car at risk of failure. Thankfully I got away with my lack of maintenance this time, but have vowed to be more careful in future! Admittedly, I didn't do this myself (luckily I have a boyfriend that knows about cars to do it for me) but I did take a look at the process, and I think it's something most people could do. Here's what you need to know about changing your oil. 

1. Always consult your manual
First things first, take a look in your car's manual. This will tell you when you need to change the oil and the best way to go about it. It will tell you the amount that you need to fill the oil chambers to, which kind of oil you need, and generally enables you to check what you're supposed to be doing for your particular car model. 

2. Position your car properly
For most cars, the oil cylinder is located under the bonnet, close to the engine. Before you attempt anything, park your car on level ground- so no sloping driveways! In some cars you'll need a jack to gain access, or better still, two jacks for more stability. Make sure you're certain the car is secure, follow the instructions on the jack carefully. Obviously the car falling on you could be really dangerous, so this is one of the most important things to get right. 

3. Drain the old oil
If your car has been recently used, then wait a while for it to cool it off. Hot oil has the potential to cause serious skin injuries, which of course you'll want to avoid at all costs. Put a basin such as a washing up bowl underneath to catch the old oil, and open the oil plug (again, your manual will show you where this is). Give it around ten minutes for the whole batch to pour out. It's supposed to be brown, but mine was that old it had gone jet black and looked terrible. Not good!

4. Replace everything
Once the old oil has been drained, remove the oil filter; when you're replacing this, ensure that you apply some new oil on it for extra lubrication. Close the oil plug and pour the new oil in from the top. Be careful about spilling any on the engine, or you'll end up with smoke everywhere when you start up the car. 

5. Start the engine
Before you start the engine, make sure that there are no leaks underneath the car. Use the dipstick to check oil levels, you'll have been shown how to do this when doing your driving lessons. Remove the stick, wipe it, dip it, and wipe it again and check if the levels are up to the standard required for that vehicle. Start the engine to increase the pressure, and to make sure that everything is working correctly.

Finally, put the drained oil inside a container and take it to your local recycling centre. They can dispose of it safely, in a way that won't damage the environment. Far too much oil ends up down drains and in rivers and canals, don't contribute to the problem. If you're as clueless as me, sites like can be helpful if you're considering changing your oil- or if you really don't want to deal with it yourself you can always have it serviced at a garage.  

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