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Is It Worth It To Change Your Own Oil?

By: Mike Rosania

Maintenance The short answer: No. I recommend paying a trustworthy mechanic. Itís about the same price and saves you the hassle.

Itís that time of year again. Youíre in your car and you happen to glance up at that little Jiffy Lube sticky on the top in the upper corner of your windshield. "I was supposed to change my oil when?!" You immediately panic when you realize your oil change is five months and two thousand miles ago overdue (which ever came first).

As long as you actually have enough oil in your engine you arenít in horrible shape. If you had a leak or were low on oil, then you would have a problem. Your engine is comprised of metal parts that are constantly moving. The oil servers as a lubricant and is the blood of the engine. It is vital. Never drive without oil. I just want to stress that oil is everything to your engine. Not regularly changing your vehicleís oil will drastically shorten the life of your engine.

You should really consider having it done by a service. For not much more than you will pay for a new oil filter and 5 or 6 quarts of oil you can have the oil changed professionally. You also need to take the old oil to a mechanic or auto shop for disposal anyway. It can also be a messy procedure. Professionals can do oil changes with their eyes closed. It will take 20 minutes and cost a few bucks more. But, if you insist on doing it yourself, read on. Before you start, gather the necessary tools and supplies. You will need the following: a new oil filter, 5 or 6 quarts of the recommended oil (check your carís manual), an oil filter wrench, a socket set, rags and an oil pan or old bucket to catch the old oil.

You will also want to warm the engine up taking your car on a short drive around the block. Warningóyou only want to warm up the engine to loosen up the oil. Warm oil drains better, but hot oil is flat out dangerous! Now position the drain pan directly underneath the oil panís drain plug. Using the socket wrench, loosen and remove the oil pan plug, allowing the oil to drain freely. Be careful of hot oil and try not to drop the plug into the pan. This is what you might want to wear old clothes. Watch for splattered oilóit stains.

After all the oil has drained, remove the oil filter from the vehicle using an oil filter wrench. Set the old filter to the side and clean off the filterís mounting surface with a clean rag. You can now take the new filter and apply a thin coating of oil to the gasket. Attach it to the vehicle and tighten according to the directions on the package (usually hand tight).

Finally reinstall the oil pan plug, pop the hood and fill the engine with the amount of oil specified by your manufacturer. Be careful not to over pour. The new oil will likely take a little time to travel down into the engine. So if the oil level on your dipstick looks low, give it a second and add a very little bit. Too much oil will require you to repeat the whole process.

That's it, you are done. Now just clean up your mess and properly dispose of your used oil and filter. Your local mechanic should be able to guide you on where you can get rid of it. If you want to save money, look for coupons. If youíre having doubt about your skills learned in auto shop, then you might as well take it in to a professional. Good luck!

I can understand why you gear heads prefer swapping your own oil filters. I once had a mechanic charge me $150 to install a performance muffler; a procedure I easily could have done myself! Ė Mike Rosania
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