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How to Change Your Car's Oil

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

How to Change Your Car's Oil

Eli Gali
September 4, 2013


It's long been common knowledge that everyone should change their car's oil every 3,000 miles, but it turns out that this is no longer true. Cars that were purchased in the last 10 years or so improved so much in oil composition and motor engineering that they can now go for 7,500 miles or more! A good rule however is to check your car's ownership manual and determine what type of driving you do. Stop and go driving, living in humid environments or travelling on dusty roads will all impact how often you should change your oil. One thing is for sure, if you're changing your oil every 3,000 miles simply because your dealer put that sticker on the corner of your windshield, then you are probably wasting your time and money.

Changing one's oil can be a relatively easy thing to do, albeit a messy one if you aren't careful. If your automobile's oil filter is in a difficult place to get to or if you happen to drive a European exotic, then taking it to a smaller, independent shop is the recommended course of action. Chances are that you'll probably have a better experience and save money at a full service and auto repair shop than by taking your car to the dealer.

The first step of changing your oil is to make sure that your car's engine is warm, but not hot. The last thing you want to do is burn yourself. Next, find the drain plug, which should be located under the oil pan somewhere below the engine. Once you located the plug, you'll want to remove it, so make sure you have a large enough pan to collect the oil.

After all of the oil has been removed from the engine you'll want to unscrew the cap that houses the oil filter which is located on the top part of the engine. Remove it and discard it by taking it to a recycling facility along with your old oil. Replace the old filter with a new one by following the instructions on the package.

The oil now gone from the vehicle's engine, replace the oil drain plug. Next, with a funnel, begin pouring the oil into the engine's oil hole making sure to leave about a quart of oil in the container. With this done, cap the engine's oil hole and start and idle the car for about a minute. This is to ensure that there are no leaks and for some of the oil to settle. Check the oil level with the dipstick and begin adding more oil a little at a time until it reaches the 'full' level on the dipstick. It's always a good idea to check the dipstick's level again after you've driven the car as more 'oil settling' will occur. If the stick remains at 'full', then you have now completed the job.

Changing your car's oil can be a relatively easy process, but with professional oil change and auto repair shops charging so little to change your oil maybe forgoing this process altogether is the way to go. Perhaps the money you've now saved by changing your oil every 7,500 miles can be used to pay someone to do it for you.


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