How often do you change your oil in your car? Have the air filter replaced? Rotate the tires? These and dozens of other maintenance actions are necessary to keep your car running at its best efficiency, and also to continue to work for you without breaking down. If you're like most, you pay a mechanic to do these simple items rather than doing it yourself.
Tally up how much you spend on auto maintenance over the course of a year, and you'll probably be shocked at how much you're spending. Most routine auto servicing can be performed by almost anyone with basic mechanical knowledge and access to simple tools. You'll save money, and you'll have the pride of knowing that the job was done right, since you did it yourself!
This article covers the most necessary maintenance; the oil change. All that you need are a couple of wrenches, a new oil filter, and a few quarts of motor oil.
Start by determining the proper oil for your vehicle. Oil is grouped by viscosity, or how fluid it is. The proper viscosity oil for your vehicle is printed on the oil fill cap on your engine. It will say something like "5W-20," "10W-30," or "SAE30." Buy the right viscosity oil from any auto parts store or big retailer. While there, use one of their reference manuals (or ask a clerk) for the proper oil filter for your car.
The only other things you will need are a wrench for the drain bolt, a filter wrench to get the old filter off, and an oil catcher to collect the used oil for disposal. Oil and filter should run about $25 to $30, and is the only expense each time you change the oil, other than the old oil disposal fee, which should be another $5 or so.
When you are ready to start, make sure the engine is still slightly warm from use, so the old oil drains better. Make sure the engine is off, and the parking brake is set! Loosen the oil cap on the engine and set it aside. Put a large sheet of cardboard under the car to catch any oil spills.
Get under the car with the oil catch bucket, and find the drain bolt on the oil pan. Your service manual for your car should tell you which one this is. Have the oil catch pail ready to catch the oil, and slowly loosen the drain bolt. Catch the draining oil in the pail. Let it drain until no more oil drips from the drain hole.
Once the engine is drained, loosen and remove the old oil filter. Some additional oil may spill from the filter hole, so be ready to catch it with the catch pail. Once the oil is removed and fully drained, set the catch pail and old filter aside. Uncap one of the new bottles of oil, and spread a light coat of oil on the seal for the new filter, then screw the new filter on.
The new filter should be hand tight and very snug, not torqued down with a wrench. Next, replace the drain bolt, being very careful not to cross-thread the bolt! Hand-tighten it at first, until it is all the way in, then use the wrench to tighten it down. You want the drain bolt tight, since a loose drain plug would allow oil to escape, ruining the engine.
Once the filter and drain plug are back on, pour the new motor oil into the engine. A funnel will help with this. Put in the recommended amount (4-6 quarts depending on the car) and check the dipstick to make sure the oil reaches the full line. Put the oil cap back on and your work is complete!
Check underneath the car to ensure the new oil isn't draining back out from a loose filter or drain bolt. Once you're sure it is good, put everything away and dispose of the old oil and filter as your local laws direct.