Changing the oil in your car

To keep your car running well, it’s important to change the oil regularly. If this is something you’re thinking of doing yourself instead of going to a mechanic, then take a look at our step-by-step guide before diving in. This could save you unnecessary time and money.

Why does car oil need to be changed?

Cars need their oil changing every so often because it gets dirty, and stops the engine from running as smoothly as it should. Replacing the oil can help to make the engine perform better and last longer too. Changing the oil yourself can also save you cash that you would otherwise have to pay to a professional mechanic.

Checking car oil

When should I check my car oil?

There are a broad range of views on how often you should change the oil in your car. It will largely depend on your driving habits and the type of vehicle you’re driving, so this can range from as little as every 3,000 miles to as much as 20,000 miles. 

Check your car manual:

Take a look at your car manual and this will give you an idea of recommended service intervals for when your particular make and model of car might need an oil change.

Car jack

What do I need?

  • New oil: Check your car manual to find out how much oil you will need and what type
  • Oil canister: You will be able to find out what type you need by checking your car manual
  • Jack and metal ramps: The jack that comes with your car is unlikely to be sturdy enough alone for this job
  • Drain pan or an old bucket: This is to catch the old oil as it drains from your engine
  • Spanners: The right size to undo the drain plug and the oil filter
  • Old clothes, rubber gloves and clean rags: Changing car oil can be a messy job

How to change the oil in your car

Before following these steps, run your engine for a few minutes. This will thin the oil and allow it to drain more easily.

  • On level ground, apply the handbrake and leave the car in gear. Turn the engine off, then jack up the car. Alternatively, drive your car up on to metal ramps, and then turn off the engine
  • Hint: Check your car’s manual if you are unsure where the jacking points are. Remember there needs to be enough elevation for you to get underneath your car.
  • Once your car is safely elevated and secure, open the bonnet, pull out the dipstick and take off the oil cap. Then it’s time to get under the car.
  • Find the oil sump plug directly beneath the engine (some cars will have a plastic cover beneath the engine that you’ll need to remove). Place your pan or old bucket beneath the plug, then take the plug off with a spanner and let the oil drain into your pan or bucket.
  • Warning! Be careful, the oil will be hot!
  • Unscrew the old oil canister and replace it with the new one. Then, smear fresh oil around the new rubber seal and tightly screw in the new filter. Don’t over-tighten it.
  • Now, check the oil is fully drained, clean the sump plug with a rag, and put the sump plug back (along with the plastic cover if you have one).
  • Fill your car with fresh oil (remember to consult your manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation), and check against the dipstick.
  • Run your engine for a couple of minutes to make sure your oil warning light goes out after a minute or two. Finally, take a look under the car to make sure there are no leaks.
Recycling centre sign

Getting rid of your used oil:

Used motor oil is officially classed as hazardous waste, and can cause health issues such as skin cancer. You are responsible for disposing of it safely, and for making sure that it doesn’t cause pollution, so never pour it down the drain.

Instead, you should take it to your nearest household waste recycling centre. Ask your local authority for details on where to find your nearest centre.

To find out more about looking after your car, head to our Tips From The Trades guides for some expert advice.

Find out more about Car Insurance from Swinton

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