Here is the question that lots of people have when it comes to changing their own oil – is it actually cheaper?
Yes, absolutely. It has become increasingly expensive to have your oil changed at a garage. If you have the tools, ability, and know-it-how and wait for discounts and sales, you’ll be able to change your oil for as little as $20 – $25. If you have your oil changed at a garage, it will cost you between $45 and $80, and synthetic oil can cost you $65 and $100.
You may be thinking that changing your oil is far too complicated and that it’s far easier to spend the money for a garage to do it, but this isn’t true. It doesn’t take a lot of knowledge to change your oil, and it only takes a few tools. The more you change your oil, the faster you’ll get, and soon you’ll be able to change your oil in as little as 15-20 minutes.
I’m going to walk you through the entire process in this article and show you how I change my oil, which saves me a lot of money over 365 days.
Once you get the tools you need, and you’ve changed your oil several times, you can roll right into a routine, and over time, you’ll be able to change your oil efficiently while keeping hard-earned money in your pocket.
What is an Oil Change?
I’m going to start with the basics by discussing oil changes compared to oil services offered at most garages.
An oil change is when you drain your old motor oil and add fresh oil. That’s the nuts and bolts of changing your oil. A garage may offer an oil service which is a full inspection of your vehicle plus a change of your cabin and air filter. An oil service will also top up your coolant and windshield washer fluid. Normally, an oil service will cost you far more than just an oil change.
Just a word of warning. In my experience, some garages with their oil services can rip you off. If a garage is dishonest, they will always discover something “damaged” or “broken” so that they can make money from you. They may even give a discount for the oil service knowing that they will find an issue with your vehicle and make their money back.
Every time I would go for an oil change they would always try to upsell me new products or services, you can enter a service station for a $40 oil change and end up overhauling your engine for $500 later.
This is another reason why I like to do my own oil.
Tools For Changing Your Own Oil
You don’t need a lot of equipment for changing your oil, just specific ones for the task at hand. The links below will send you over to Amazon where you can get the best price for the products that I use to change my oil.
First, you’ll want a tarp to protect your driveway or garage floor. I use a heavy-duty 8×10 tarp which protects my driveway or garage from oil spills or drips. Oil is hard on concrete so you’ll want to be proactive and purchase a tarp.
The first tool that I use are ramps for lifting my car up high enough that you can get under it. I like to use Rinogear and their 16,000 lbs ramps work well. I also purchased a couple of heavy-duty chocks to place behind my back tires which ensures that my car doesn’t roll backward. It’s a safety issue. You could also use a jack to lift up your car and jack stands, but personally, I find that the ramps are faster.
For removing your oil plug you’ll need some wrenches. I use a 17mm wrench for my oil plug, but you’ll need to find out your size by just typing into Google your vehicle make and what size wrench for your particular oil plug. I actually purchased a nice socket set to give me different socket sizes and wrenches for other purposes on my car. A nice socket set isn’t that expensive and you’ll find a use for it along the way.
Once you get the wrench size for your oil plug, you’ll need someplace to put the old oil. I like using my portable oil pan which works well. You could also use an old tray for the old oil. You’ll want something that’s large enough that it’s going to catch the old oil when it shots out of the oil pan – a smaller container would mean you’d have to guess where the oil will end up.
For removing the old oil filter I like to use oil filter pliers. You can also use oil filter wrenches (you’ll have to figure out the size of the filter), or you could use a Swivel Wrench. If you decide to use the oil filter plyers, then make sure you don’t squeeze them too hard or you’ll puncture the filter and cause it to leak oil.
The last tool I purchased was a funnel for adding the new oil. The best oil change funnel is one that has a wide-open mouth so that you don’t spill any oil. The link above is the perfect oil-changing funnel that I have ever used.
You can add tools here and there, but the tools that I listed above will definitely get you started.
Tips for Saving Money When You Change Your Oil
Obviously, if you go out and purchase all these tools with your oil and filter, then you’re not going to save any money. In fact, you’ll be spending a whole lot more than any service station would charge for an oil change. Saving money changing your own oil is in the long game.
You’ll also want to plan ahead. Keep your eyes open for sales, and store away oil for the next oil change. Every time oil is on sale, I always purchase double the amount that I need, this way I am covered for the next time I need an oil change. If there is a big deal on oil, then it’s best to purchase oil for a couple of changes. Also, remember to keep your eyes open for coupons for the motor oil or for your filters. You can look for deals on your cabin and air filters as well, most of the time these filters will go on sale and you’ll be able to save money by just being proactive.
Another way to save money is to make sure that you’re automobile actually needs an oil change. Most oil change companies will tell you that you should change your oil every 3,000 miles – but is that true? I own a Kia Sorento and they suggest that I change my oil between 5,000 miles. Wow! That’s a lot different. Oil-changing businesses will only make money when you actually have your oil changed, so they will always be encouraging you to change your oil sooner than later.
Your vehicle’s owner manual will give you all the details about when your oil should be changed.
Keep your eye on your oil level and the color of the oil. Normally really dark oil is an indication that it’s time to be changed.
A great way to have your oil changed for free is to help friends and neighbors change their oil and charge them a few dollars. If you get enough people interested in having their oil changed, you can make enough to pay for your oil and filter. You already have the tools, and if you’ve changed your own oil, then all cars and trucks are similar. Maybe they can purchase the oil for your car and theirs, and you can do the actual changing of the oil.
The Steps I Take For Changing My Own Oil
When you change your oil, it’s a lot easier to drain your old oil when the oil is warm. It’s best to let your engine run for a few minutes before beginning this process.
You don’t want it too hot, or you could burn yourself on the engine. Just warm enough that the oil flows freely.
You’ll also want to wear some old clothes. I purchased some coveralls for when I change my oil and just hang them up in the garage.
Use a jack or ramps to elevate your vehicle so that you can comfortably reach the oil pan and plug. Once your vehicle is on ramps or lifted using a jack, you’ll want to use a chock on the back tires to make sure that your car or truck doesn’t roll on you.
If you decide to use a jack, you’ll need to place jack stands under the frame for safety. You can do this with ramps as well, though it’s not necessary. You should also follow the directions of the ramps and jack at all times.
I always put down a tarp to make sure I don’t make a mess on my driveway.
Place your oil pan under the oil plug and remove the plug with the proper wrench letting the oil flow in the pan. You may have to line this up a little, but overall a general area will work fine.
Find the oil filter, and remove it. Some cars may place their oil filter under the hood. All of this information is found in your owner’s manual.
Remove the filter and let the oil continue to drain from the engine. This may take a few minutes to completely empty the oil from the motor. Of course, you don’t have to wait for the very last drop.
Once the oil slows to a slow drip, you can return the oil plug.
Next, add your oil filter. Make sure you have all the seals that came with your filter and install them in their proper place. You’ll want to add a little oil and rub it on the seal on the top of the oil filter so that it doesn’t dry out and crack.
When you add the oil filter you’ll want to start it by hand. You want to make sure that it’s not cross-threaded before using your oil filter wrench or plyers.
Don’t over-tighten your filter. One full rotation, once it’s hand tight, is enough.
Once the oil plug is in place and the filter is installed, you can clean up all your tools from under your vehicle and take your vehicle off the ramps or let it down from the jack.
Make sure your vehicle is level before adding oil.
Next, insert your funnel into the engine oil fill compartment. You’ll want to use the oil grade that’s recommended by your make and model.
I normally just Google how much oil my vehicle can take maximum, you can also find all that information in your owner’s manual. Add the oil, let it sit for a little, and then check on your dipstick that it’s to the full line.
Your last step is to start your vehicle and then check for any drips or leaks.
There may be a couple of drips from excess oil when you removed the oil plug and filter. Other than that, make sure that your filter and plug don’t have any leaks.
Changing your own oil is an excellent way to save money over the course of several years. With the increase of goods and services in our world today, changing your own oil helps decrease the expense of owning a car.
I have been changing my own oil for several years now, and actually enjoy doing it. After you’ve changed your oil a few times, you really do get the hang of it.
You don’t have to be an expert mechanic to change your oil, and it saves you money in the long run. I recommend that you begin collecting the proper tools and move in the direction of changing your own oil today.