Do it Yourself, Do it Right – Change your own Oil

Sometimes the Handy Millennial performs a task, a task that is considered handy in the traditional sense. And since handy happens to be in the title of this site, the Handy Millennial feels compelled to share this with you.

Today, I’m going to show you how I performed my own oil change, but before I delve into the nitty, gritty, oily details, first let me share with you something that happened this last summer. A few months ago, my trusty 18 year old ride seemed to have just about given up on life. Now I’m not one to proudly proclaim that I drive a beater, so I will say that my car still to this day looks new, just like it did in the glorious year of 2000. So when I say given up on life, I really mean that mechanically things seemed to be going south.

In this case, oil was leaking from all sorts of places it shouldn’t be. Not one to back down from a challenge, the Handy Millennial decided to try to tackle the repairs himself. This means disassembling the engine both from the top (complete intake tare down) and from the bottom (oil pan removal).

Now what these jobs allowed the me to do, was to inspect how things are really going in there about 18 years after birth so to speak. And guess what? It was brand new. It was so new that the master mechanic working next to me walked over and marveled at the state of the engine.  (#superproud #greatestmomentever)

So how did I manage to keep it looking new inside and outside? By being religious about my oil changes. (and throwing in a couple carwashes of course) For most people oil changes are a nuisance. Every 3-5k miles you find the cheapest place where you get some new oil and then move on with your life.

The trouble is that garbage in = garbage out and eventually = cash out.  And believe me its garbage in truly. I’ve helped friends do their own oil changes after using a quicky lube place and the filter they used literally fell apart in my hands.

It really is in your best interest to maintain your car in the best possible way. See any number of posts on the internet on why cars are bad investments. What they all miss is that it’s depreciation that makes cars bad investments, but your personal gain from owning a car in America is priceless and your depreciation hit decreases with every single year you stay on the road.

Ok, Handy Millennial, get to the point, how do you change your own oil and how much does it cost?

Ok ok, enough proselytizing, here are some bulleted lists to answer your questions:

How much does it cost the Handy Millennial per oil change:

  • Fully Synthetic (meaning the best) oil – $26
  • Good Quality Filter – $5
  • Time – 30 minutes
  • Time saved not sitting in dirty mechanic waiting room – Priceless

What tools did you need to buy?

So out the door, the first time you need to buy about about $75 in gear, and there after its about $31 per oil change. If you choose to get a quick change valve, add another $28 at first.

So how do you do it?

First, safety first. And I should caution, do not do this if you are not going to do it properly, if you are scared, or if you are unsure. The Handy Millennial is not responsible for any damage, issues or harm that may arise from your own tinkering (see the disclaimer on this site).

Now the first step is to safely raise the vehicle off the ground. To do this, place the ramps at the wheels of the car.

After carefully aligning one ramp on each side of the car, drive the car up.  Driving a car up on ramps must be done slowly. Because that little bump on the end of the ramps isn’t going to stop you from driving right over it!

Once up, put it in Park and raise the emergency brake. This should stop the car from rolling backwards, just in case, add a couple rubber stops behind the back wheels.

At this point your car is up. Some people go a step further and put jack stands under the car. This means having 2 mechanisms to hold the car up. If you’re a newbie, probably not a bad idea. Actually probably a good idea for everyone, that is a 2 ton beast. Be smart, be safe.

Now under the front of the car, about 2 feet from the front bumper, slightly to the right of center looking from the front is your oil drain plug. That’s right about where the red “X” is in this picture.

Now in another post on replacing your shower head, the Handy Millennial advised you, the reader, to buy a set of wrenches. Here is where this purchase starts to pay dividends. Grab the set of wrenches and find the size that works. Again from the prior post, remember that when dealing with bolts – “righty tighty and lefty loosey.”

Now loosen the bolt and make sure the oil pan is ready underneath. As soon as the bolt comes out, it will pour our very fast:

Aside: After the oil has drained, you can install your new valve to make next time easier. The car in these pictures is a 2012 Subaru Impreza. So the valve I have linked to is for that car. Leave a comment below and I will help you find a valve for your car.

Here is what it looks like when you install it:

Now the next time you do this oil change, all you have to do is reach up, flick the valve and wait for the oil to drain. Easy right? I wonder why cars don’t come standard with these.

Returning to our regularly scheduled programming: Now this is a Subaru, so the oil filter is conveniently on top in the engine bay. At this point grab my oil wrench and loosen the filter a bit. (Righty tighty lefty loosey). This helps all of the oil drain below.

Continuing to drain below, take the new filter and look at the bottom. There is a black rubber ring on it. Coat this with a little bit of new oil.

Now completely remove the old filter, and clean up any dirty oil around where it used to be.

Lastly, screw on the new filter. The filter should be hand tight, at most a 1/4 turn past tight. Insert the funnel to prepare t0 pour new oil.

Two steps left:

  • Screw in your oil drain plug, or flick your oil drain valve closed. (remember to do this or lose all of your new oil)
  • Pour in new oil through the funnel. Again, this is an Impreza 2012, which means I need to use 5.3 quarts of new oil. Leave a comment below and I will help you figure out how much oil you need.

Once this is done, close the oil cap and run the car. Look under it. See any leaks? No? Then you are done!

Oh I almost forgot, you should probably keep track of this stuff. Want a fancy oil change reminder sticker? Get a free one at the auto parts store, or a lifetime supply here. It also doesn’t hurt to keep a log of what you’ve done to the car. That way when you go to resell the car, and the salesman asks “Do you have a maintenance record?” you don’t give them another reasons to low ball you. The Handy Millennial uses this neat little notebook.

So there you have it. This is how the Handy Millennial performs his own oil changes. Like a good recipe this looks intimidating until you try it. At this point, I barely notice that I’m doing it. Just don’t do it in the wind and stay safe!

2 thoughts on “Do it Yourself, Do it Right – Change your own Oil

  1. In my experience, oil filters come with that fancy sticker already in the box! So that’s super convenient 🙂

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