Yet it’s surprising how many motorists forget to check their car’s oil level, much less ensure that oil is changed on a regular basis. Doing so is proven to significantly extend the life of any motor vehicle, often to the tune of thousands of extra miles.
Fresh Oil is Best
While gasoline fuels the engine, motor oil is the lubricant which protects it as it runs. Once operating, the engine’s moving parts — metal against metal — require lubrication to prevent overheating, wear and eventual breakdown. Motor oil supplies this lubrication; how well it performs at any given time is known as its viscosity, or its ability to maintain its ability to protect those valves and pistons as they keep your engine running and your car moving. But viscosity diminishes as oil is used; the result is oil which is thin, less-lubricating and dirty from the wear of moving metal parts.
Oil-change maintenance used to be part of overall service at gasoline stations. The advent of self-service stations has led to many people forgetting such important vehicle care concerns like checking their oil level. There are reputable service centers that specialize in oil changes, but in a tight economy, many people are becoming weekend mechanics. Performing periodic and preventative vehicle maintenance can be a rewarding and educational experience. There’s is no better place to begin than changing the oil and, on many vehicles, it’s not as daunting a task as it might seem.
Oil Change Key Points:
Use the best. Don’t buy cheap motor oil. Follow the auto manufacturer’s recommendation for type of oil (many smaller 4-cylinder engines call for 5W-30), but quality varies from brand to brand. Go with a quality brand you know, and stick with it.
Be prepared. Before beginning, have the Fcanecessary tools and materials in hand. Oil and oil filter for the make/model vehicle (auto parts store employees are a big help here), a pan in which to drain the old oil (reusable heavy-grade plastic ones are available at most automotive and general merchandise stores), and tools necessary to remove/re-install the drain plug and oil filter; latex rubber gloves and paper towels.
Use ramps to elevate the front of the vehicle. As with the drain pan and a filter wrench, this is a one-time purchase which will more than pay for itself over the years.
Drive the vehicle slowly onto the ramps; set the parking brake for safety.
Remove the oil fill cap on the top of the engine.
Put on the rubber gloves. These will help keep hands clean of the used oil. Crawl beneath the vehicle and locate the oil pan; the drain plug is easily seen, usually toward the rear of the pan. Position the plastic basin to catch the used oil directly beneath the drain plug and, using a socket wrench, remove the plug and allow the used oil to drain into the basin.
Locate the oil filter. Filters vary in size based on the vehicle, and require a specific wrench to remove the old filter and install the new one. Simple metal strap wrenches with adjustable grips are good if you are unsure of the filter’s dimensions, and allow you to grip and turn the filter to loosen it. Once loosened, the old filter can be removed by hand. Depending on the make of the vehicle, some oil make drip out of the old filter; remove it as quickly as possible and place on the used-oil basin. Have paper towels handy to mop up any residual oil which gets on other car parts.
Wipe the surface of the oil filter mount clean,and re-install the oil pan drain plug. Make sure the plug is secure enough to prevent leaks, but do not over-tighten.
Take the new oil filter and apply a thin coat of clean motor oil to the rubber gasket of the filter. This will facilitate a firm and secure seal of the filter to the engine. Install the new filter by screwing it into place on the engine; hand-tighten, then, using the filter wrench, tighten the filter 2/3 of a turn. As with the drain plug, do not over-tighten the filter.
Time for a quick clean-up: Towel off any signs of residual used oil from surrounding car parts. Double check the filter and drain plug for secure attachment to the vehicle.
Remove the plastic basin and tools from beneath the car. You’re now ready to add fresh oil. Most vehicles take up to 5 quarts of oil (again, consult the users manual for the correct amount of oil). Use a funnel to help avoid spillage of oil when pouring it into the engine.
When done, reinstall the oil cap on the engine; make sure it’s tight. Start the vehicle, and slowly back it off the ramps; allow the car to run a moment to let the fresh oil circulate through the engine, then turn the car off.
Pull the dipstick to check oil level; wipe it first, re-insert, then pull again. Oil level should be at or near the full level. Re-insert the dipstick; clean up tools as required.
Most reusable oil drain basins will allow up to 2-3 oil changes. Be sure to take used oil and filters to the proper hazardous waste facilities for proper disposal.
Whether you change your own oil or have it done by a service provider, remember to do it regularly. It will increase the life of your vehicle, and save money in the long term by ensuring better performance and gasoline mileage.
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