Oil Change – DIY or Not?

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If you have owned a vehicle for much time at all, you likely already know the rule of having an oil change every 3,000 miles or three months. Of course, on some vehicles this time frame or mileage requirement is a little different, but the point is that regular routine changes are essential to keeping your engine running well and for as long as possible. This particular type of maintenance is something you can handle on your own if you know a little bit about vehicles. You will need to decide if the DIY route is right for you, or if you would be better off having the maintenance performed by a professional in a shop.

If you do choose to do your own oil change, start with a warm engine. This will help the fluid to flow well. Use a jack or ramps to safely lift your vehicle off of the ground. Place a drain pan underneath the drain, and pull the plug. Hang onto plug so you do not drop it into the drain pan. Once all of the fluid has drained, remove the filter.

Prep the new filter by dipping your fingers into fresh oil and coating the gasket. Then, install the filter. Do not use a tool to tighten the filter, because it is easy to over-tighten them. Replace the drain plug, also working hard not to over-tighten it. Add the lubricant to the vehicle based on the manufacturer's specifications.

Safety is important any time you work on your car. Before you begin the process, disconnect the negative post of the battery. This will prevent you from accidentally starting the engine when it has no fluid in it. Also, make sure the car is stable on the jack or ramps. Put the emergency brake on to ensure it does not roll while you are working on it. When you are finished with the process, reconnect the battery and start the engine. Check the warning lights to ensure there is enough lubricant. Then, check the dipstick to verify your levels are high enough.

While an oil change is not a difficult task, it is very easy to make a mistake and a big mess. If you don't position your drip pan right, you could end up with a driveway or face covered in oil. You also have to find a safe place to dispose of the old lubricant, which can be tricky. You can't just throw it in the trash, because it is environmentally hazardous. Many auto shops offer special disposal stations for used oil, so be sure to ask them if they can take it off your hands.

Keep in mind, though, that an oil change at a local mechanic's shop costs very little. For around $20 every three months, you can take care of this routine engine maintenance without worry about damaging your driveway or disposing of an environmental hazard. Also, your time is valuable, and even if changing the lubricant is easy, it eats up time you could be spending with your family. The next time your engine needs serviced, consider taking it to a professional mechanic or service center. You will save time and not spend much money, and ensure that the job is done right.
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