Routine Oil Changes for Longer Engine Life

By Patrick Hernandez

Changing the oil in a car is a quick and easy process for the experts, which is why many people have a shop do this instead of doing it themselves. However, it can also be quite simple, even for someone who otherwise doesn't know how to do any sort of car maintenance.

A basic understanding of the oil system of a car will help to make changing the oil a little easier, since you know why you're doing each step. Engine oil is a lubricant, and keeps the metal parts in the engine from rubbing directly on each other. Without oil, a car engine would tear itself apart. However, there is still some wear, meaning that the oil eventually becomes contaminated with small flecks of debris. These are removed by the oil filter. When the engine is running, the oil is all up inside it, coating each part, but when the engine stops, the oil drains back down into the pan under the engine.

When changing the oil, first locate the drain plug in the oil pan. It will be at the lowest part of the engine, and will be a bolt that does not appear to be connecting any two parts. You'll need a wrench for the drain plug, a pan for oil to drain into, a new oil filter, and enough oil to fill the engine back up. You might also need paper towels and a funnel to keep the mess to a minimum, and a filter wrench for stubborn oil filters.

Place the pan under the engine, and remove the drain plug. While the oil is draining out, find the oil filter. It's probably orange, and shaped like a can of soup. Twist it off. If it has been over-tightened, the filter wrench might be necessary. Smear a thin layer of oil on the gasket of the new filter, and screw the new filter into place. It does not need to be terribly tight.

Replace the drain plug on the oil pan. Fill the engine up with oil through the port at the top. You'll need about 4 quarts for a small car, and about 8 for a large truck. Consult the manual for the exact amount. After about 10 minutes, check the oil level via the dipstick. Pour the old oil into the empty bottles, and recycle it at your local auto parts store.

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