Regular Oil Changes
The scheduled oil change intervals may be too long if you are using your vehicle
for short journeys. Before the engine reaches full operating temperature,
more contaminants from combustion get past the piston rings and degrade the oil.
Many people half the mileages between oil changes as a way of prolonging the
life of an engine. The cost of oil and filters is negligible compared with
the cost of an engine rebuild. Worn engines have lower performance, use
more fuel and also pollute more and this is a frequent cause of MoT failures.
Warm the Oil
Warm oil drains from an engine quicker than cold viscous oil.
While time-saving is probably not the main consideration, the
quicker the oil drains from an engine, the more particle
contaminants and sludge are removed due to scouring action.
Be careful of having hot oil. Oil temperatures can be higher
than water temperatures in an engine. There is a very real
danger of badly scalding yourself when draining the oil. Do
not drain your oil immediately after a long journey.
If the engine is cold, start it up and let it get up to normal
operating temperature as shown on the water temperature gauge.
The oil will now be warm enough to drain quickly so switch off.
Check you have the right tools and
Have a look at the your sump plug before buying the parts for your
oil change. There are a variety of plug types. Although
most have hexagonal heads and can be removed with standard ring
spanners or sockets, other plugs require square drives, hexagonal
Allen keys or Torx star keys. You may need to get the
appropriate tool while buying the other bits for your oil change.
Get a couple of copper washers. Just in case the first one
leaks when fitted, you will have a spare so that you can have
If your sump plug is damaged, get another plug. A damaged head
is storing up trouble for when you refit it or when trying to remove
at your next oil change.
Other tools and parts you may need are:-
Washing up bowl or suitable container to collect the waste oil.
Empty 5 litre container or screw top milk containers for the waste
Plastic sheet or tarpaulin.
Bucket and washing-up liquid for cleaning hands, tools.
New oil - check the type and grade required by your vehicle.
Replacement oil filter. Never replace the oil without changing
Replacement plug washers. Get a couple!
Oil filter removal tool, Stillson wrench or similar.
Drive on to
a plastic sheet or tarpaulin
sheets or tarpaulins are available from DIY stores quite cheaply. It is
often easier to drive the vehicle on to the sheet than to place one under the
vehicle. This way the sheet is held in place initially by the tyres and
then by the jack and axle stands.
Forward planning for some
mess at this stage will save time and effort cleaning up later.
Make sure the vehicle is level before you start
A level place to service your vehicle makes jacking it up less dangerous.
Unless the vehicle is level you will not get an accurate reading from the dip
stick when adding the new engine oil.
Securely Raise the Vehicle
Refer to your owner's manual on where to jack the
vehicle up. Once the car is raised, use axle stands to support
the vehicle. Do not rely on the jack alone when you will be
working under the vehicle.
the car on to ramps before working.
Ensure that the handbrake is fully applied and the car is in gear or
in Park if you have an automatic gearbox.
Remove the oil filler cap
Removing the oil filler cap will allow air to enter the engine as
the oil drains out the bottom. This enables the oil to drain
quicker so improving the removal of heavier contaminants.
Puncture the oil filter
If your oil filter is mounted sideways on the engine block, i.e.
with a vertical mating surface, it may still contain a significant
amount of oil after you have undone the sump plug.
If possible, pierce the TOP of the filter with a hammer and nail, to
allow air to enter and for the oil in the filter to drain in to the
sump. This will reduce the amount of oil remaining in the
filter and so will reduce the potential for mess when you remove it.
Clearly, the engine must not be operated after puncturing the filter
in this way!
Wear disposable (latex or plastic) gloves
Engine oil is
not good for your hands. Modern synthetic and semi-synthetic oils are more
likely to cause an allergic reaction with your skin. Disposable gloves
also save time and effort cleaning your hands.
Press the drain plug and remove it quickly
To deter oil dribbling from the sump plug, press the plug in against the threads
to provide something of a seal. Where possible use an extension on the
socket when removing the sump plug. The oil may be hot and it is just as
well to keep your hands clear of the plug.
When you feel that the plug nearly completely undone, prepare to
remove it quickly from the drain hole. This prevents the oil
splattering over the plug, your hands and tools as it pours out.
If you can avoid dropping the plug in the oil container under the
car, so much the better.
Be ready to move the collection bowl
Position the collection bowl where you think the oil will land as it
pours out. Be prepared to move the bowl quickly.
Particularly where the drain hole is on the side of sump, the stream
of oil can quickly change from shooting out almost horizontally to
dropping directly below the hole. It is much easier to guess
where the oil will pour when the drain hole is on the bottom of the
Removing the oil filter
There are many different types of oil filter removal tool.
Each have merit depending upon the type and, more often, the
location of your vehicle's oil filter.
You may be able to undo the filter without specialist tools.
Wear rubber gloves for a better grip and you may be able to remove
it by hand.
Place newspaper on the ground under the filter and have a supply of
cloths to hand. The oil filter will still contain oil.
If the filter mating surface is horizontal, be careful not to tip
the filter as you remove it as it will probably be brim full of oil.
Replacing the oil filter
Apply a smear of clean engine oil to the rubber mating surface of
the new filter before screwing it in place. This prevents
damage to the seal when fitting it so preventing leaks from the
filter. This film of oil also makes it easier to remove the
filter at the next oil change.
If your filter mating surface is horizontal when fitted, half fill
the filter with new oil before screwing it in to place. This
will reduce the time it takes for the oil pump to fill the filter
and raise the oil pressure. Reducing the time that the engine
is running without much oil will reduce engine wear.
Oil filters do not need to be fitted very tightly. Usually
tightening by hand is sufficient. Over-tightening can damage
the seal and cause problems with removal at the next oil change.
Replace the sump plug
The sump plug and new washer must be carefully refitted. Wipe
the mating surface on the sump clean so that the best possible seal
can be made.
Be careful not to over-tighten the sump plug. Check the torque
setting in your vehicle's workshop manual and use a torque wrench.
If neither of these are available use a ring spanner rather than a
socket wrench as this makes it harder to over-tighten. The
combination of a hardened steel sump plug in to a mild steel or
alloy sump is a recipe for a stripped thread. Sadly, the odds
are that it will be the sump threads that will be damaged rather
than threads on the plug. If this happens, your vehicle is
undriveable and the solution will involve fitting a helicoil or
drilling and re-tapping the drain hole for a slightly larger sump
Throw away the oil can seal
When you open your can of new engine oil, completely remove the disc
of card or foil sealing the can. You do not want to risk it
falling in to the engine. Apparently, these discs are a major
cause of engine failure particularly on truck engines when they
block the oil passageways in the engine.
Filling the engine with new oil
Double-check that the sump plug is back in place before putting new
oil in the engine. It sounds obvious but it would be
embarrassing to have your new oil pour on to the driveway!
Lower the vehicle on the ground again. The oil dip stick will
not give a true reading unless the car is level.
Use a funnel in the filler hole to prevent oil pouring over the
Large oil cans have a tendency not to pour steadily as air enters
the can as the oil comes out. To overcome this 'glugging', you
may wish to pour the oil from a clean jug in to the engine rather
than from the 4 or 5 litre oil can. Oil cans pour more evenly
if your pour them on their side with the label uppermost.
This usually enables you to get the opening of the can closer to the
oil filler hole and funnel and so the oil can be more accurately
Only put one litre of oil in to your
Start off by just putting about 1 litre of oil in to your engine.
Wait for it to drain in to the sump. Check to see if the sump
plug is leaking. If it is you may wish to risk tightening the
sump plug further. You could drain the engine and have another
go using that second washer that you bought.
If there is a problem then it is better to know about it before you
have filled the engine with new oil.
Filling your engine with oil
Your engine oil capacity can be found from the workshop manual or by
measuring the amount of oil that you drained from the engine.
You can safely add about three quarters of the new oil to the
engine. The final filling should be done carefully, allowing
time for the oil to trickle down in to the sump before checking the
level with the dip stick.
Take care not to overfill. Too much oil in an engine can cause
problems as big ends of the piston connecting rods may splash in to
the sump oil. Oil is then forced up past the piston rings in
to the combustion chamber creating clouds of smoke from the exhaust
and damaging your catalytic converter. Overfills can only be
corrected by draining the oil and refilling. How many sump
plug washers do you have?
Once the dip stick is showing the correct level. Turn the
engine over as slowly as you can. On some vehicles it may be
possible to remove and ignition lead to prevent the engine from
firing. If this is not possible, do not rev the engine when it
starts. Turning the engine over on the starter motor or run it
for a few seconds until the oil pressure warning light on the
instrument panel goes out and then switch off the engine.
The new oil filter will now be filled. Allow time for the oil
to return to the sump before checking the level again, some small
topping up may be needed.
Check the filter and sump plug for leaks.
Do the washing up
Clean any oily tools, jugs, funnels, bowls, plastic sheet as soon as
you have finished the oil change. A bucket of water and
washing up liquid is usually sufficient for this task.
Although an unpleasant job at this stage, it gets nastier if the oil
has dried out and attracted dirt. The funnel and jug, if used,
in particular must be clean. There is little point changing
the oil if your jugs or funnels introduce contaminants in to the
Disposing of your old oil
Oil must not be poured down drains. In the UK and other many
countries this is a criminal offence. Local recycling depots
will have facilities for taking used engine oil. Your local
garage workshop may be able to help. Many have oil-burning
stoves specifically designed to use old engine oil and may welcome
the additional fuel, particularly in colder months.
When transporting containers of used oil in your vehicle, keep them
upright. I usually stand my bottles in a carton or crate and
then pack with scrunched newspaper around the containers to ensure
that they do not fall over.
The best tip of all
Get a Fumoto oil drain valve! These replace the sump plug on
your engine and overcome most of the problems associated with
changing the oil. They are quicker, cleaner and much easier.
You are less likely to get oil on your hands. No more
replacement washers or leaks. The drain valves eliminate the
risk of stripped threads. If you accidentally overfill your
engine with new oil, the excess can be drained off easily.
Most important of all, having a Fumoto oil drain valve will make the
task of changing the oil much more pleasant and so you will not be
deterred from performing regular oil changes and so prolonging the
life of your engine.
If you get the valve type with the nipple, you can attach a hose and
direct the old engine oil straight in to a suitable screw top
container. You will not have to come in to contact with the
old engine oil.