How to change your oil

For newer cars, it may seem complicated, but an oil change is still a straightforward project for those who have an hour or less to spare, a few tools, and the desire to know what’s happening under the hood.

 Know Your Project

Level of difficulty: moderate

Time required: 1 hour or less

Cost: as little as $20


  1. Start your car. Let it run for a few minutes to warm up the oil, so it will drain smoothly. Raise the car if necessary to access the oil pan below the engine, using a floor jack and stands or ramps to support the car safely-don’t rely on the jack that came with the car.
  2. Locate the plug. If your car has a plastic underbody cover, remove it or open its built-in hatch to access the drain plug. Remove oil filler cap inside the engine bay to help oil drain more quickly. Position drain pan below drain plug.
  3. Remove the plug. Wearing latex gloves, use a box or socket wrench to remove the drain plug.
  4. Check the plug. Inspect and clean the plug as the oil is draining and replace any separate metal washers to avoid leaks (many plugs have a permanent built-in washer instead).
  5. Reinstall the plug. Screw in drain plug, tightening it with your hand wrench and being careful not to over-tighten.
  6. Remove the filter. Position oil pan below oil filter. Use a filter wrench to loosen, but only until you can twist filter by hand. Oil will flow as the filter loosens, so have rags ready to wipe off your hands. Remove filter, being careful not to let it drop into the pan.
  7. Wipe it up. Use rags to clean oil-or stuck-on bits from the old filter’s O-ring-from the filter’s sealing surface on the car.
  8. Prep the filter. Smear a few drops of fresh oil on the new filter’s insulating O-ring. Install the new filter, turning it gently, just until the O-ring first contacts the sealing surface.
  9. Finish tightening. Draw a reference line with a pen or pencil anywhere on the filter. Then tighten by hand between three-quarters of a turn and one full turn (check your owner’s manual or filter instructions).
  10. Retrace your steps. Double check that the drain plug and the filter are tightened. Don’t over-tighten either one-it only makes the plug and filter harder to unscrew the next time, and this could lead to leaks.
  11. Replace the oil. Add fresh oil through the funnel, but for now add one quart less than the recommended amount. Replace oil cap and run engine for one minute to circulate.
  12. Finish filling. Lower the car to level ground and check oil level. Add remaining oil, a bit at a time, until level reaches upper marking on dipstick.
  13. Haul away the drain pan. Dispose of used oil at your Walmart Auto Care Center or municipal waste site.

Oops! The oil change reminder light didn’t turn off!

Don’t panic! If you did everything correctly, and the oil level is in the operating range (between the minimum and maximum level on the dipstick), it’s simply a matter of resetting the light. The procedure is different with every car. Your store’s Auto Care Center can help!

Oops! I changed my oil, but I can’t remember when!

It happens, don’t worry! Check your oil’s color and level. If it’s a dark black color and slightly low, you definitely need an oil change. Next time, write down your car’s mileage and the date of your oil change, so you’ll know when the next one is due.

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