Should you change your own oil

Now that you know when to change your oil, I’m sure you have questions on if you should change your oil yourself.  I personally change my own oil and have since I was old enough to drive, but it’s not for everyone.  You will need some basic tools.  You will also need a few other tools, along with a place to do an oil change and no you can’t change oil while parked on a public street.

Unless you drive a big pickup you’ll need something to lift the front of your vehicle up. Personally I like ramps for changing oil you can also use a jack and jack stands. I find as long as your car has enough ground clearance ramps are a lot faster.

Once you have your vehicle off the ground you only need a couple more things to change your oil.  You’ll need the correct size box wrench, an oil filter wrench and a drain pan. I’m not going to get into wrenches because if you don’t already own a set, you will have to consider if it’s worth doing this or just letting someone with all the tools do it.

Before you go buy an oil filter wrench double check what kind of oil filter you have.  Some new cars have a paper filter that goes into a housing and requires special sockets to get opened. If you have a standard old metalfilter canister type filter a simple strap wrench will work.  This strap wrenches are the cheapest and easiest to use but for those oil filters that are truly stuck I keep a Lisle Oil Filter Tool around so that I can put an extension and a ratchet on it to get them off.  I’ve found that sometimes a strap wrench will just crush the filter and not get it loose.

The last thing you need is a pan to catch the used oil.
Just about any flat pan that will hold at least a few more quarts of oil than what your vehicle holds will do.  I like an old fashioned metal pan like the one to the left but you can get a nice plastic pan like this one from Lisle.  It’s all personal choice.

If you add up the cost of the tools you’ll need, its around $100 depending on what you buy.  This of course does not make it cheaper to change your own oil compared to the $20-30 most shops charge.  However, if you ignore that cost, and realize that those tools will do many oil changes, it does save you money to change your own oil.  Currently you can buy 5 quarts of conventional oil for around $15 and an oil filter for $3-4.  That is still under the cheap $20-25 oil changes some places offer.

Even if you don’t always save money by changing your own oil I suggest it’s still a benefit for you to do it yourself.  You gain knowledge of your own car, and get a chance to keep track of what’s going on under the hood and under the car when you spend the time to change your oil.  You will know for sure that the oil was changed, the filter was changed and that the correct oil was put back in the engine.  This piece of mind is worth a few extra dollars to me.

Changing your own oil is a personal choice.  Knowing what is involved with what it takes to change oil gives you the knowledge to make an educated decision on what you want to do.  My personal opinion is everyone should change their own oil but it’s not practical for everyone.  Do what makes you happy.

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