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Changing a car’s engine oil, as recommended by the automaker, is arguably the single most important form of preventive automotive maintenance. All gas-powered cars use oil to reduce friction and heat in the engine while also moving particulate matter away from the engine. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars per year on professional oil change services, though, car owners should consider changing it themselves.

Jack Up Car

Owners should first jack up the front of their car and place a jack stand under the driver- and passenger-side jack points. While some cars may provide enough clearance to access the oil pan simply by sliding underneath them, this doesn’t offer much room with which to work. Jacking up the car creates an additional clearance between the oil pan and ground, making it easier to change the oil.

Warm Up Engine

The oil should only be changed when the engine is warm. The viscosity of oil varies depending on its temperature. When the oil is warm, it becomes less viscous, meaning it flows more easily. To achieve this state, owners should allow their car to run for five to seven minutes immediately before changing the oil.

Remove Old Oil

After the engine has warmed up, owners should slide underneath their car and place a container below the oil pan. To remove the old oil, the drain plug on the oil pan must be unscrewed. This will cause oil to flow out of the pan and into the container. Once the oil stops flowing, screw the drain plug back into the oil pan.

Replace Filter

Most automotive mechanics recommend changing the oil filter when changing the oil. Since it’s adjacent to the oil pan, the filter is easily accessible. Changing it requires nothing more than unscrewing the old filter and replacing it with a new one of the same size.

Refill Oil

Now it’s time to refill the engine with new oil. Depending on the specific type of car, the engine may hold anywhere from 5 to 8 quarts of oil. Owners can refer to their car’s manual to determine how much their engine holds. Alternatively, the dipstick reveals the appropriate amount of oil for an engine.

Changing a car’s oil may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually pretty painless.