DIY Oil Change yes, seriously!

By Nancy Dunham

Don’t let that oil boil! Gas prices being as steep as they are, who can blame you for wanting to save a little money on something car-related. But skipping an oil change, or even just postponing it, should not be considered an option. Trust us: you'll pay for that in the long run, especially during the spring and summer. Warm weather is tough on cars’ oil, sapping additives that keep the engine running. That’s especially true if the car isn’t driven frequently. But you can save a bit of scratch, and still follow that "three months or 3,000 miles" oil change rule, if you're willing to roll your sleeves up. Switching your own oil isn't particularly hard, doesn't take all that long, and contrary to popular opinion isn't a gender-specific task. But there are some up-front costs, so think about whether this is something you will want to do as a practice. You won't see the savings for several oil changes because of that initial outlay of cash, so you won't want to DIY as a one-time thing. The great news is the process is a snap. Follow these steps from various car experts to save time, money and your cars’ engine.

•By the book: Read your car’s owner manual. That’s where you’ll find out what type of oil you need. It’ll also contain information about what oil filter and tools you need.

•Starting line: Start the car and let is warm up for about 10 minutes. That’ll allow sludge to loosen. But remember, to be careful working on a hot engine.

•Uplifting safety: Make sure you car is safely raised. Invest in wheel ramps or safety blocks to ensure the car is secure. Don’t pinch pennies and use a standard jack. There are countless stories of people that were injured when such a jack failed. Also, be sure the ramp can support your car’s weight (again, check the owner’s manual). You can find a selection at auto stores and other retailers.

•The bottom line: Put a container under the oil drain plug, loosen the plug and let the oil drain. Be sure that the container is sturdy and that you keep your face away from the oil. After it drains, replace the plug in the oil pan.

•Check the book. It’ll direct you to the oil filter which is generally, but not always, under the hood. Your owners’ manual will guide you on how to remove, replace, and seal the new filter.

•Fill ‘er up: Remove the oil cap and refill the oil with the type recommended in the owners’ manual. After you replace the oil, check the level with the dipstick before you re-start the car.

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