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How to Change your Air Filter and Oil

When it comes to the basic car care and maintenance, most people take their cars to the local Jiffy Lube and have to spend time waiting as well as money on services that do not require the help of car care professionals. Rather, if you are like most people, you should make a smart investment at your local auto parts store and change your own oil. Changing your own oil is not only cheaper, but also a good skill to acquire and habit to get into as doing so will help in keeping your car in the best shape possible, particularly when you decide or need to sell your vehicle. Cars have changed over the years, but not quite as much as you may think. If anything, changing your oil and air filter has become easier as technology has evolved. Performing car care and maintenance on your own may not be the same as it used to be however learning how to on newer cars has not changed.

Jacking up

The first step has always been and remains jacking up the front of the car on safety stands after which the drain pan is placed beneath the oil drain plug. Next the plug must be loosened, this step is one reason most don’t bother to perform car maintenance, the plug is really tight however if you have the right tools you will find it sounds harder than it actually is. On the drain plug is a sealing washer with a rubber insert or soft metal washer, loosening the plug can be done with the proper sized box wrench or a typical six point socket wrench. Rocking the socket on the side can damage the bolt flats, so be careful not to.

If you don’t have enough space underneath to get the leverage necessary after you have jacked the car up on the stands, you can use a four way lug wrench, when attempting to do it on your own the first time stay patient as you may encounter difficulties such as this, however if you know how to tackle the problem soon performing each step will be a cinch. Using a four way lug wrench allows you to twist the bolt without side thrust, despite not having adequate space you will still be able loosen the plug with both hands and your upper body strength.

Sometimes the threads on the plug and pan may be damaged, in this instance find yourself a repair kit. Repair kits generally have replacement fitting capable of cutting deeper threads, which when tightened, seals against the washer and holds it in place. Certain types of kits cut deeper threads which facilitate a new plug replacement. When this step is necessary, a brass cap with an O-ring works by threading on the end of the plug piece. Whenever you need to change your oil, simply just unthread the cap. If you have a severely damaged hole, you will need to use a cone shaped rubber plug bigger than the size of the hole to prevent leakage. This is done by forcing a special rod into the cone’s opening, which stretches it so that the diameter is reduced so you can fit the plug into the hole. Pull the rod out and let the cone relax into the hole, the cone wont out if you don’t force the rod in and stretch it.

If the drain plug looks borderline, you may want to install a Fram oil drain valve kit. Kits of this type are available and compatible with most types of drain plugs. If you need to perform this step you can do it by threading a spring loaded valve with copper washer into the hole and tightening afterwards. The valve acts as the main oil seal and helps to keep dirt out.

Draining the oil

When you are ready to drain the oil, you unthread the cap and put on a fitting with drain hose which is aimed into the drain pan and helps to prevent splattering. On the hose fitting is an internal tip, the internal tip pushes open the valve and allows the oil to drain out. Once the pan has been drained, the hose fitting must be unthreaded and the finger-tip cap reinstalled after replacing the filter and putting in fresh oil. If your drain plug is still good, just replace the washer and tighten it according to the size and specifications of the plug (20 lb. /ft. to 35 lb. /ft.).

The oil you should drain into the right sized container, in some areas the county government provides flat jugs with built in funnels. Once the jug container is full you can dispose of it at the store from which you bought the new oil where it will be put into a recycling tank. In many states services stations are required to accept smaller quantities of used oil. Avoid dumping oil in your yard or in the wooded area down the street, more than likely doing so is against the law and a fineable offense, whether you know it or not.

Removing the Filter

The oil filter requires the use of the appropriate wrench, if you don’t have the ultimate set of tools, your local auto parts or hardware store should be able to tell you what you will need to purchase. Of the many sizes, in most cases a cap wrench will work. Bear in mind that in addition to needing the right size, the internal shape must also be compatible with the flutes. There are many fluted patterns, when you purchase your replacement filter make sure you purchase one that fits, just any old air filter may not fit.

If you find that your filter has a hexnut in the center of the filter’s end, a conventional wrench can be used. If you have trouble finding the right shape and sized car wrench, try a coil spring wrench, nylon wrench, spring brand wrench or spider wrench, all of which work in different ways to achieve the same result. If your filter is badly stuck, you can loosen it with a good quality filter wrench. You may also want to try driving a large screwdriver into the spin on the cartridge to get the filter unstuck however this is not recommended as you may easily destroy the cartridge and still not get the filter loose.

Regardless of how you perform this step, make sure to have a drain pan in place, resting upon spread out newspapers just in case the oil starts to flow out onto the ground when the filter has been loosened. Then unthread the filter and empty into your drain pan.

Refilling the oil

Pour in a film layer of clean oil into the gasket of the replacement filter, thread on the filter with your hands. A good oil filter is designed in a way that it can be sealed by hand tightening without coming loose for tens and tens of thousands of miles. If your oil filter is good quality, you won’t need a wrench unless your filter is deeply recessed and you can’t get your hands around it properly, if that is the case you will have to use a cap wrench. The filter should be turned until you can feel the base hit the mounting plate after which you should use your wrench to tighten it a little more.

The importance of changing your own oil when selling your car

While trusted car care professionals will help to ensure that your car is kept in the best possible condition, doing it yourself is cheaper and likely to help you be more mindful of being good to your car. It is more than common to forget to have your oil changed, however having the local lube shop do it for you only makes it more likely that you will forget, not to mention more expensive as your car may suffer engine damage that would result in more expenses that could have been avoided altogether. Whenever it is time for you to sell your car, the engine needs to be in the best possible condition. If you change your own oil and perform other basic car maintenance, you will have saved lots of money and know that your car has been properly maintained. Plus, if you can tell potential buyers that you always change your own oil, it shows buyers that you have taken good care of the car, resulting in higher resale value and the likelihood that someone will want to purchase your vehicle at a higher asking price.


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