While it can save you time and hassle to have your car serviced in a shop, there are several key benefits to changing your motor oil at home. On the surface, it can seem like express oil changes are cheaper than footing the bill for supplies to do it yourself. But cheap motor oil and a second-rate filter really what you want in your car? In this article, we discuss several Frequently Asked Questions every car owner should know before changing the oil on their own.
What Do I Need to Change My Own Oil?
To change your oil yourself, you will need to invest in the right supplies for the job. You will need:
· Car jack or steel ramps
· An oil drain pan
· Socket or crescent wrench
· New oil filter
· High-quality motor oil
· Latex gloves (recommended)
· Shop towels (optional)
· Oil filter wrench (optional)
How Do I Change My Oil?
The concept behind changing your oil is simple: you must drain the engine sump of spent oil, replug the sump, replace the used oil filter with a fresh one, and administer the fresh oil. This requires jacking up your car or driving it up onto steel ramps or blocks so you can access the sump under the engine. For in-depth instructions on how to change your engine oil, click here.
What Does Motor Oil Do?
Your car’s engine contains many moving parts! In areas where metal meets metal, a lubricant is necessary to prevent undue friction. Friction build-up will lead to overheating and your engine will “seize.” Motor oil lubricates the pistons, cam shaft, valves, and more to ensure that your engine runs properly with fewer mechanical breakdowns.
What Motor Oil Should I Use?
When it comes to selecting the right motor oil for your car, you’ll likely want to weigh price with quality. Depending on what oil you routinely opt for, a quality motor oil may be able to extend the life of your engine, so it may be worth splurging for the pricier stuff. In fact, in a 2017 study, full synthetic motor oil was found to perform better than conventional motor oil by an average of 47%!
For more information on synthetic versus conventional motor oil, click here!
Why Does Motor Oil Turn Black?
You’ll notice when you drain your spent oil that it is jet black in comparison to the tawny gold sheen of fresh motor oil. This is due to deposits accumulating in your motor oil over time as a result of direct injection of gasoline into the combustion chamber—but don’t worry! Your motor oil is designed to trap any soot or “sludge” that occurs as a result of this process and prevent it from collecting on your engine. Routinely selecting quality motor oil saves your engine from undue wear and extends its lifespan over time, as it is better engineered to prevent “sludge” from accumulating.
Can Motor Oil Go Out of Date?
Yes—in fact, cheaper motor oils can expire faster than top-end synthetic motor oils. Fortunately, this can take 2-8 years to happen, depending on the quality of your motor oil and whether or not you’ve opened the container and exposed the motor oil to dust and contaminants—so if you buy just enough oil for your oil change, you should be good to go.
Check the seal around your fresh motor oil and always read the expiration date before using. It’s better to spring for brand new motor oil than chance using expired motor oil in your engine and causing maintenance problems down the road.
What Do I Do With Spent Motor Oil?
Used motor oil is highly toxic and must be disposed of carefully. Happily, it can be recycled; check your local Department of Health and Environmental Control for used motor oil recycling near you or take it to a participating auto shop. Keep used motor oil out of reach of pets and children until you are able to dispose of it safely, and never dump it outside or down the drain!
Will Motor Oil Freeze in Winter?
While it takes temperatures of -20°F or lower to cause your motor oil to freeze, chilly temperatures just shy of freezing can still affect the performance of your motor oil. Most motor oils are at peak effectiveness between 50°F-70°F, but they won’t begin breaking down until they reach temperatures of 275°F or above.
Ready to Change Your Own Oil?
Hopefully, you’ve learned something about motor oil’s impact on your car engine’s health over the course of this article. If you put in a little time and up-front expense in maintaining your vehicle well, you can extend the life of your car, save money, use quality parts, and maybe even have a little fun getting dirty.