If you’re a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to car care, an oil change kit allows you to get the job done right, save money, and avoid the hassle of trips to the auto shop.
This guide covers everything needed to pick out a comprehensive kit and master the oil change process.
Table of Contents
Key Components of a DIY Oil Change Kit
A quality kit tailored for your specific vehicle comes with all the essential items required:
- Oil filter – Matches the thread size and design for your car’s engine. May include multiple filters for changes across a range of mile intervals.
- Engine oil – 6-7 quarts of the proper weight oil recommended by your owner’s manual. Check if synthetic or conventional is required.
- Filter wrench – Strap wrench or other special wrench to grip and remove your particular filter.
- Drain pan – Minimum 3-4 gallon capacity with pouring spout.
- Funnel – For cleanly pouring new oil into the engine. Pick one with a flexible pouring head.
- Crush washer – For sealing the drain plug. Don’t reuse old washers.
- Shop rags – For cleaning components and soaking up spills. microfiber is ideal.
Optional extras can include oil disposal bottles, drip pads, and replacement drain plugs.
DIY Oil Change Cost Savings
Tackling your own oil changes translates to big savings compared to shop rates:
- Full-service shop average cost – $80-150
- Quick lube shop average cost – $40-75
- DIY oil change kit cost – $25-50
The DIY savings add up quickly, especially for multiple family vehicles. And you control the quality of products used.
Selecting the Right Oil Change Kit by Vehicle
With so many kits out there, make sure to get one tailored specifically to your exact:
- Vehicle make and model – This determines the filter type and oil volume needed.
- Engine type – For example, 4 cylinder vs 6 cylinder. Impacts oil needs.
- Miles driven – Higher mile vehicles may need synthetic oils.
Using the wrong filter or insufficient/excess oil leads to problems. Check your owner’s manual if unsure of your vehicle’s specific requirements.
Top Oil Change Kits by Brand
The major auto parts retailers offer quality kits catering to most vehicles:
- Mobil 1 – Synthetic and conventional kits approved for Mobil engines.
- Castrol – Formulated for the additional demands of higher-mileage vehicles.
- Valvoline – Their Instant Oil Change Kit matches OEM-recommended oil specs.
- Royal Purple – Suitable for high-performance and synthetic oil vehicles.
- Pennzoil – Options for vehicles at 75,000 miles and up.
You can’t go wrong sticking with a major established brand. Beware cheap no-name kits with suspect components.
DIY Oil Change Tips and Tricks
Follow these tips for quick, clean, and headache-free oil changes using your kit:
- Lay out ground cover or cardboard to catch drips.
- Loosen the lug nuts of the low wheel side slightly before jacking up.
- Place drain pan underneath and let oil fully drain for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Wear oil-resistant gloves throughout the process.
- Check your owner’s manual for any special drain plug torque requirements.
- Confirm the new filter gasket contacts the sealing surface cleanly.
- Pour in oil slowly and wait 5 minutes between quarts to allow settling.
- Double check the oil fill cap and drain plug are replaced securely.
- Run the engine and check for any leaks before lowering the vehicle.
Taking things slow while following the directions will get you professional-level results. The more often you do it, the faster the process becomes.
Disposing of Used Oil Responsibly
Never dump old engine oil down drains, sewers or onto the ground. Responsibly dispose of it by:
- Recycling it at auto parts stores. Most accept a limited amount of waste oil.
- Bringing it to a municipal household hazardous waste collection facility.
- Using a professional hazardous waste disposal service to pick it up.
Oil poured onto ground or into waterways causes immense environmental damage. Safely contain and recycle oil to protect the ecosystem.
Warning Signs to Change Your Oil
While following a routine maintenance schedule is ideal, watch for these indicators in between changes signaling it’s time for new oil:
- Discolored oil – Turning dark brown or black.
- Low oil level – Especially if no leaks present. Burning oil reduces volume over time.
- Excess odors – Smelling burnt is a red flag.
- Increased engine noise – Especially upon cold starts.
- Oil over 6 months old – Breakdown occurs over time on the shelf.
- Check engine light – Sensors detect contaminants and reduced lubrication ability.
Err on the side of caution and change oil more frequently when deterioration becomes evident.
Achieving Maximum Engine Longevity
By taking oil changes into your own hands, you can boost engine longevity through:
- Using premium filters that capture smaller particles.
- Sending oil analysis to optimize change intervals.
- Switching to synthetic oils at higher mileages.
- Inspecting used filters and oil for abnormal wear clues.
- Keeping records to spot changes over time.
- Checking other fluids like coolant when changing oil.
- Following factory maintenance schedules as a minimum.
DIY oil changes allow close monitoring of engine health over the long haul.
Equipped with the right oil change kit and some mechanical know-how, you can take charge of this essential maintenance task while saving serious cash. Consult your vehicle model’s recommended maintenance schedule and select a kit providing everything needed for quick, clean, and professional-grade oil changes.