How to Change Your Oil

A little bit of DIY can help you save some money on your oil change cost. Changing your oil is an essential part of vehicle maintenance that most people can do at home. Keep reading to learn the steps and the answers to some frequently asked questions.

If you’re using conventional oil, changes are recommended every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Synthetic oil may allow for longer intervals between changes. Consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, the oil jug, or talk to an AutoZoner for more specific intervals for your vehicle.

Trustworthy Advice: Make sure your oil purchases meet or exceed the manufactures OE requirements. Do your best to buy an oil filter with a life expectancy equal to the oil, and always follow the manufacturers specifications for the Oil Weight and Capacity. Check on the oil level especially if you know consumption or leaks exist. If levels drop by a half quart or more, you will need to add oil to the engine. Add a second additive if you are using long life oil or add the appropriate matching oil.

How to Change Oil

person jacking up the front of a Nissan Altima

1. Safety First

These steps explain how to change your oil and oil filter, done here on a 2008 Nissan Altima. Most vehicles use similar steps, but steps vary by vehicle. Reference a repair guide for more specific information for your vehicle. Consult an AutoZoner or put your vehicle in on to get the right oil, oil filter, tools and safety equipment for your vehicle. Oil comes in different weights and types, and different vehicles require different amounts, so make sure you buy the right oil and filter for your vehicle. Information on the weight, type and amount of oil will also be in your owner’s manual.

To make the job easier, you’ll want the oil in your car to be warm, but not hot. Run the car if it’s cold outside, or wait for it to cool if it’s been running. Park your vehicle on a flat surface, engage the parking brake and place wheel chocks behind the rear wheels. Raise the front of the vehicle and place it on jack stands. Or, if you prefer, you can drive the vehicle up onto weight-bearing ramps like the FloTool Rhino Ramp. If you use a ramp, it’s wise to have someone watch while you drive up onto it to ensure you don’t drive too far and fall off. Always wear gloves and safety goggles when working on your vehicle.

2. Setting up the Job

Open the hood and remove the oil filler cap. Look under your vehicle for the drain plug and set a pan under the plug.

person showing how to drain oil

3. Drain the Oil

Use a rachet or wrench to remove the plug and drain the oil. Inspect the plug and plug gasket. Replace if necessary.

oil pan with no oil pan nut installed and a drip of oil

4. Slow to a Drip

Drain the oil until it slows to a drip.

Note: Warm oil drains more quickly.

5. Clean the Drain Plug

Clean the oil drain plug and install it, being careful not to over tighten. Over tightening the plug can damage the threads and cause leaks. Then, locate the filter and put the pan underneath.

person showing how to remove an oil filter with an oil filter wrench

6. Remove the Filter

Remove the filter. Oil will start to come out and fall into the pan. Whether you have a spin-on type filter or a cartridge filter, you’ll want to check with an AutoZoner to get the correct removal tool if necessary.

side-by-side comparison of an old and new oil filter

7. Check the Gasket

Check to make sure the old filter’s gasket was removed with the old filter. The new oil filter has its own, new gasket. Make sure the old gasket was removed to ensure creating a good seal with the new oil filter.

person lubricating the rubber ring at the top of the STP air filter

8. Lubricate the Gasket

Wipe the filter mount and lubricate. Lubricate the seal on a spin-on filter, or the O-ring on a cartridge filter.

9. Install the New Filter

Install the new filter.

Do NOT over-tighten.

Person pouring STP full synthetic oil into their engine.

10. Install New Oil

Use a funnel and install the correct amount of new oil. Check your owner’s manual to make sure you put in the right amount. Do not overfill. For vehicles over 75,000 miles, AutoZone recommends using high mileage engine oil.

person showing how to check oil with a dipstick

11. Check Oil Level

Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, install the dipstick, then remove again and check the level. Install the dipstick again when finished. Replace the engine cap and check for leaks. Make sure the cap, drain plug and oil filter are all secure.

Start the engine (outdoors or in a well-ventilated area), let it run a few minutes, turn off the engine, and then let it sit.

Check the oil level again. Top-off if necessary and check one more time for any possible leaks. Clean up any spilled oil.

person sticking an AutoZone reminder sticker on the windshield

12. Set Maintenance Reminder

Reset the oil maintenance reminder and put an AutoZone sticker on the windshield. These will help remind you when it’s time for another oil change. Instructions for resetting the dashboard indicator will be in your owner’s manual. Reference your owner’s manual or the oil jug for recommended change intervals. Write the expected date and/or mileage for the next change on the sticker.

13. Recycle Your Oil

It’s important to always dispose of automotive fluids properly. Transfer the used motor oil into a container that can be closed, and bring it to an AutoZone or a recycling facility. It’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure they can recycle your oil. You can even pick up new oil and a filter so you’ll be ready next time your oil service interval comes up.

Learn more about recycling motor oil.

After you’ve finished your DIY oil change and made sure that everything is back together, it’s wise to go for a quick drive to make sure the car is running right(and maybe to recycle your oil at an AutoZone). You can get the parts you need at your local AutoZone Store. If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

Oil Change FAQs

My car says change the oil every 7500 miles for normal driving. Should I follow this or the 3,000-5,000 mile interval recommended earlier?

You can change the oil based on the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations and never go wrong. However, be sure to differentiate between normal vs. severe driving conditions. Who would have thought Grandma’s 20-year-old car with 18k miles was driven in severe conditions? But it was due to short trips. So be sure you are not in the severe category. The sever driving category will reduce the mileage interval. Driving in stop-and-go traffic, extensive engine idling, taking multiple short tips averaging 5 to 10 miles in length, and driving in extremely hot or cold temperatures are all examples that could be considered severe driving. Understanding and following these guidelines will save you money in the long run and keep your car dependable.

What about the Oil Filter? Is the life expectancy the same for every oil filter and does it matter?

Always use a new oil filter that is designed to last the life of the oil you are purchasing. AutoZone has great prices for many major oil and filter brands. Other brands with lower time or mileage range can be used but will need to be changed earlier if lower than the oil’s range.

What are Oil Additives?

Engine Oil additives like brands STP or MOLI are “helpers” to the engine and oil by reducing breakdown of chemicals and all the building blocks that exist inside the oil. These type of oil additives reduce friction, heat, wear and tear. Many are even designed to slow and stop oil leaks. Other Engine and/or Fuel additives can be used to “clean” and “decarbonize” your engine. Carbon and varnish reduce performance. Carbon robs the fuel mixture spray by “absorbing” fuel molecules. The fuel mixture becomes leaner which increases cylinder and combustion temperatures. This can cause spark knock, reduce the engine’s power, decrease the fuel mileage and could increase harmful emissions.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

FREE Loan-A-Tool® program requires returnable deposit. Please note that the tool that you receive after placing an online order may be in a used but operable condition due to the nature of the Loan-A-Tool® program.

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