Easy steps to change your oil

Changing your oil is an essential part of vehicle maintenance that most people can do at home. 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.

Basic steps to change your oil

person jacking up the front of a Nissan Altima

Safety first

These steps provide a general outline for changing 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 AutoZone.com 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. Always wear gloves and safety goggles when working on your vehicle.


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

Drain the oil

Use a 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

Slow to a drip

Drain the oil until it slows to a drip.
Note: Warm oil drains more quickly.


Clean the drain plug

Clean the 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

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

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

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.


Install the new filter

Install the new filter.
Do NOT overtighten.

Person pouring STP full synthetic oil into their engine.

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 oil.

person showing how to check oil with a dipstick

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

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.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com 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.

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