Which Tools Do I Need to Change My Oil?
Your engine is the heart of your vehicle, and your engine oil is the lifeblood that keeps it lubricated and working properly. Changing your oil regularly keeps harmful dirt and debris from damaging internal moving parts, it improves engine function, and it will promote better fuel economy. Every manufacturer has a recommended oil change interval, so it’s important to follow that interval and protect your engine, but you can’t hurt your engine by changing the oil too often.
For the average person, changing the oil is an excellent first project to get into working on your own vehicle. There are tools required, but the job itself is fairly easy, not too technical, and doesn’t require great feats of strength to complete. The bonus in doing your own work is that every tool you buy will probably last your lifetime, especially for the once or twice a year mechanic, and it will allow you to move into more technical repairs, like changing brake pads and rotors.
With that in mind, let’s discover which tools you will need to change your oil. We’ll start with some general tools that you need around your new garage, and then we’ll cover some specialty tools that you’ll mostly use for just oil changes.
General Shop Tools Everyone Needs
This first group of tools are pieces that everyone needs to get started on working with their vehicles. From this group of tools, you could do an oil change on most cars with only a ratchet and socket set, a funnel, oil capture container, and a jack and jack stands.
A ratchet massively reduces the time it takes to remove a fastener because you don’t have to remove the tool from the bolt every time you make a turn, like you do with a combination wrench. Get a set that includes some metric and SAE sizes, and if you’re starting out, a 3/8” drive should do just fine. Ratchets and sockets also come in 1/4, 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1” drives. Many medium sized kits will include ratchets and sockets in 3/8” and 1/2″ drive.
Your car is fastened together using a few thousand nuts and bolts and the simplest way to loosen them is with a wrench. Wrenches come in SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) sizes and metric sizes. Some people will refer to SAE as “standard”. Most vehicles built today use metric sizes because of the globalization of the auto industry, but there are still some domestic manufacturers that rely heavily on SAE sizes. Even those domestic automakers will have parts with metric nuts and bolts on them, though.
For this reason, start with a full set of metric combination wrenches and purchase an SAE set if your car requires it. A small set of wrenches can cost as little as $20-$30, with larger or professional sets that can move into the range of several hundred dollars. Don’t feel like you need a professional set to start out, though.
If you own a car, house, or even a bike, you need a set of screwdrivers. The good thing is that multi-screwdriver sets can be inexpensive, starting around $10 for a basic set. Make sure to get a set that has a variety of Phillips and straight-slot drivers, plus Robertson and even some Torx heads.
Older maintenance ramps were made of steel, but modern versions are typically made out of a high-density plastic. You simply drive up the ramp and place a chock behind the wheels that are still on the ground. This elevates part of the car that is on the ramps and allows you to access the undercarriage of the vehicle to do work. The advantage to ramps is that they are very quick – you just place them in front of the wheels, drive up, and chock the other wheels to prevent the car from rolling backwards. The disadvantage is that you can’t take off the tires when using ramps, so it reduces the number of repairs that you can do. Our next tools, though, solve that problem.
A floor jack has a long handle that makes pumping up the hydraulic cylinder very easy. The advantage of the floor jack is that it provides access to the wheels, so that you can switch tires, replace brake pads and rotors, work on the suspension and steering, or just complete routine visual inspections of your vehicle. Always use a set of jack stands to support the vehicle when you work under it because a hydraulic jack can fail. If you have to choose between ramps or a jack and jack stands, the latter will be the more versatile option.
Safety glasses are a must for any work that you do around a vehicle. You only get one set of eyes, so you need to protect them.
A Set of Rags for Cleanup
Your old gym t-shirt is perfect for wiping your hands and cleaning up small spills, but a roll of shop towels is also a great addition to the garage.
Specific Oil Change Tools
These tools will help to make your oil change experience efficient and fast.
Oil Filter Socket, Wrench or Pliers
Removing your old oil filter from the car can be challenging because it may have grease and grime on it and be difficult to grip. An oil filter removal tool provides mechanical grip and leverage, and it makes the job much easier. If you have easy access to the filter, a set of oil filter pliers is a great choice. You can also get oil filter sockets to use with your ratchet set that are the right size for specific models, and those are very handy. Keep in mind that several vehicles (like newer Toyota) use an oil filter cartridge that has a housing that requires a special tool to remove, which is available at AutoZone. Consult your repair manual or online source to determine if your vehicle is one of these.
You’ll need a funnel to avoid spilling any oil as you refill the oil capacity through the oil filler cap.
When you drain your oil from the oil pan you will need to capture it in a container before transferring it to the used oil cans and taking it to your local oil recycler. Purpose built oil drain containers have a handy spout to make the transfer quick and easy.
Disposable nitrile gloves aren’t a must-have item, but they make the process less grimy, and they protect your hands from being covered in motor oil, which is a carcinogen.
A creeper is a trolley that you lie on to wheel around under your vehicle. It isn’t essential, but it makes working under your vehicle easier and safer.
Get Out There and Do It
Working on your own vehicle develops a sense of pride in your ride and in yourself. Don’t wait to begin building your own set of tools, starting with the basics. When you need tools for your DIY projects, you’ll find them at AutoZone along with Trustworthy Advice.