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How To Safely Change Engine Oil in 15 Minutes

By Rob Chernish
Published: October 16, 2014 | Last updated: October 16, 2014 10:59:29
Key Takeaways

Learn how to safely change engine oil


Realistically, if this is your first time, this process will likely take you longer than 15 minutes. You may be faster or slower than this time. You have to consider your level of experience and take your time to do the job safely. This is a good example of understanding the expectations of a job, and the temporal limitations, or the time it takes to safely complete the job. Many workers and contractors are up in arms about how much a job should cost or how long it will take to complete.

If you are new to a job, then consider the expectations to a complete the tasks, and automatically refuse to do the work if it is not expected within a safe time frame for successful completion.

Oil and Filters

First, go buy some oil and an oil filter for your vehicle. It is also a good idea to check the condition of your cab air filter when changing the oil, as these filters should also be changed at regular intervals. (For more information on the importance of air quality, check out Indoor Air Quality: The Invisible Hazard In Every Workplace)


Many auto parts stores and some home hardware stores will be able to provide you with these materials. If it is your first time buying your own supplies, then look at the reference books they have in the oil filter section. Find your vehicle make, model, and year, and match the code on the filter to your vehicle. A sales associate will also have the ability to assist you in finding the filters that you need. Be sure to buy the proper oil for the season. If unsure, inquire as to the right type of oil for the current season.

Wear the Proper PPE

PPE is not just for the workplace. To safely complete an oil change in the workplace or at home, you should have the following PPE:

  • Safety glasses: To protect the eyes from debris that may come loose when under the vehicle

  • Gloves: To ensure you do not burn your hands on the filters or oil

  • Long sleeves: To protect your arms from burns and oil

Lift and Secure Your Vehicle

Be sure to secure your vehicle whether or not you need to lift it to do the oil change. Depending on your size and the clearance allowed by your vehicle, you might not need to raise it off the ground. If you can fit under the vehicle, go for it, just make sure you put blocks behind the tires for good measure. If you require your vehicle to be placed on a jack, then follow the steps below to jack a vehicle:

  • Place blocks behind the rear tires to ensure that it does not roll

  • Place the jack on the jack stand under your vehicle. This is a small flat space under your vehicle behind the tire. It is the designated area to place the jack

  • Extend the jack until there is sufficient room for you to get under your vehicle

  • Repeat on the other side of the vehicle

You may choose to use a ramp instead of jacks. If this is the case, be sure to place blocks behind the rear tires before getting under your vehicle.

Drop the Oil

Dropping cold oil is not a recommended practice. First, turn on the vehicle and let it idle for about 5 minutes before proceeding with the oil change. Once the engine is warmed up, shut off the engine and open the hood.

  • The first thing you should do is remove the engine oil cap. This allows airflow and quicker draining when you drain the oil from below

  • You will need a large tub to collect the oil in. Something that can hold at least as many litres as your engine requires in oil. There are tubs made for purchase that are specifically designed for oil changes. These are made of a hard plastic and have a draining spout so it is easy to empty the container. These typically retail for around $20.00

  • You will need a socket wrench with various sizes to remove the drain plug. Depending on the vehicle, the drain plug will loosen by turning either clockwise or counterclockwise. Check your owner’s manual to be sure. Slowly loosen the oil plug, and ensure your face is turned away from the area. The oil will be warm, but should not be scalding. Make sure to wear your PPE, especially your gloves when pulling the drain plug

Remove the Filter

Once the draining oil has slowed, you can remove the oil filter while waiting for the rest of the oil to drain.

  • Place a container under the filter to collect oil that will come from the removal of the filter

  • You may be able to unscrew the filter by hand, however sometimes it can be difficult to loosen filters as they tend to tighten up over driving time. Filter pliers are available where you can buy engine oil, and retail for around $15.00. You can also use a strap wrench, if you have one available

  • Before you screw on the new filter, prime the filter by filling it with engine oil. Also be sure to lubricate the gasket with some oil. This is the black o-ring sitting near the threads of the filter

  • Tighten the filter by hand, and never tighten it using filter pliers. Just snug it up, that’s all it needs to stay in place

Once you have replaced the oil filter, it is a good idea to change the air filter. This is done from the front of your vehicle. Air filters are typically to either side of the engine depending on the make and model, and are usually contained by a plastic container. To change the air filter, simply remove the clips and lift the plastic cover to the filter, remove the old filter, slide the new one into place, and replace the cover and clasps.

Fill Oil

Once the filters are changed, and the oil has been drained, new engine oil must be added. Before you do this, be sure that you have replaced the plug down below. Pouring engine oil from the container can become messy, so to be environmentally conscious, and ensure you get the oil in the right place, use a funnel to ease the process.

  • Place the funnel in the opening for engine oil

  • Look in your owner’s manual to see how many litres of oil your engine requires. If you do not have an owner’s manual, the sales associates where you bought the oil and filters from can tell you how many litres

  • Add the appropriate amount of oil via the funnel

  • Check the oil level using the dipstick. Proper procedure for checking a dipstick is to remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, replace the dipstick and pull again for a reading. The oil should read somewhere between the ADD line and the FULL line when cold

  • Replace the engine oil cap, and remove the collection tub from below the vehicle

  • Start your vehicle. Let it idle for a few seconds, and while it does this, take a quick look under the vehicle to ensure there is no leakage from the drain plug or the new oil filter. If there is a leakage coming from the oil filter, shut the car off immediately, unscrew the filter, adjust the gasket, screw filter back on and tighten. Check oil level and repeat idle step

  • Once you’ve checked for leaks and let it run for a minute, shut the engine off and recheck the oil level via the dipstick

  • Adjust the oil accordingly. Be sure not to under fill or overfill your engine oil. Under filling or overfilling the engine oil is dangerous because both can cause the engine to overheat

Safe Oil Disposal

Pour the used oil into the now empty oil containers. This can be done using the spout of the specialized containers, or by using the funnel used in filling the oil. Once the oil is in the container, replace the cap, and clean up. If you’ve spilled any oil on the ground, kitty litter is a great household product that efficiently contains oil spills.

It is against the law to dispose of used oil and oil filters in the regular garbage. Many auto parts stores and some service stations accept used oil and filters for recycle. Or look in the yellowpages to find the nearest toxic waste disposal centre or oil recycling centre. Alternatively, visit Earth911 or the Filter Council and enter your zip code.

Congratulations! You’ve changed your own oil safely, and are now an accomplished do-it-yourselfer!


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Written by Rob Chernish

A writer from Canada with firsthand experience in Oil, Gas, Mining, and environmental safety.

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