DIY How to Do Your Own Oil Change

Last spring, I purchased a newer vehicle to our family, the Toyota RAV4. With our previous new car purchases, we received free oil changes for the ownership of the car. Since this was a used purchase, this wasn’t an offer and I was happy about that.

Every time we’d take our cars to the dealer for an oil change it meant over an hour of waiting and constant pushes for additional services we either didn’t need or could do ourselves. Usually, if I couldn’t get Chris to take it for me, I’d say, “Oh, thanks for the reminder, I’ll head over to parts and pick up what I need.” Much to the gentleman’s shrug at a woman going to buy parts and maintaining her car herself. Most of the maintenance on any vehicle is easy to do yourself and costs far less in time and money.

On older cars, I had helped my dad and brother change the oil, bleed the brakes and a myriad of other repairs. I grew up in an automotive family, as my dad would get up at 5am and work on his car. Most of my family cars had over 200,000 miles on them and still ran great. Chris now knows how to change brakes, too.

I wanted to learn how to change the oil effectively in Lucy Blue, so I asked my brother to walk me through the process. But, you don’t need to know someone to learn how to do it yourself.

1. Watch Videos on YouTube

Prior to my brother’s meeting, I watched several thorough videos on my model car and felt pretty confident I could do it myself. Though, my brother always has some hidden knowledge being a prior auto mechanic at a dealership. By watching a variety of videos, I got a good sense of what was best for this model and how easy it would be to change the oil.

2. Read the manual and learn about types of oil

I downloaded the manual for my make and model and read through the portion about oil changes. I learned about the best oil for my model in the conditions I would drive in (cold and hot weather with the seasons). I went with a 5W-20 full synthetic. Learn more about oil types here.

After the initial purchases of a drain pan, funnel, and having a special Toyota wrench, the tools of the trade came to about $30. Each change after this, the cost of these tools will not interfere. Aside from that, I spent about $30 on the oil filter and 5 quarts of oil needed.

As for time, I no longer have to drive to the dealership, wait over an hour for an oil change, do the dance with the gentleman tasked with trying to add extra services, and finally wait for the mechanic to bring out my car, and the cashier to stamp my approval to take my key and go. One time I spent almost 2 hours waiting on an oil change, hence why I would send Chris to go.

Now, it took about 20 minutes to change the oil with my brother (and I’ll be doing it on my own in the future). And that includes us talking about it, my asking questions, and generally chatting about cars. He also was kind enough to give me his old car ramps, worth over $100, to use to change my car in the future. Now, my garage has a section setup with my ramps, funnel, and drain pan ready to go!

4. Other Tips and Tricks

Aside from learning the oil we were getting was not the best grade, I also learned from my brother that on my type of car most dealerships would drain the oil out from the filter, not change the filter, and then put in fresh oil.

So, my car wouldn’t be running at it’s best because it would be quicker and easier for them to screw off this one metal part (which if breaks, you’re out of commission) put in a plug to drain the oil, and then screw it back on and fill the tank again.

He showed me (which I saw in videos and had asked about) how to remove the oil filter with the metal piece still attached and replace the oil filter without ever touching the tender metal cap that the dealer removes or might tighten too hard for one to remove themselves.

Also, he suggested I put the entire 5 quarts into the vehicle. I questioned him, as my manual said 4.6 quarts, but he showed me that when you drain the entire engine that dealers don’t do, you’ll find the 5 quarts brings the oil line right to the top.

We did the 4.5 quarts first, he showed me it brought the oil to the middle or below mid range. Then we put the rest in and I saw that it was right on target. In addition, he mentioned cars burn about a quart of oil between changes so that little extra will help it not get too low before the next change.

In addition, he mentioned cars burn about a quart of oil between changes so that little extra will help it not get too low before the next change.

Costs of DIY vs. Dealerships

I was surprised to learn through reading various car websites about changing your own oil that dealerships and most places use bulk conventional oil. When I purchased my full synthetic oil, I wondered why I was paying about $25 for it, when an oil change always ends up around that price.

After reading up, I found that a synthetic oil change would be double the cost, as dealerships use the lowest grade oil in all vehicles because they can buy it in large quantities. So, my $25 spent is better for my car vs. paying them to do it for me. Plus, now being savvy, I’ve comparison shopped and found I can get it for far cheaper next time.

In the end, the time I save by doing it myself is well worth it to me. Time equals money when I could spend that Saturday morning getting other tasks accomplished, like writing to you! I dislike going to dealerships with a passion. Now, I can avoid them and most car mechanics for all my maintenance needs.

Have you changed your own oil before? Have you considered it?