Oil Maintenance 101
Should I Change My Oil Myself?
A traditional spin-on oil filter mounts externally.
The decision of whether or not to turn your own wrench basically comes down to how comfortable you feel underneath a car. You can typically save a few bucks by doing it yourself, but there are almost always deals and coupons that make the price difference negligible. Purchasing just oil and a filter can cost $20 at a parts store. A shop down the street with a $19.95 oil change saves you the additional hassle of putting your car up on jacks or ramps and getting dirty.
Then again, if you like to get dirty and take pride in doing your own work — or simply don't want just anyone working on your car — an oil change is one of the easier do-it-yourself maintenance procedures. If done incorrectly, it can be a costly afternoon in the garage: forgetting to add oil, using the wrong filter or stripping the oil pan drain plug are all potential hazards. Newbies looking to change their own oil should look for a tutorial or guide to see if it's within their wrench-turning capability. Our friends at CarTalk even have a guide available.
A typical oil change includes draining and replacing the old oil and replacing the oil filter. Not a lot has changed over the years when it comes to oil changes, so even if you haven't done an oil change since high school auto shop, you should still be in good shape with most new cars. There are a few types of oil filters. One of the most common filters is a metal canister that spins on and off of the engine; the filtration material is inside the canister. Another type is an internally mounted filter. These sit inside a container under the hood or under the engine and the filtration element alone is replaceable. Always consult your owner's or shop manual for the correct filter location, type of filter, oil capacity and torque specifications.
When done, be sure to safely dispose of the used oil and filter. Check with local oil-change places to see if they accept used oil, or locate a hazardous-waste recycling center. Dumping oil in a sewer drain is illegal.
Will it Void My Warranty if I Do it Myself?
Changing your own oil will not void an OEM's warranty as long as you do it correctly and use the recommended oil and oil filter. Always keep receipts and records of maintenance, because if there's ever a dispute you'll need proof that the maintenance was performed.
Where Should I Go to Have it Changed?
There are numerous places that will change your oil, including the dealership, a quick-lube service center or a general repair shop. How much time and money you can spare will help you decide where to take it.
For those who want a 15-minute oil change, it's hard to beat the convenience of quick-lube shops. Generally, for around $30 they'll have you in and out quickly and also check your fluids and tire pressure, and some even vacuum out the car and wash your windows.
In fact, to recover customers lost to quick-lube places, dealerships have adopted that type of in-and-out service with similar pricing, but backed with OEM parts and service. Ford, General Motors and Honda are some of the automakers that have dealerships with quick-lube facilities.
Going to an independent repair shop can be the least-expensive option, as many have $19.95 oil changes. The low price usually includes an oil and filter change, but you'll likely have to wait longer than at the other places. While your car is serviced, most shops will check your brakes, tires and suspension components for wear and recommend service if needed.
Will I Void My Warranty by Taking it Someplace Other Than the Dealership?
Just like changing your own oil, taking the car somewhere other than the dealership for an oil change will not void the warranty. As long as the service is done correctly and the recommended oil and filter are used, you won't have any issues with the warranty. Remember, keep your receipts.