How to change your car’s oil

Changing your car’s oil yourself isn’t as difficult as you might think. Take a look at AXA’s step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Car maintenance

2 December 2022

Having your car’s oil regularly changed is important as it helps keep your car running smoothly. For most people, this would result in a trip down to your local garage. And while there’s nothing wrong with getting an expert to do this for you, changing your car’s oil yourself isn’t as difficult as you might think.

With the average cost of an oil change being around £114, doing it at home could save you quite a bit. In this guide, we’ll go through why cars need their oil changed, when it should be done and how to do it. However, if you’re still feeling nervous about changing your car’s oil, you can always take it to your local garage.

Why do cars need oil?

In short, having your car’s oil changed helps keep it in tip-top condition. The oil in your car is used to lubricate the moving parts in the engine. Without it, these moving parts will rub together and could cause expensive damage.

However, over time the oil in your car loses its effectiveness. It will also pick up bits of metal, dirt and dust while it’s in your engine. So regularly changing it for fresh oil will help keep your car’s engine well lubricated and running smoothly for longer.

When to change your car’s oil

Every car is different, but regular oil changes are essential. When you need to change your oil will depend on your car’s age, make and your normal driving conditions.

As a rule of thumb, you should look to change your car’s oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If your car uses fully synthetic oil, then you should look to change this every 15,000 miles or so (you can find out whether your car uses this in your owner’s manual).

How to change your car’s oil

Changing your car’s oil is fairly straightforward. It should take about an hour the first time you do it. Before you get started, make sure you have the following:

  • Spanner
  • Oil filter spanner
  • Oil drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Protective gloves
  • Jack and jack stands
  • Oil – you check what oil you’ll need and how much in your car owner’s manual
  • Replacement oil filter
Male mechanic working on car.jpg

The first thing you want to do is turn the car on for a few minutes. This will help warm up the oil and churn up any debris. Once you’ve done this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Get your car raised up on a jack stand so you have easy access to the oil drainage.
  2. Locate your drain plug. This is a large nut on your car’s oil pan. You’ll usually find it below the engine.
  3. Place your oil drain pan below the plug. Make sure your container is big enough to collect all of the oil.
  4. Remove the drain plug. Once you’ve done this, the oil from your car should begin to drain from the oil pan.
  5. Remove the oil cap from the oil filter hole. You’ll normally find this at the top of your engine.
  6. Unscrew your oil filter. The filter will normally be located near the oil pan, it’ll look like a small can and should be labelled “filter”. Your filter will likely have oil still in it, so take care not to spill any when removing it.
  7. Screw your new oil filter into place.
  8. Replace the oil drain plug on the bottom of your car’s oil pan once the old oil has fully drained. You should put any old oil in a sealed container so it can be recycled. Don’t dispose of it by pouring it down a drain.
  9. Use a funnel to pour the new oil into the oil filter hole.
  10. Replace the oil filter cap and turn the car on for 30 to 60 seconds. You’ll want to check for any leaks around the oil drain plug and the new filter.
  11. Shut off the engine for around 5 to 10 minutes. This will allow the new oil to settle in the car.
  12. Use the car’s dipstick to check that the level of the oil in your car is right. If there’s not enough, add a little bit at a time until you reach the “full” line on the dipstick.
  13. Remove the drain pan, lower your car off the jack and take it for a short test drive.
  14. Let the oil settle again for 5 to 10 minutes and check that the dipstick is still at the “full” line.

And that’s it, you car’s oil has been changed.

Keeping on top of car maintenance will help keep your car running smoothly. Changing your oil regularly, as we’ve mentioned, is just one of the things you can do yourself. Doing it at home is simple enough, and will save you money in the long run. However, if you’re still not confident about doing it yourself, your local garage will be able to do it for you.