oil change – doing it yourself

Why I do my own oil change

oil change
example of an oil donut – this has a “SM” rating

I believe I can do an oil change on my vehicles more conveniently, cheaper and better than a dealer or oil change shop.   More conveniently, because I can do the oil change in less than 20 minutes and there is always a wait when someone else does it for you.  Better, because even at a dealer, which charges much more than a generic oil change outfit, they do not add that half pint when the oil has finished draining to sweep out the dregs, nor do they add a quart of synthetic to improve the overall quality.  So for these reasons plus personal satisfaction,  I do it myself.

Oil change recipe

I buy the cheapest oil which complies with the viscosity and doughnut specs stated in the auto handbook e.g. “SM” for certain autos. For autos, the cheapest way to buy oil and a filter is to buy either the combo offering of “x” qts oil and a filter from the auto stores or the 5qt oil containers from the mass merchandise superstore. I dissect used oil filters to compare filter material and construction so I can determine whether the price differential for a higher priced oil filter brand is justified.

I always include 1 qt of fully synthetic oil in the oil change – thus if 5 qts are called for, I will use 4 qts of regular oil and 1 qt fully synthetic. Semi-synthetic qts do not specify what % is fully synthetic so I cannot determine if the additional cost of semi-synthetic compared with regular oil s justified.

Oil change basic procedures

Prior to draining the oil, I always ensure the engine is warm (has been running for at least 5 minutes, particularly on cold days) and, to get the last dregs of oil out, I add a quarter qt of fresh oil when most of the existing oil has drained. I will not go into the actual procedure of physically removing the drain plug and replacing the filter etc.  After the oil change I always look at the drained oil for anything unusual – bubbles, water, or thick filings. I collect the used oil in 5 gallon containers and return to the auto store for recycling.


oil change
old oil and old filter
oil change
5 gal container for transporting oil to recycling center

3 thoughts on “oil change – doing it yourself”

  1. Hi Rich
    I recently took my Audi TT in for a 40,000km service and the total fee was $620.00 of which $264 was for Petrol, oils, lubricants and Supplies. When I questioned this amount I was told that Audi use a special oil in my car which costs $30 per litre. It is a 2L Turbo engine. I think this is excessive however they have one over a barrel because if you don’t allow them to put their oil into the car and something goes wrong with the engine then they could potentially blame one for using the incorrect oil. Even though the car is now out of warranty they do sometimes come to the party when something goes wrong with the car if they have done all the servicing. They only service my car once a year every 10 -15,000km with these apparently really expensive (?synthetic) oils. I suspect that the engine would be better off if cheaper oil was used more frequently. Any thoughts on that?

    1. Hi Steve,

      I found a good link for you to go to – http://www.carbibles.com/engineoil_bible.html. As you will read, apparently synthetic oil is required for certain Audi engines and you must have proof of all engine oil changes to benefit from their warranty. I usually look at the owner’s manual which specifies the SAE grade and other oil requirements – see what yours says. Synthetic oil costs much more but, from what I have read, is better. Apparently most of your engine wear occurs when you start the engine after it hasn’t been used for a while – the lubrication has drained from the cylinder walls and there is friction between the piston rings and the cylinder walls, which is less of a problem with synthetic oils, so they say. Synthetic oils may also be more effective dealing with the sludge referenced in the article. I certainly don’t know but I like to hedge my bets and so, as per my oil change notes, I include a quart of fully synthetic each time I change my oil. Incidentally, oil changes used to be every 3,000 miles, now I do them every 5,000 miles (8,000km). So your change intervals are more extended but it also depends on what type of driving you do – highway or stop and go. I am assuming they used 100% synthetic, not semi-synthetic which is my concoction?

      1. Thanks a lot Rich, thats a very interesting article. I had not realised that Audi turbo engines are particularly prone to sludge. I do mainly drive in traffic as opposed to the open road so I think I will get Audi to change my oil every 6 months (in-between services). I will try to find out exactly which oil they use and whether is is available on the open market for me to purchase. Because the climate here is quite warm in Perth, the oil is probably different to that used in Europe and the US when the car will more often have to start in really cold temperatures. When you are next in Perth perhaps you can show me how to do an oil change. Great website content!

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