by allyse harris and her dad russ
My dad is the weirdest, funniest and most thoughtful guy I know. He is always loaded with “dad jokes” that make him (and usually nobody else) laugh so hard he starts crying. He will tell me when I am being stupid, but will still hug me tightly after I’ve been stupid. My dad is also the kind of dad who knows (or at least thinks he knows) just about everything, and though he has certainly gifted me with a fair amount of useless knowledge, he has also imparted upon me a great deal of useful “do it yourself” information.
After creating an outline of the information that my dad helped me commit to memory growing up, I decided to FaceTime him at his request. A few of the ever-familiar FaceTime rings chime away before my dad answers. Parked on the couch, Saturday-T-shirt-clad, with a beer in his hand, he helped me put together an outline on basic car maintenance, throwing in his never-ending quips that I’ve added in red italics for your enjoyment.
How to Change the Oil in Your Car
Keep in Mind: Before considering changing the oil (or anything on this list) yourself, keep in mind that though it can be fun to do some of this yourself and it can save you money, your car is an expensive item to replace.
If you feel as though you may not be able to do these tasks right, or the idea of maintaining it yourself seems too daunting, keep an eye out for specials in Groupon, the newspaper, commercials, or simply call up your mechanic or car dealership. Lots of dealerships and mechanics bundle together some of these basic services (oil change, tire rotation, balance & alignment, etc.) for an affordable price which saves you the hassle of doing it yourself. This might also be a better option for people who have newer (fancy and complicated) vehicles, since there may be special parts and processes--which means you could do more harm than good by doing it yourself.
Also Keep in Mind: YouTube is a wonderful resource for things such as car maintenance, and is also full of other “dads” who can walk you through a lot of the following step-by-step. You may even be able to find a video with your specific make and model to watch ahead of time or while you are attempting this the first time.
Okay, dad, so when do you have to change the oil in your car?
It can depend, but for most people it should be about every 3,000-5,000 miles. For heavy travelers or commuters, you may choose to use fully synthetic oil, which allows you to go up to 10,000 miles between oil changes. For the rest of us though, try your best to stick with every 3,000-5,000 miles and use conventional oil.
So, make sure to keep track of the mileage between oil changes (duh). Some garages leave a sticker on the windshield to help remind you, if you have oil changes done by a professional. Or, simply keep track by writing it in the back of the owner’s manual or a small notebook to keep in the glove compartment (or smartphone, I’m sure y’all have an app for that).
Check oil levels regularly using the dipstick, especially before and after long trips. Oil level low? Add a little more and recheck the levels. If the oil level seems to be low often, you may have a leak or more complicated problem that a professional should look at. Oil dirty? Check the mileage of your last oil change –it may be time for the next one. See here for a comparison of what clean oil, oil that needs to be topped off, and dirty oil all look like.
Alright, now we get to the “how to,” and it’s not as hard as you might think! Just set aside some time on the weekend or on your day off, and make sure you have all the stuff on the list below.
What you need:
Locate a couple of parts in/on your car:
The easiest way to do this is to Google a parts diagram for your car’s make, model and year for the following (the linked pictures of the parts may look slightly different in your own car):
IMPORTANT: ONLY CHANGE OIL when car is warm or cold, NEVER HOT.