Auto questions: How to change an oil filter ?

Easy instructions with how to change your own car oil filter.

Changing an Oil filter may seem more intimidating than it actually is. Many people who venture to change their own oil elect not to change the filter just out of lack of knowledge and an abundance of hassle. But changing your filter need not be a hassle. Changing your filter can be as easy as 1-2-3.

What you will need

The first and most important tool you will need is an oil filter wrench. The tool itself consists of a metal loop with a handle that swivels so that you can grip an oil filter. Admittedly, its’ construction is simplistic in design, but given the amount of pressure you will have to apply when removing the filter, a little leverage doesn’t hurt.
If you don’t have it already, you’ll need a jack and jackstands. Your oil filter should be changed every time you change your oil. That’s right. Every time. Leaving the oil filter on when you change your oil leaves about a quart of dirty oil in your engine. So, when you change your oil, plan to change the filter as well.

How to Save Money on Car Expenses 300x225 Auto questions: How to change an oil filter ?

Auto questions: How to change an oil filter ?


Some old rags and kitty litter or sawdust for the mess is a good thing to have around as well. (Kitty litter or sawdust can be used to soak the oil up from your driveway, by the way).

What to do

Before you do anything, read your manual. Strangely enough, your manual has valuable information about your car, including where your oil filter is. One thing to remember is that the oil filter is almost always on the engine block itself. Where it is on the block is what you’ll be looking for. Some cars you’ll need to scoot underneath for. Some you can find and reach the filter on top. Some vehicles (mostly trucks) you actually have to reach through the front wheel well of the car to get the best angle on the filter.

Wherever it is, find your manual, open it, and find out where your filter is on your make and model car.

Once you know that much, the next thing to remember is how long it’s been since you drove your car. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to change the oil or oil filter on your vehicle after you’ve just driven it. The engine and the oil therein will still be hot and the last thing you want is third degree burns while changing your oil. (The author has a permanent scar on her hand from a burn sustained from just such an injury.) If you just pulled into your driveway, wait, at least, a half hour before attempting to change the oil. If it’s getting late, do it in the morning. Don’t risk a nasty burn just to get the job done.

Finally, look for a fat, cylinder shaped object sticking out from the engine block near the place where your manual suggested that it may be. Once you’ve found it, take your oil filter wrench, wrap it around the filter itself and pull the handle tight to one side.

The tricky part to removing the filter is what direction it should go in. Think of the old adage: “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” and try to imagine your car in the factory, up on a lift and the mechanic who has to install the car’s first filter. Which direction is he standing? Given the Righty-tighty rule, which way will he have to turn?

Once you’ve established this, don’t be discouraged if you can’t get the filter to turn right away. This filter has been on your engine block for 3,000 miles (or more depending on the circumstances). Not only will the metal around the screw-like extension attached to the block expand with the heat, but so will the metal washer on the filter’s top. It’s going to take a few hard yanks to get it loose enough to remove.

Once it does come loose, be prepared. Oil will spill from the block and filter. To prevent a mess, try to put an oil pan underneath the filter itself to catch most of the oil. Any spillage can be swept up using a kitty litter or sawdust that you have on hand.

After removing the oil filter, put the used container into the oil pan and, after the oil drains a little, put the pan aside.

Next, take your new filter and using a little bit of new (or used oil in a pinch) on the tip of your finger, oil the rubber washer on the filter’s top, then screw the new filter into place. (“Righty-tighty”).

Do NOT use the oil filter wrench to tighten. Turn the filter with your hand and tighten as best as you can, using your own strength. An oil filter should not be tightened any other way given the expansion of heat within the metal and rubber when you’re driving the car. Should you use a wrench to tighten the filter, you’ll have one heck of a time getting it off in 3,000 miles.

Remembering these easy steps, you should have little problem removing and replacing your car’s oil filter. So, the next time, instead of worrying about whether or not you should change it, change your filter without fear and armed with the knowledge of how your filter should be put on.

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