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How To: Change The Oil In Your Car

Change the Oil in Your Car

How to change the oil is something that you ought to know; it’s part of the regular maintenance that must be done to keep the car going. This week’s “How To…” is all ’bout how to change the oil in your car. Our example car is a 2009 Volkswagen GLI. You may, or may not, have a GLI. I won’t judge (much).

IMPORTANT: whatever the make/model of car you have, it will not change the procedure by much.

Conventional wisdom says that you should change the oil in your car every 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles). This is no longer the case for most vehicles using synthetic oil. In the case of the trusty dusty Volkswagen, the oil has almost 12,000 kilometers (7000 miles) on it. This is within specifications for the type of oil used; Mobil One 0w40.

Step 1) Abolish Fear

I can’t stress this enough. Many people look at the hood of their car as a portal to some sort of blasted horrific technological underworld. Nope. Not here. Today, the hood of your car is a hatch that covers a glorified pump. We’re going to go through a step-by-step procedure to do some basic maintenance on that pump. Follow the steps, and there’s not much that can go wrong. Remember that when you change the oil in your car, all you’re doing is draining some old oil, and putting in new oil.

Step 2) Do your Homework

Most cars have an owners manual. Chances are, if you dig around in your glove box, yours is in there. In it, there will be a chapter or section called “Technical Specifications.” Within this section, you’re going to look for a heading called “Engine Oil Capacity” which will list exactly how much oil your car takes.

Unless your car is somewhat exotic or high powered, the amount of oil that the engine needs will be between 3 and 5 liters. Most manuals will list the grade and/or weight of the oil that the car requires. This will be a pair of numbers with a “w” between them; something like “0w40” or “10w30”. Additional information may be included but the only things that really matter are the viscosity (the XwXX number) and whether or not the oil meets a certain car manufacturers specifications.

Now, read this part carefully: using an oil meets a manufacturers specifications is usually only important because of warranty concerns. If in doubt, when you go to the auto-parts store, ask the sale representative to make sure the oil you have chosen is approved by the manufacturer of your vehicle. The information will be on the container and a competent representative will be able to clearly point it out.

Oil brand is a personal preference. Volkswagen “recommends” Castrol. But that’s probably because Castrol paid them to advertise their logo on the oil cap. The bottom line is, if it meets the manufacturers specifications, it will work. Good brands are Castrol, Valvoline, Mobile-1, Liqui-Moly, and Pennzoil. If any of this is daunting, simply ask the sales rep at the auto-parts store to help you choose an appropriate motor oil for your car.

You’ll need an oil filter. Most of the filters available today will work just fine in most cars. If you have a brand preference, stick with it. Auto-parts stores stock a wide variety of oil filters and will be able to provide you with information on most of them. With rare exception, all of them are similar in performance, but some include an anti-drainback feature. There is always debate about whether this is necessary. The best course of action is simply to use the filter that the auto-parts store recommends while staying away from house brands. Good brands are Wix, Fram, Mann, Bosch, Purolater, and Mobil-1.