Or: Why you should buy an American car and learn how to fix it yourself.
I drive a 1997 Chevy Blazer. It is made out of American steel and wears a bowtie for every occasion. When I got the Blue Blazer (as Baby Glass calls it) a few years ago, it only had 37000 miles on it. The previous (original) owners had bought it, driven it to Canada, and used it there during their vacations. It is still in amazing condition for how old it is and I really enjoy having it.
That being said, the Blazer drives me crazy sometimes. Since I bought it, I have replaced the brake booster [which I didn’t even know existed until it went out], ABS pump, water pump, AC compressor, belts, and pulleys. I have also fixed a couple of wiring issues. And, of course, I change the oil and oil filter.
I say “of course” because not only is it probably the easiest thing that I’ve done on that car, but it is much easier to do than you might imagine. So easy and cost-effective, in fact, that I would encourage you to try and do it yourself.
Here’s what you need:
Oil – Make sure you get the right viscosity and make sure you get high mileage oil if your car is around 100K miles or more. It should be noted on either your oil cap or in the owner’s manual.
Filter – There are handy books right by the filters at the auto parts store where you can look up your car by the make/model/year and see which one you need.
Receptacle for old oil – I have a plastic storage container that collects the oil until I can put it into an empty jug which I can then take back to the auto parts store for recycling. Or, if you want to commit, you can buy an receptacle like this one that is designed for oil changes and has both a spot to put your old filter to drain and a place for the oil pain plug. Make sure it has at least about a 6-quart capacity and is maybe about 18 inches long.
Wrench/socket wrench – This is necessary to remove the plug and drain the oil. A quick Google will most likely tell you what size you’ll need, but you can always do trial and error. I would go with the metric set. Somewhere around the 15mm mark.
Screwdriver – There is a little door that I have to open to get to my oil filter. Locate your filter beforehand to determine what you’ll need to access it. Also, I’ve needed to puncture the old oil filter with a screwdriver before so that I could get it out without buying an..
Oil Filter wrench – Sometimes you need a little extra oomph to get the filter out, especially if you’re overdue. These wrenches can cost anywhere from $5 upwards and are pretty handy if you get in a bind.
A rag – chances are, you’re going to drop your plug into your oil receptacle. Or get some on your hand. No matter what, it’s good to have one available. Make sure it’s something you’re willing to get rid of.
How to change your oil:
If you can, let your car cool down for a few hours or change your oil first thing in the morning before you go anywhere. Oil gets hot, and hot oil is not something you want splashing around on you while you’re underneath your car.
If you have a low-riding vehicle, you’re going to want to jack your car up on one side to make it easier to get to everything. I don’t need to jack up the Blazer, but it’s helps. Make sure to block off your wheels if you’re on an incline to make sure your car doesn’t rock off of the jack. Then remove your oil cap (under the hood).
Next, you’re going to want to locate your drain plug. It’s usually located towards the center of the undercarriage at the back of the engine block. It looks like a bolt (because it is one) and shouldn’t be too hard to find. Place your receptacle under the plug, placing is so that there is some space for the oil to shoot out.
Loosen the drain plug slowly. Oil should start to flow after the few full turn or two. Continue to loosen the plug until it is full removed, adjusting your receptacle as necessary to catch all of the oil.
At this point, you can take a break and allow the oil to drain as much as you’d like. This is one of the benefits of changing your own oil because a mechanic won’t wait as long as you can.
When you feel comfortable with how much oil has drained, replace the drain plug and tighten it all the way. Carefully grab your receptacle and move it to the front of your vehicle. Place it under your filter’s location and loosen the filter. There will be oil coming out of the nozzle that the filter attaches to, as well as from the filter itself.
Before you attached your new filter, take some of your oil (a dipped finger works well) and lubricate the rubber gasket on the filter. Install the filter per the manufacturer’s instructions and close the access compartment if applicable. Now you’re ready to add your new oil.
Put your funnel in the oil fill tube and pour the oil in. Then replace the oil cap, lower your car and unblock your wheels.
You should be good to go!
I shared this with you because I think it’s important to be able to fix things yourself because it saves you money and encourages pride of ownership and reduces waste. It’s also good to support American manufacturers and thereby the American economy. That allows us as individuals and the nation as a whole to be more self-sufficient.
Good luck and safe travels,