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illustration of oil pour

How To Change Your Oil

Oil changes are completed at every routine car service but knowing how to change your oil is an excellent skill. It’s an essential of simple DIY car maintenance and it can save you some cash along the way. Changing your oil should take about an hour for a beginner but once you’ve done it a few times, it might take closer to half an hour. 

When to complete an oil change

The rule of thumb here is that you should change your oil every 10,000 kilometres or every six months — the same as your car service. However, each manufacturer specifies varying intervals for kilometres travelled and time limits when it comes to oil changes. Older cars will typically need their oil changed more frequently than a newer car. A lot of new car models now have lights that indicate you might need an oil change too. 

What you’ll need for an oil change

  • Engine Oil
  • Oil Filter
  • Oil Wrench or Oil Filter Wrench
  • Sump Plug Washer
  • Vehicle Jack
  • Axle Stands
  • Wheel Chock
  • Drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Old towel and a rag
  • Gloves
  • Degreaser

Steps to change your oil

Step 1: Work out which kind of oil you need and how much

Step 2: Prepare your car, tools, a container, and a towel

Step 3: Find the oil drain plug & drain the oil

Step 4: Remove the oil filter

Step 5: Tighten the oil drain plug

Step 6: Replace the oil filter

Step 7: Add new oil

Step 8: Check the oil level 

Step 1: Work out which kind of oil you need and how much

The first step of an oil change is working out which oil you’ll need and how much of it. Your car’s owner manual should specify which oil you need. If you’re unable to find your owner’s manual, there are other resources online too or your local car shop, like Supercheap Auto, can usually help you out. 

Your manual should let you know how much oil you’ll need too. Always buy a little bit of extra oil — but, if you’re planning to buy the oil in bulk, make sure you’ll be able to lift it, and hold it steady while you pour. 

Step 2: Prepare your car, tools, a container, and a towel

Make sure you’ve got all of your tools, oil, and cleaning equipment ready to go. Prepare your car too. Your engine will need to be warm, but not hot. So let it sit there long enough that it cools down, but not long enough to go cold. The car should be parked on a flat and level surface. It  should be in ‘park’ or in gear, turned off, and the handbrake should be on. 

You might need to raise your car to get better access — now is the time to do it. You can use a trolley jack and axle stands for this. If you’re not lifting the car, putting chocks in front of your wheels is a good idea.

If you have a newer car, your engine might have an undercover over the engine. You’ll need to remove this to access your oil filter and drain plug. 

What you’ll need:

  • Engine Oil
  • Oil Filter
  • Oil Wrench or Oil Filter Wrench
  • Sump Plug Washer
  • Vehicle Jack
  • Axle Stands
  • Wheel Chock
  • Drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Old towel and a rag (your first oil change especially will get messy)
  • Gloves
  • Degreaser

Step 3: Find the oil drain plug & drain the oil

Now is the time to put on a pair of gloves — this will help with the heat of the engine and save hand-washing time later on. Find your drain plug, your drain plug is a large nut or plug and can be found underneath the oil pan at the bottom of your engine. 

Position your oil container or pan underneath the plug before unscrewing, so it’s ready to catch the oil. Make sure to note that it won’t pour directly down, it’ll pour on an angle so your pan should be positioned properly. You can sort of cap the drain with your finger while you work out where’s best for the pan. 

You may be able to unscrew the plug with your fingers but usually this will require a wrench. The oil should now drain into the container. To help get the oil flowing nicely, you can remove the top oil cap too. 

While the oil’s draining you can give the drain plug a clean. 

Step 4: Remove the filter

If you have two oil pans, you can do this step while you wait for the oil to drain out of the plug. If you don’t, you’ll need to wait and use the pan here as well. Oil filters aren’t attached very tight during your car service, but their sealing gaskets can swell over time, making them tighter to get out. If this happens, you can give it a tug with a wrench. 

As soon as your filter is loosened, oil will gush out. So only use the wrench to loosen the filter and then remove it slowly, keeping your oil pan in position. Once the filter is coming off, don’t let go of it and don’t let it drop into the pan. Be prepared for a bit of a mess at this stage. 

Step 5: Tighten the oil drain plug

Take either your new, replacement drain plug or your old, cleaned up drain plug and tighten it back on. You’ll know the drain plug has been tightened properly if you’ve used the square end of a combination wrench to tighten the plug as much as possible — without using a hammer or other tool for extra leverage. You want to tighten the nut well, but not too much as this can strip the nut of its threading. 

Step 6: Replace the oil filter

It’s important to make sure the old filter’s O-ring is removed — a double up of these means the oil won’t travel through the engine properly, which causes huge issues. Grab your new filter and dab a bit of the new oil around the O-ring.

To install the new filter, spin it on really gently until the O-ring first makes contact with the seal. Your oil filter should be tightened from three quarters of a turn to a full turn. You don’t want to over-tighten the filter here so it’s a good idea to check the specification in your owner’s manual. 

Step 7: Add new oil

It’s time to add the oil now. At this stage of the oil change, it’s best to double check that both the drain plug and oil filter are properly in place and tightened well. Pour in the new oil, but make sure to pour in about one litre (1L) less than is recommended. 

Now, replace the oil cap and start your car’s engine. Run it for 30 seconds or so, so that the oil runs through the engine. Then, you can turn the engine back off and check underneath the car for leaks. 

Step 8: Check the oil level 

Once you’re happy the change has been completed perfectly and there are no leaks, you can bring your car back down to flat and level ground. Then you can check your oil — it should be a bit lower than full because we didn’t add in that extra litre. Pour in the extra litre or so now.

Your first oil change is complete! 

After more than an oil change? Bring your car into one of our Bulimba, Newstead, or Milton workshops for your next car service.

hand holding fuel pump

Should You Use Premium Fuel In Your Car?

As mechanics, we regularly hear our customers are confused about premium fuel. Their car might specify they have to use it, or recommend they use it. There’s a lot of conflicting opinions out there about premium fuel, what it does, and whether or not you need it. The truth is, premium fuel does have some benefits and some cars may need it. So, should you use premium fuel in your car? Much like humans, there’s not a one-size-fits-all diet for cars — it’s a bit more complex than yes or no.

What is premium fuel?

What even is it? It normally has a flashy name like Premium, Super Unleaded, or Ultimate Performance… but what is it? In Australia, our current fuel standard is 91 RON (Research Octane Number) — this is the fuel most cars accept and the one that has the long lines at the servo. Increasingly though, there are cars that need 95 RON premium fuel and some even fancier cars in need of a 98 RON premium fuel. Premium fuels are normally around 12 cents or 10% more expensive than regular kinds.

What does it do?

So, the difference between the fuels is all in the octane level. Octane determines how much compression the fuel can take before igniting. This means a premium fuel will have more octane so it won’t explode or pre-ignite as quickly as its cheaper counterparts. This is where premium fuels becomes more valuable in high performance or luxury cars. These cars’ engines will have higher compression rates than your regular family car. Cars that specify you need to fill them with a premium fuel or a fuel with a higher octane level should typically have a high compression engine and typically work more efficiently and emit less emissions.

What if I don’t use a premium fuel?

If you have a car with a high compression rate and you choose a lower octane fuel or a regular kind you may experience ‘knock on’. Knock on happens when a car with a high compression ratio uses a normal fuel. Normal fuel will ignite prematurely due to the space inside the cylinder. This causes knock on which is just a knocking or rattling sound inside your engine. 
Knock on isn’t necessarily bad for you car but it’s not ideal and a heavy knock can actually result in damage to your engine.

Does premium fuel improve your car’s performance?

Not really. If your car needs premium fuel then using a normal kind can decrease your car’s performance. If your car doesn’t need premium fuel, it won’t have much of a benefit. Your car’s horsepower is its horsepower and fuel can’t change or affect that. The only difference it could make is better economy. However, the savings in increasing your fuel economy with premium fuel will be so slight, they won’t outweigh the extra spend.

How do I know if my car needs premium fuel?

Check your car’s fuel door (there may be a sticker there) or double check your car manual. If it specifies your car needs to take a premium fuel, then use one. If it recommends you use it, you don’t necessarily need to — but in some cases, using a fuel with a lower octane than your car recommends can be damaging.

The different Australian fuel types compared:

E10

This is usually the cheapest fuel option. It’s not necessarily compatible for every vehicle but it’s safe for most modern cars. The fuel economy on this one isn’t ideal and the fuel is part ethanol (up to 10%).  

91

You can find 91 pretty much everywhere and it’s what most cars run on. It’s more expensive than E10 but it’s the moderate choice for most cars. Though, a lot of modern car models will specify they need a higher octane level than 91. 

95

Your 95 option is the mid range premium fuel. It’s good for small, high-performance cars and is a fair bit more expensive than 91. This one isn’t as popular as the 91 option. 

98

This one is the ultimate performance fuel. It’s even more expensive than the 95 but is worth it if your car requires premium fuel. If you have a performance or luxury car, the 98 option will likely be for you. People argue this fuel can ‘clean’ injectors and engines but most fuel types include this special detergent too nowadays. 

Still have a question? You can ask our friendly mechanics in Milton, Bulimba, or Newstead for car advice any time.

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