Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Oil change tips

Alex’s Tips for Oil Changes

by Alex Steil

So you’ve decided to change your own oil. Great, here are my tips for oil changes. You’ll save money and ensure that it’s done properly. You can watch a YouTube, but some of that advice isn’t right and some is downright dangerous. I’ll assume you’ve got a good floor jack and safe jack stands and know how to use them. Next you’ll need the right tools and oil.

Step #1 The right oil change tools and supplies

You’ll need an oil filter wrench and the type you need depends on the type of oil filter for your vehicle. I’ve posted in a separate article on advice to buy an oil filter wrench. Find that post here.

Next, buy the right oil. The American Petroleum Institute (API) classifies motor oil by a service rating. Over the years, oil refiners have made major improvements to motor oil and using the most up-to-date oil is critical to the safe operation of your vehicle. All API ratings for motor oil for gasoline engines start with the letter “S”. The very first classification was SA and that oil was designed for engines made in the 1920’s. The latest API classifications are SN and it’s backward compatible to earlier engine oil recommendations.

Motor oil is also classified by the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC). ILSAC is a collaboration between the American Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA), Chrysler, Ford, GM, and the Japanese Automotive Standards Organization. ILSAC GF- engine oil specifications target fuel economy, emission system protection, and enhanced engine oil robustness.

Just like the API rating for motor oil, as oil improvements are made and the GF rating increases, the oil is backwards compatible to older engine specifications. Here’s an example.

The owners’ manual for my 2005 Subaru Outback motor oil filler caprecommends 5W-30 GF-3 motor oil. GF-3 was the most up-t0-date oil back when my car was made. The oil viscosity and service ratings are also shown on the oil fill cap right on the engine. But in 2019, the most current ILSAC classification is GF-5. It’s a much better oil than GF-3.

Subaru motor oil capacity


In 2020, ILSAC is expected to release the specs for an even more advanced oil called GF-6. So I’ll buy a 5W-30 oil that has both the API SN and ILSAC GF-5 rating on the label.

I’ll also need the correct amount of oil. My owner’s manual shows I’ll need 4.2 quarts of oil to completely fill the engine and the new oil filter and tank.

Then purchase and oil filter. I like to buy auto parts from rockauto.com because they’re less expensive than local auto parts stores and they carry name brand oil filters.

When it comes to oil filters, it’s best to stick with a name brand like Wix, Fram, Bosch, Pureolator, ACDelco, Denso, Beck-Arnley, and Mahle/Clevite, If you’re using synthetic oil, make sure you buy a premium grade filter to get maximum protection.

For my 2005 Subaru, rockauto.com lists economy oil filters starting at $1.03 ea, standard replacement oil filters starting at $3.33 each and premium oil filters starting at $6.20 each. When you consider how much money you’ll be saving by doing your own oil changes, it just doesn’t make sense to install an economy filter. Stick with a standard replacement or premium oil filter.

Step #2 Drain the old oil

Make sure you have a drain pan for the old oil and it’s also a good idea to lay down a large piece of cardboard to soak up any oil drips before they stain your concrete garage floor.

You’ll also need a box-end wrench, torque wrench and socket, rags and a new gasket for the drain plug. I highly recommend wearing nitrile gloves to protect your skin from the toxic chemicals in used oil. Nitrile gloves also make for much quicker cleanup.

Locate the oil pan drain plug and use a box end wrench to loosen the plug. A box-end wrench is much safer than a socket and ratchet because the angle of attack is in the same plane. That drastically reduces the chance of rounding off the shoulders of the drain bolt.

remove oil drain plug

A box-end wrench is far less likely to strip the shoulders on the drain plug


Slide the box-end wrench over the drain bolt and loosen it with a few light blows from rubber mallet. That’ll save the palms of your hands. Finishing loosening the drain bolt with your fingers until you feel the last threads disengage. Oil will start dripping. Then remove the bolt in one quick motion to avoid taking a bath in oil.

Step #3 Remove the oil filter

I like to use the Lisle #63600 Import Car Filter Wrench for my Subaru. Just open the jaws and slide it over the bottom of the filter. Then attach a 3/8″ drive extension and ratchet. Loosen the filter.

remove oil filter

Then spin it off with your fingers and let the oil drain out. Make sure to check the oil filter mounting
surface to make sure the old O-ring isn’t stuck to it.

Place a thin film of new oil on the new gasket and install the new oil filter. Follow the tightening direction on the oil filter box. Never use a wrench to tighten the oil filter.

©, 2020 Rick Muscoplat Alex Steil

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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