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Safety and the Home Oil Change

June 20th, 2009

changing-oil-in-car.jpgChanging your oil at home can be an easy way to save money on automobile maintenance, but a simple mistake can leave you stranded with a costly engine repair. Taking your vehicle to a mechanic provides the security of having a professional inspect and service your vehicle according to “the book.” This can be pricey, however, and some of the quick change oil service stations employ uncertified technicians, even inexperienced high school students. There is not much peace of mind in that. But if you follow these simple rules, you too can have the confidence to change your own oil and know that your vehicle is safe and sound.

Safety starts with lifting your car by the factory recommended lift points and supporting your automobile with jack stands. Push on the fender, and give your car a little wiggle. If properly supported, your vehicle will not move, but it’s better to know now than when your life depends on it. If you don’t have jack stands, try driving one side of the car up on the curb, but never get under a car that is only held up with a jack.

Once you have removed the oil drain plug, inspect it for wear. Is the hexagon bolt head rounded off on the corners? Are the threads damaged or stripped? Is the gasket torn or cracked? Keep a few extra drain plugs and gaskets on hand, and replace them in any of these situations. A good drain plug is less likely to leak or come loose, and if you find that your drain plug is bad or you damage one during removal, you can save yourself an emergency bus ride to the auto parts store by spending a few extra bucks and picking some up when you buy your oil and filter.

Change your oil filter with every oil change. But before you install the new filter, cover your finger with a rag and run it around the filter mounting surface. This will not only remove any grime built up around the edges, but it will also dislodge the old filter gasket if it happens to be stuck. A doubled-up gasket will spit out oil like a sprinkler, quickly depleting the engine and leaving you high and dry on the freeway. Get a little oil on your finger and lubricate the gasket on the new filter. This will provide a better seal, and the gasket is less likely to stick on removal. Spin it on as tight as you can by hand; oil filter tools are for removal only.

Simply slowing down and taking a few extra minutes for these easy inspections can ensure that your vehicle is on the road again safely after doing your own oil change. Stop paying inexperienced technicians to use your car as a learning tool. After following these simple steps, you will save money and have the confidence of knowing that your vehicle was serviced properly. Happy motoring!


Michael Kenyon Rosenberg currently freelances full time from his home in Van Nuys, California. His work spans a variety of genres, including poetry, short fiction, stage plays, screenplays, rock band bios, how-to articles, and newspaper editorials.


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