Do You Change Your Own Oil?

Do You Change Your Own Oil?

If you’re one of millions of do-it-yourselfers (DIY-ers) who change their own oil, you can help save energy and a valuable resource by recycling the used motor oil from your car, truck, boat, recreational vehicle, and lawnmower. Recycling is one way you can demonstrate your commitment to maintaining a clean environment. By taking your used motor oil to a collection center you are keeping it out of your drinking water, off the beaches, and away from wildlife.

Before you change your oil, refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for specific instructions on changing motor oil. Typically, oil changes are completed in a series of steps.


locate oil filter and drain plug

Locate the drain plug underneath the vehicle, remove it as directed by your owner’s manual, and drain the oil from the engine into a pan that is large enough to hold the entire contents of the crankcase (most passenger cars hold about 5 quarts of oil). Make sure the drain pan is positioned properly to catch all of the used oil from the engine. (Note: The oil may be hot, so use caution when draining it from the engine. Consider wearing rubber gloves for protection.)


remove old filter

Once the oil has been completely drained, change the oil filter. Note that it may be necessary to use a filter wrench to remove the old filter. Install the new filter as directed by the owner’s manual.

The filter will contain residual oil, so take steps to prevent spilling this oil as the filter is removed. Place the open end of the filter face down over the drain pan or the used oil recycling container to allow the oil to drain from the filter. If possible, allow the filter to sit in this position for at least 12 hours.

Used oil filters should be recycled. Visit for the location of a facility near you that accepts used oil and filters.


replace drain plug

Once the used oil has drained from the engine, replace the drain plug as directed by the owner’s manual. Wipe up any drips with rags or paper towels.


adding oil

After the used oil has been drained, the old oil filter removed, and the new filter installed, add the new oil. Your owner’s manual provides recommendations on the viscosity grade, performance level, and amount of oil required for your vehicle. Most automobile manufacturers recommend that you use an oil meeting the latest International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC) specification. Oils certified by API as meeting this specification may display the API Certification Mark “Starburst” (API’s Engine Oil Program) and API Service Symbol “Donut.” Diesel engine manufacturers typically recommend oils meeting a specific API diesel oil service category. Oils certified by API as meeting one or more of these categories may display the API Donut.

The owner’s manual will also help you find the oil fill cap. Remove the oil cap and add the amount of oil required by the instructions in the owner’s manual. Do not overfill. Use a funnel to prevent drips and make sure to empty completely each container of oil.


recycle oil

Carefully remove the oil drain pan from under the vehicle (take care not to burn yourself with hot oil or spill any on the ground). Using a funnel, pour the used oil into a clean container with a lid that screws on tightly (for example, an empty milk or water jug or the empty oil bottles from the oil just added to the engine). You can also use oil drain pans that double as used oil containers.

When selecting a container to hold used oil, avoid plastic bottles or containers once used for bleach, cleaners, or other automobile fluids such as antifreeze. These containers may contain residues that would contaminate the used oil. Also avoid paint cans and other metal containers or containers used for gasoline.

Additionally, do not mix other lubricants such as brake fluid or transmission fluid or other liquids with the used oil. The recycling center may not accept the used oil if it is contaminated with other liquids.

Take the container of used oil to a designated collection site in your area. Go to for locations near you that accept used oil and oil filters.