Do you really need to pay someone for that?

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been paying someone else to do all the maintenance on our vehicles.  I’ve been making good money and figured, “What’s my time worth?” Well, more recently, money has been tighter and I have had to re-evaluate what it takes to get things done.  With all this in mind, I decided to once again change my own oil in my truck.

What does it cost?

I took a few minutes and calculated the cost.  My engine has a 6-quart capacity, so I needed to get 6 quarts of oil and the appropriate filter.  Having over 140,000 miles on the engine, high-mileage oil is probably a good idea, and it was on sale.  Since the oil drain pan cracked in the move, I had to replace that too.  Here’s what it cost:

  • Oil: $27.98 (21.99 for a 5-quart bottle and 5.99 for 1 additional quart).  I picked these up at Tractor Supply.  I was surprised that the price was lower than the auto-parts store.
  • Drain pan:  $16.99.  I picked one that will hold at least two complete changes before I have to empty it.  I could have gotten a cheaper one at Tractor Supply, but this one suits me.
  • Oil Filter:  $4.99.  I had to go to the auto parts store for this one.  They didn’t have it at Tractor Supply.  Luckily, they share a parking lot where I live.  The guy at Auto Zone was really nice.  He looked it up for me and pulled it off the shelf.  Since he didn’t have the “ordinary” one, he gave me the premium one for the price of the ordinary.  What a great experience!

I already have the oil filter wrench and the socket needed to remove and install the parts, as well as the funnel for refilling, so my total cost was about $50.  Next time will be closer to $35, since I don’t need to buy another drain pan.  I’m going to watch for sales, too, so I can have the oil and filter on hand next time I need to do this particular job.

This job can’t really get any simpler.  The hardest part is getting under the vehicle.  Luckily, I have a 4 wheel drive truck with a decent amount of ground clearance, so I could just shimmy my way under it (there’s a creeper on my wish list now).  If your vehicle is close to the ground, you might need to have some ramps to provide you some clearance.  After that, it’s super easy.

Draining the old oil and removing the filter

drain plugPosition the drain pan under the drain plug and remove the plug.  If someone else has been doing this work for you, you might need a breaker bar to get the plug loose.  Let the oil drain into the pan, then reinstall the drain plug.  Slide the drain pan over under the oil filter and use the strap wrench (if necessary) to remove it.  Some oil will drain from the connection, and you’ll want to invert the oil filter in the drain pan so it can drain, too.  That’s it for the “removal” portion!

Installing the new filter and adding oil

Open one of your fresh oil containers and get a little on your finger.  Smear just a little on the rubber seal that is on the underside of the new oil filter.  Once it’s completely covered, take a rag and wipe away any drips of old oil and clean off the post where the oil filter attaches on the engine.  Take a good look at the surface where the filter seal will mate up with the engine block.  It should be smooth and clean.  If it isn’t, clean it really well before you install the new oil filter.  I’ve always installed filters by turning until the seal meets the engine, then tightening another quarter turn.  Once it’s installed, you’re ready to add oil.

Wipe off the oil fill cap (I always do, to prevent anything from accidentally falling into the engine), then remove it and add the amount of oil specified for your vehicle – mine is 6 quarts.  Put the cap back on and Bob’s your uncle.  All done!  I start the engine and let it run for a couple of minutes, then get back underneath and look for leaks before I back the truck out and call it a day.  All in all, my first oil change in over 10 years took me less than 40 minutes.

Final thoughts

Routine maintenance doesn’t need to cost a lot or take a lot of time.  Watch for sales on what you need and make sure you have the right tools for the job.  When the time comes, just dive in and get it done!  You’ll feel accomplished and you will save money, too.