How to change an oil filter

Mechanic changing oil filter
Checking the level and condition of your car's engine oil should be part of your regular maintenance routine - if you're car runs out of oil, you can kiss your engine goodbye. And the same can be said for your oil filter - this designed to trap large and potentially damaging particles in the oil, and if it isn't kept clean and replaced when necessary it can get clogged, which will stop the engine from being properly lubricated and lead to major problems. So if you think you could do with changing the oil but you're not sure where to start, here's how to change an oil filter.

Check the engine oil

It’s important you check your car's engine oil at least once a month and even more frequently if you have an older vehicle - if there's something not quite right with the oil, this can be an early indication of more serious engine trouble. Engine oil should be changed roughly every 6,000 miles, but this can vary depending on the car and how much driving you do, so check your owner's manual if you're not sure. Although changing the oil is a relatively straightforward procedure, you are dismantling part of the engine and so you'll need the correct tools to do the job, so make sure you have:

  • a socket wrench
  • an oil filter wrench
  • a funnel
  • a bowl to collect the old oil
  • some rags or newspapers to clean things up.

If you're changing the filter, you'll also need a good quality replacement oil filter and the correct amount and grade of motor oil - again, check your owner’s manual for to see which type of oil is right for your engine.

Drain off the old oil

Park up on a flat level surface, put the handbrake on and leave the engine running for a few minutes to warm up the oil so it drains out smoothly. Once it's warmed up, turn off the engine, jack up the car and place it on axle stands so you can comfortably get underneath to find the sump plug. Then use the socket wrench to loosen the sump plug by turning it anti-clockwise. Once the plug is loosened, turn it slowly by hand and let the oil drain out into the bowl, and once the stream of oil slows to a drip, put the plug back in and use the wrench to turn it back clockwise to tighten.

Changing the filter

Check your owner's manual to find out where the oil filter is before loosening it with the oil filter wrench and removing it by hand. Take the new oil filter and coat it with a bit of motor oil to stop it from sticking and causing a leak, then install it and tighten by hand. You may need to tighten if fully using the wrench. Next up, get under the bonnet and fill up the engine with the required amount of fresh engine oil, using the funnel to help avoid spillage - it's important to never over or under fill with oil as both can cause engine complications. Turn on the engine and run for a couple of minutes to get the oil flowing, turn it back off and check the level on the dipstick - if it's in between the minimum and maximum, you're good to go, if not you'll have to add or drain off oil as necessary. Once this is all sorted, put the old oil in a suitable container and dispose of it safely and responsibly or recycle it at your local waste disposal centre. 

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