Most drivers are accustomed to several oil changes per year, going off the popular suggestion to get one every 3000 to 5000 miles. The cost of one oil change likely will average around $50 depending on where you go. That amount may not break the bank, but it does add up over time, and it can add up to hundreds each year. Fortunately, changing your own oil at home is easy - and you can instead be saving those hundreds each year.

Even if you've never popped open the hood of your car, an oil change is relatively simple to do. First, let's start with some recommended tools, which should cost significantly less than a $30 oil change at your local gas station or Jiffy Lube:
  • Funnel (this could even be an empty water bottle with a cut-off end)
  • Latex gloves
  • Wrench
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil drain pan
The last two can be found at any auto parts store and at many dealerships. Of course, like anything, you can always upgrade. For example, for my Mustang I have an oil pan pickup that's specifically designed for my car. For most cars though, a regular one will do.

In addition to these, consult your vehicle's owner's manual to find the type and amount of oil that works best with the car, such as whether or not synthetic oil is necessary. Getting the new oil into the car can be messy and result in excess oil, so be sure to purchase a quart or two extra than the recommended amount.

Some vehicles may require a jack or jack stands to access the area to change the oil. If so, it's possible to rent one, but they are generally worth the long-term investment and can be had for less than $50 on Amazon. It's worthwhile for anyone who recognizes the numerous benefits of changing your own oil. Now it's time to get started.

Getting Started

To start, let the car idle and sit for a few minutes so the engine and oil become warm (but not too hot). If the car was driven within the last hour, wait at least 30 minutes. Once the car is off, use a jack, if necessary, to raise the car for better access as the exhaust system cools. If your car has an undercover, remove it. Now, use your owner's manual or eyesight to identify the oil filter and drain plug. The filter will likely be a bottle-mount screw-on.

Draining the Old Oil

Now it's time to drain the old oil. Place the drain pan under the drain plug, at an angle that's offset to the side by several inches to reduce a messy stream. Put the gloves on and remove the oil filler cap with a common wrench or drive ratchet. Remove the plug and anticipate a steady stream of oil, which will be warm and flowing rapidly.

If the engine is hot, then this could severely burn your skin, so it's a good thing to let the exhaust system cool before this step.

Adding the New Oil

While the old oil drains, clean the oil drain plug with some warm water. Check your drain plug to see if it has a permanent O-ring or a washer. If the washer needs to be replaced, make sure the old one isn't still stuck on the engine oil pan. Once the oil is done draining, add the washer, if necessary, and reinsert the drain plug. Ensure the plug is fully tightened.

Keep in mind, some cars share the drain plug and oil filter, where you will put in the new oil. If this is not the case, however, then proceed to remove the oil filter, often alongside the oil drain plug. This stage is the messiest, so position the drain pain appropriately (and anticipate cleaning up a mess). Have rags at your immediate disposal.

After draining the oil remnants from the filter, install the new oil filter by fitting it with the oil filter gasket, while hand-tightening the filter for security. When complete, dispose of any old oil or oil filters at a recycling center.

It's as simple as that. In addition to saving hundreds per year, you can become better acquainted with your vehicle by changing its oil. This can prepare you for other potential repairs in the future.

Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington