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Slick Situation: Choosing and Changing Motor Oil

Motor oil lubricates your engine and helps to keep it running at the proper temperature. Absent oil, an engine’s moving parts would grind against one another, literally causing a catastrophic engine meltdown.

Dirty oil contributes to engine sludge and doesn’t lubricate parts as well as clean, fresh oil. That’s why routine oil changes are so important. If you want a surefire way to ruin your engine well before it’s normal time, try neglecting the oil change.

Here are the basics on checking your oil level and changing your engine oil when it’s time.

How do I know when I need to add oil?

You’ll achieve the most reliable oil level readings by letting your car cool down for an hour after it has been running. This lets the oil drain out of the engine and back into the oil pan. Checking the oil too soon might yield a false low reading.

  • Park on a flat, level surface and secure your car by using the parking brake.
  • Open the hood and find the oil dipstick. Pull it all the way out of its lodging and wipe it clean. Reinsert the dipstick all the way back in, then pull it out all the way again and hold it parallel to the ground. Check the oil level indicated on the dipstick via markings (dimpled, etched or notched) to ensure the oil is showing in the proper oil-level range.
  • If the level is too low, add oil with a funnel. Locate and remove the oil filler cap and fill to the proper level and screw the cap back on. Only add one quart at a time because excess oil can do nearly as much damage as too little oil. Also, make sure you use the correct oil grade (i.e., 5W-30 or 10W-30) as specified in your owner’s manual. This is especially critical if you own a hybrid vehicle.
  • Examine oil quality. Clean oil is golden or almost clear; dirty oil might be black or brown. Dark oil doesn’t necessarily mean it needs changing. Consider it a signal to check when you last changed the oil.
  • Red flag: Milky or foamy oil means it might have become contaminated with coolant. Immediately bring your vehicle to your auto technician to determine what’s causing the problem.
  • Also, occasionally glance at the surface (driveway, garage floor, street) under where you usually park to monitor whether oil is leaking.

What parts do I need to replace my oil?

If you want to leave the local lube shop to the “amateurs” and opt to turn your garage into an auto maintenance facility, we applaud you. Here’s what you’ll need to change your oil:

  • Oil filter wrench set
  • Oil catch/recycle container
  • Funnel
  • A new oil filter
  • 4-5 quarts of new oil (Check your owner’s manual because vehicles take up to 15 quarts!)
  • Clean rags
  • Car jack
  • Jack stands
  • Safety glasses
  • Mechanics work gloves
  • Hand cleaner

Key DIY tips

And once you’re fully equipped, here are a few flash-styled steps for changing your oil, culled from the detailed oil change directions listed on our NAPA Know How Blog:

  1. Park your car on a level surface and apply parking brake.
  2. Jack your car up and place it on jack stands.
  3. Locate the oil drain plug and place the drain pan below.
  4. Unscrew the plug by hand.
  5. Drain all oil.
  6. Replace oil plug.
  7. Remove existing oil filter. Tip: Be sure the oil filter gasket is removed, too.
  8. Lubricate the new filter and screw into place by hand.
  9. Clean the oil filter neck and pour in the new oil using a funnel.
  10. Check the oil level.
  11. Run the engine for a few minutes to make sure there are no leaks. Check the oil level again.
  12. Dispose of the used oil properly.

Depending on your vehicle’s age and other considerations, you might want to weigh the benefits of using conventional vs. synthetic oil or high-mileage oil.

What other repairs or maintenance should I do at the same time?

When you’re changing your oil, you may also want to:

  • Check your fluid levels, including brake, transmission, coolant, power steering, and windshield washer fluid.
  • Check your tire pressure.
  • Rotate your tires.
  • Inspect your brakes.
  • Check your wiper blades.
  • Lubricate your door hinges.
  • Check your headlights, taillights and brake lights.

Remember, with Glenbrook Auto Parts in Glenview, you can save time by ordering your parts online and picking them up in the store. We’ll have them ready and waiting for you.

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