7 Mistakes You Can Make When Changing Your Oil

7 Mistakes You Can Make When Changing Your Oil

Car owners eager to take maintenance like oil changes into their own hands fall into common traps that can lead to bigger problems. Here’s a detailed look at the mistakes you might make when changing your oil and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Not Warming Up the Engine Before Draining Oil

Cold oil won’t drain completely, Run your engine for a few minutes before you start the oil change. When the engine starts, it warms the oil, making it thinner and easier to drain completely.

Mistake 2: Using Old Seals and Washers

Reusing old crushed washers or seals on the drain plug or oil filter can lead to leaks. These components are designed for a single use. Always replace them with new ones during each oil change to ensure a proper seal and prevent leaks.

Mistake 3: Forgetting to Replace the Oil Cap or Drain Plug

It sounds simple, but it’s easy to forget to replace the oil cap or tighten the drain plug in the flurry of an oil change. Leaving the oil cap off can lead to a messy engine bay and reduced oil pressure, while a loose drain plug can result in a slow leak or a sudden loss of oil. Double check that the oil cap or drain plug is securely in place before starting your vehicle.

Mistake 4: Improperly Installing or Not Changing the Oil Filter

A common mistake is not tightening the oil filter enough, leading to leaks, and if you overtight the oil filter, it can damage the seal or the filter itself. Ensure the filter is fitted snugly; hand-tight with an additional quarter turn is usually sufficient. Also, always use a new filter with each oil change to prevent contaminants from old oil from circulating back into your engine.

Mistake 5: Stripping the Drain Plug Threads

The oil drain plug should be handled with care. Use a torque wrench, if possible, adhering to the manufacturer’s specifications for tightening. If the plug or the threads are damaged, replace them immediately to avoid leaks.

Mistake 6: Using the Wrong Type of Oil

Different engines require specific types of oil for optimal performance and longevity. Using the wrong oil can lead to inadequate lubrication, increased wear, and potentially severe engine damage. Always refer to your vehicle’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended oil type, whether synthetic, conventional, or a specific viscosity grade. If in doubt, you can consult with a mechanic.

Mistake 7: Incorrect Oil Levels – Overfilling or Underfilling

The right oil level is crucial for your engine’s health. Overfilling can cause pressure buildup, leading to leaks and even damage critical components. Underfilling can cause your engine won’t be lubricated properly, increasing friction and wear. To avoid these issues, use the dipstick to check oil levels accurately. Add oil gradually and recheck the level multiple times during the filling process to ensure you’re within the safe operating range.

What Not to Do When Changing Oil

Changing your car’s oil might seem straightforward, but certain missteps can make this routine maintenance a headache. Here’s what you definitely should avoid:

  • Do not ignore the manufacturer’s specifications: Always use the oil and replacement parts specified by the car manufacturer.
  • Avoid using the wrong tools: Employing incorrect or inappropriate tools can cause damage to components like the oil pan or the filter.
  • Never skip pre-checks: Before starting, ensure the engine is warm but not hot to ensure complete drainage of old oil, and check that you have all the necessary tools and parts.

Is It Easy to Mess Up an Oil Change?

Yes, it can be surprisingly easy to mess up an oil change without the right knowledge and preparation. Common errors like choosing the wrong oil, over-tightening the drain plug, or improperly installing the oil filter can lead to bigger problems.

How Do I Not Make a Mess When Changing Oil?

Keeping things clean during an oil change is all about preparation:

  • Use a large drain pan: Make sure your drain pan is large enough to catch all the oil without spilling.
  • Have rags ready: Keep plenty of old rags or towels handy to manage any drips or spills quickly.
  • Employ funnel use: Always use a funnel when pouring new oil to prevent spills.


Avoid these common mistakes to ensure your oil change enhances your vehicle’s performance rather than diminishing it. Remember, when you’re not sure about anything like which oil you should use, consult with a professional. Proper maintenance will extend the life of your car and keep it running smoothly.

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