27th October

A slick operation; how to change your oil at home

With the nights now rapidly drawing in and with the lingering local lockdowns putting paid to any potential autumnal events, many classic car owners are now beginning to think about the process of winter storage for their vehicles.  

Time in the garage need not be wasted, so below is a simple step-by-step guide to carrying out an oil change on your classic from your own garage. A reasonably quick and simple operation, it requires few tools and can take less than an hour to complete, leaving you one less task for the spring. 

To carry out a DIY oil change you will need: 

  1. A car jack suitable for the weight of your vehicle (if required) 
  2. Axle stands x4 (if required) 
  3. drain pan to contain and store used oil, ideally with mesh to catch the drain plug and washer if dropped 
  4. An oil filter, or cleaning agent for strainer, as required 
  5. A socket set and/or spanner set 
  6. A filter wrench (if required) 
  7. Something to lie on underneath the car 
  8. A replacement sump plug washer  
  9. Fresh oil  
  10. A torch 

Step One:  

Warm your engineFirstly, ensure your garage is well ventilated and that exhaust fumes can escape. Then start your car and let it idle until the water temperature begins to climb. Let the engine warm up but don’t let the car get fully hot as this will make the oil dangerously hot to handle. 

Step Two:  

On vintage cars, Land Rovers etc you may be able to access everything without jacking the car up but if that’s impossible you will need to raise the vehicle. On level ground with the handbrake on and the car in gear, jack the vehicle up one end at a time, securing each corner with an axle stand. As an extra precaution while under the car, you can leave the jack under the front of the car as a fail-safe if a stand were to fail. 

Step Three:  

Unscrew the oil filler cap on the top of the engine and then with the drip tray/container in place under the car, locate the sump plug. The contaminated oil will begin to flow from this as soon as it starts to loosen, so a pair of protective gloves is essential. 

Step Four: (for cars with an oil filter)  

Locate the oil filter on your engine. Sometimes this is under the engine near the sump, or sometimes above the engine, under the bonnet. Unscrew or unbolt the filter, but be prepared for it to be full of oil, so be ready to catch any spillage. On some cars, further disassembly of the filter assembly is required. If your vehicle is pre-war, or of a more basic mechanical nature, it may have a strainer instead of an oil filter, which will require periodic cleaning. If in doubt, please consult the manual or owners club forums for advice. 

Step Five:  

By now, the oil should have fully drained from the sump and you should be ready to re-fit the sump plug. Always fit a fresh sump plug washer to avoid any leaks, and assess the plug itself for condition as it may also need replacing. 

Tighten the plug to its first resistance, but no more at this point (see Step Seven). 

Step Six: (for cars with an oil filter) 

Fit the new oil filter to the engine, wiping a smear of oil around the rubber seal. Filters must be refitted carefully and in accordance with your car’s manual – be especially careful not to over tighten spin-on filters.   

Step Seven:  

Time to refill with fresh oil. Use the manufacturer’s recommended oil type for your car, or take competent advice about modern alternatives. Make sure you do not overfill your engine by checking the dipstick regularly during filling. New oil is hard to see on the dipstick, so take your time. If you do accidentally overfill, use the sump plug to drain off the excess before it is fully tightened.  

Step Eight:  

Finally, let the car back down to the floor, re-fit the oil filler cap and start the engine. DO NOT REV as it needs a little longer than usual to build up oil pressure and circulate the fresh oil, and while it’s running use the torch to check for leaks, especially from the filter. Allow the car to idle for a few minutes to build up some temperature, then shut it off.  

While you wait for the oil to settle for the final dipstick check, check again that there are no leaks from the filter or sump plug. 

After five minutes give the dipstick a final check to make sure you have the correct level. 

Make sure that you can safely remove the old oil from your garage and dispose of it correctly. Most local councils will have a disposal facility nearby.  

Congratulations – you have just completed your oil change. If you are considering laying your vehicle up for several months it is worth considering changing your car insurance to a “lay-up” policy* which can save you money while giving you peace of mind that your classic is protected while it is off the road.  

Will you be changing your oil this winter? Share your top tips in the comments below. 

Fuzz Townshend’s Classic Oils Ltd MD Guy Lachlan helped with this piece. His own top tip is to use your regular oil change as an opportunity to check other safety-related items under the car. “Now many of us own cars that are exempt from MOT’s, oil changes are often the only time people get underneath their cars,” he says, “so we produced a ‘While You’re Down There’ checklist that we send out with all oil deliveries which guides owners on straightforward safety checks; helping to ensure safe motoring until the next oil change.” Sound advice, and a potential life-saver – all from a simple oil change!

The information contained in this blog post is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.