Today: Advice for the first-time oil-changer.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

My mom listens to your show constantly, and I have to say, it's a whole lot better than when she listens to Rush Limbaugh. Anyway, I've decided to change my own oil, as I have a part-time job delivering pizzas and I hate shelling out $50 every three months or so. I've done some research online, and what I've found is scary -- between risking getting crushed by a mislaid car jack and burnt by a hot engine, I'm ready to rethink my plan. What are your expert opinions on the safety of an oil change by a first-time do-it-yourselfer? -- Katie

TOM: Well, a lot of people learn things successfully by just jumping right in and trying them. That's how I learned to change oil, Katie.

RAY: And he's had cars fall on him many times, which explains both the extreme flatness of his forehead and his frequent lapses in judgment.

TOM: No, the lapses in judgment are what led to the flat forehead! Anyway, it's best if you can get someone to actually show you how to do an oil change, because you can get hurt under a car, Katie.

RAY: The best way to avoid having the car fall on you is to invest in a set of ramps. For 30 bucks or so, you can get a set of steel ramps, and someone can show you how to drive the front wheels up onto the ramps so the car is secure and you have room to work underneath.

TOM: Whatever you do, do NOT use the spare-tire jack that came with your car. It's flimsy, and it's not safe to work under. If you don't believe me, look at a picture of my forehead.

RAY: Once the car is on the ramps on flat ground, you need to make sure it stays there. You do that by putting the transmission in park (or in first or reverse if it's a stick-shift), applying the parking brake and chocking the rear wheels (again, someone can show you how to do this very easily).

TOM: Once you get underneath the car, someone can show you where the exhaust manifold is, so you don't touch that and burn yourself. And he or she can show you how to remove the oil filter without having a quart of oil run down your arm and into your lap, where it gets absorbed by your Jockey shorts. You'll also need to know how to properly dispose of the used oil so you don't get fined $50,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency. After you've seen it done once, up close, you'll be able to do it yourself.

RAY: Yup. It's not that hard, and I don't think it's beyond your capabilities once you get a little instruction.

TOM: I agree. If you can deliver a triple-anchovy pizza before it gets cold, you can change your own oil, Katie. Go for it.

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