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Haynes’ World: how do you change your engine oil?

Change engine oil soon

Haynes' World is a regular feature that takes a look at what the staff at Haynes are doing with their cars, bikes and other vehicles. This time, Euan tries a different way of carrying out an engine oil change.

Skoda Yeti Australia

Car: Skoda Yeti

Owner: Euan Doig

I’m a bloke, and therefore genetically predisposed to quite like a gadget. And if that gadget also helps me carry out a maintenance task on my car, well two birds, one stone and all that.

I also believe that the single best task you can do for your car is to regularly change the oil and oil filter, so I try to do it every 8000km on my car.

It’s not that hard but, as you’ll know, it usually entails lifting the car and setting it on axle stands, then removing the engine undertray before undoing the sump plug, draining the oil into a container, removing the filter, then buttoning everything back up again, fitting a new filter and filling the engine with fresh oil.

Oil dipstick

However, life has been a bit frantic of late, and I wanted to do the job quicker, without all the palaver with jacks etc, so I discovered a vacuum pump that allows you to stick a hose down into the engine through the dipstick tube and suck out all the oil. “That’s the very fellow for me,” thought I.

Does a vacuum pump really work?

It’s worth noting that the vacuum pump oil method does not work for all engines, so you should check carefully before purchasing this system.

So, one Amazon purchase later, plus oil and filter, I set about the task. And quickly came to a shuddering halt. The pump I’d bought had various hoses of different diameters with it, but none of them was narrow enough to fit down the dipstick tube of my car’s 1.4 TSi engine. The ball was well and truly on the roof as far as that day’s escapades were concerned.

Oil change vacuum pump

A narrower tube turned up the next day, so I reconvened at the front end of the Yeti. First up, I ran the engine for five minutes or so, to warm the oil and make it easier to extract. Then it was a case of sticking the new tube into the engine and pumping the handle to create the vacuum in the reservoir – lo and behold, it worked! Oil started to fill the pump’s reservoir, so I left it for a while as it went about its business.

Will a vacuum pump get all the oil out?

The oil capacity of my car’s engine is 3.6 litres, and the vacuum extractor managed to get a fraction more than 3.0 litres out, so there was still some old oil in there, which was a bit disappointing.

Nevertheless, once the old oil was out, I removed the old filter and fitted the new one, then filled the engine to the top level on the dipstick with new oil. After that, it was a case of running the engine for a minute to fill the oil filter, then topping up the level on the dipstick once more.

Extraxting oil from engine with a pump

So, am I a full-on convert to the vacuum-pump oil change? Um, no. The fact that it can’t get out all the old oil is a sticking point for me, so I think I’ll only use it when I need to do a quick down-and-dirty oil change before a long trip, or if the weather is bad (I don’t have a garage).

Any other time, I reckon the extra time and effort of doing an oil change via the sump is worth it.