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How to change your car’s engine oil and filter

About the author

Rob Keenan is the interim digital editor of Haynes.com
He runs a Mk2 Ford Focus ST and an ageing Mercedes SLK55
Find him on Twitter @zorba_t_greek

when engine oil change

Wondering when to change your car's engine oil and filter? Perhaps you're trying to find the right engine oil for your car or are wondering where the engine oil dipstick is. Haynes has all the answers.

When should I change my engine oil and filter?

The quality of car engine oil has improved no end over the years, to the point where long-life, fully synthetic oil can last for as long as two years or 24,000 miles (or more) before it needs to be replaced.

However, this is primarily designed to give fleet managers of company cars an easier time and here at Haynes we recommend changing your car's oil at least every year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Don't forget to change your engine oil filter at the same time - it's cheap to buy and performs the vital task of collecting contaminants that would otherwise cause your engine to wear prematurely.

Find out how an engine's oil filter works, what sort of tools you need and how much an engine oil and filter change is likely to cost

How engine oil grades work

Your car's engine needs a particular grade of oil if it's to be able to perform well in the coldest winter temperatures and on the hottest summer day. Your Haynes manual and your car's handbook will tell you which grade your car needs.

Walk into any car accessories shop, though, and you'll be presented with a dazzling array of different brands and price ranges, not to mention oil grades or viscosities. What do they all mean?

Well, multigrade oils come with a label such as 5W-40, where the '5W' part is called the low-temperature 'winter' (W) test (which dictates how runny the oil is in cold weather) and the '40' part shows how thick the oil is at high temperatures. Find out lots more in the link below.

Make sure you know what you're buying when shopping for engine oil - learn about oil can labelling, synthetic versus mineral oil and viscosity ratings

How an engine oil filter works

There are generally two types of engine oil filter: the traditional metal canister type that tends to screw onto the underside of the engine block and paper elements that fit within a cylindrical plastic housing that is typically accessed from under the bonnet.

Again, your Haynes manual will tell you which type to buy - just make sure you have the correct filter before you drain the engine oil or you could be left stranded at home before you realise you've got the wrong one.

The screw-on canisters can usually be removed by hand, but if whoever fitted it last time used a tool to tighten it (which is wrong), you may need the help of a filter wrench. It's much easier to undo the plastic housing to remove a paper filter.

Learn more about changing an oil filter

Watch this video to see how to change your engine oil