17

Sep

Changing oil in your car – My experience to help others.


Changing oil in your car – My experience to help others.

Changing oil in your car – My experience to help others. Loading

Doing an oil change on your car can save you money. However, there are pitfalls and the experience I share with you here can save you some headaches.

Introduction

I have been living in the US close to 20 years and have recently been temporarily residing in the UK since the pandemic started early this year. I purchased a vehicle (Ford Fusion 1.6, 2008) since it was cheaper than renting. If you are keen to find out how I carried out the oil change, so you can at least take away a few lessons before you embark on this project, just jump to the part ‘Doing the oil change’. Otherwise, you can listen to my chatter on how I came to start this project.

I was shocked at how much the garages wanted for changing the oil and replacing the oil filter. The typical cost in the UK is anywhere between £85 to £150 which was a whopping $110 – $193! I just could not believe it and nobody complained. I was used to an oil change for no more than $40 in the US and by reputable dealers. It didn’t matter what type of car you had, the oil change was typically no more than $65.

I could not explain why in UK they would charge double the cost in the US, then I started thinking about having a franchise like Jiffy Lube in the US for oil changes while you wait. Why didn’t the Brits have something similar? I believe, it may have originated from people’s perception of cars and how the mechanics have gotten away by somewhat over exaggerated efforts and costs. I know this, because I visited several places to get an oil change. In one garage, they quoted me an absurdly high cost of an oil filter, £20 where I found the same online for £5. It is probably for this reason, why I chose to do all my oil changes by myself in my youthful days living in the UK. I remember having all the equipment, ie. jack, tools, oil filter wrench etc. However, those items have long been gone or lost, so I needed to purchase new ones.

I initially did a budgeting of the costs associated with purchasing the materials to do the oil change and figured it would pay for itself in 2 oil changes. Knowing that oil changes can happen twice yearly, I thought it made common sense to do it myself. After all, I did much of my car repairs by myself and saved a lot of money in the process. I remember an amusing story long time ago when I was visiting my sisters place and was about to head back to my home 200 miles away. This was a Sunday and I had work the following day. So Murphy’s law decided to take hold of me on that day and the clutch failed on my car!

I was determined not to let it defeat me, so I ended up going to the local junk yard and found the exact clutch for my car. Naturally, after some hard labor I was able to get the old clutch plate out and fit this one. I still remember this story because the odds were so much against me but I prevailed. I have always lived by this rule even to this day, never to give up and if you put your mind to something, nothing can defeat you. So you can imagine the next set of tricks I had for my car.

I ended up with all the tools in order to do the oil change and I did shop around for the best price especially the tools and the jack.

Doing the oil change

If anything could go wrong with an oil change, believe me, it happened with me right here! This is why I think anyone who want’s to do a oil change will find valuable information here. So what can possibly go wrong with an oil change and adding a filter, a lot, read on…

Removing the sump plug

As you can guess, the oil gets circulated around the engine to keep it lubricated and then ends up at the bottom of the engine called the sump. The oil filter resides close to the pump so that it can take out debris that gets collected over time to reduce engine wear.

I jacked up the car and then tried unscrewing the sump plug which is an hexagonal nut sitting at the bottom of the sump box (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1 sump box with plugs

You will see that I have two sump plugs shown. This because I may have picked up a larger socket wrench to undo the plug, so I ordered a new one which sits next to the old one in Fig. 1. I had a hard time taking this plug off which I eventually did. The trick to removing it was having the engine warm which made it easier to be removed.

An unfortunate incident happened while I was in the midst of changing the oil (a few days) and waiting for the new sump plug to be delivered. I took a trip with my car and found to my horror that engine oil was draining out of the bonnet (hood for US readers). I had forgotten to replace the engine oil cap while I was working to take the sump plug off and oil had seeped out. I must have done about 60 miles but nothing had happened during the journey. I held my breath and measured the oil on the dipstick and I had a big sigh of relief when I found the oil was still half way on the markers. This meant that the oil had not drained completely but only a little. I kept thinking that the engineers at Ford must have understood this problem and put some safeguards in place. But I was happy to have dodged a bullet, however more tribulations to follow, please read on.

Removing the oil filter

I put a bucket under the car to collect the oil once the sump plug was removed. The next step would be to remove the oil filter by hand and of course it would not budge. Fortunately, I was prepared myself for this very problem by purchasing an oil filter remover (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Oil filter remover that I purchased online.

I purchased this item based on all the good reviews but unfortunately, it did not work for me. The contraption would not grip the oil filter well enough and this was partly due to the awkward position of the oil filter. There were not much sufficient space around it to help me tighten the device to the oil filter to get a good grip so it kept slipping. I decided to buy another and found the one shown in Fig. 3 and so had to wait another day for it to be delivered.

Fig. 3 A chain type oil filter remover using your socket wrench

This chain removal tool did the job. It is a great tool and one that I had previously used in my youthful days. As you use the wrench to undo the oil filter, it grips more to the canister and the space restriction I had was not an issue due to the long arm of the socket.

The next step was to put some oil on my finger and lined up the seal with a film of oil before putting the thing on. I also made sure to check that there were no debris around the lop where the new oil filter was going to sit (Figs. 4).

Fig. 4 Oil filter housing and the new filter

I put on the new oil filter and hand tightened it as in the instruction and put a small mat (Fig. 5) under the car directly below it. The purpose was to check overnight if any oil had leaked, of course making sure that the previous oil had drained completely. I then proceeded to fill the engine with the new car oil bit by bit and left it overnight. I hit another snag as I was measuring the oil level in the dipstick, I was reading it wrong!

Fig. 5 Mat to see if any oil was leaking from the sump plug and oil filter housing.

A dipstick I thought to myself, but the truth is that the design of the dipstick was poor. Fig. 6 will show you what the dipstick looks like.

Fig. 6 Oil dipstick of my car.

The blob that you see in the bottom was confused with the oil level that I was measuring. I had mistakenly put more oil than necessary and the oil was coming up above the top notch. It wasn’t very visible as I was expecting some ‘dirty’ looking oil ie picking up some of the old oil to provide the mark. It was only when I went through it with my finger that I realized that there was new oil but it just could not be seen.

Meanwhile, the mat that I had placed the previous day (Fig. 5) showed some residue of oil coming out of the oil filter housing. I decided to tighten the oil filter more with my hand and turned the engine over. I saw the engine oil light had immediately come and couldn’t tell why, however, I did not run the engine too long. I checked to see what was going on under the engine and lo and behold, there was a huge splurge of oil that had come out through the oil filter housing (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7 Oil leak upon starting the engine.

You can clearly see that the source of the leak was in the oil filter housing and I did check the sump plug where it was dry.

At this stage many would have just given up since there was a lot going on in the head regarding this leak. Bad oil filter, bad housing? who knows but the best thing to do was to sort it out one bit at a time. I have reordered another oil filter and oil.

Success!

I got the the new oil filter and more oil for the continuation of this project which I thought was not going to take up much of my time. I ordered online, so no need for a visit to the local car shop ie. Halfords, europarts and they came to be a bit cheaper than buying from the shops.

I undid the previous Bosch oil filter and needed the chain removal tool to budge it free. I checked the housing as best as I could for any deformities, debris or anything else that may have caused this oil leak. You can see in Fig. 8 of the Bosch oil filter and the housing. There was nothing obvious that I could find that would indicate where the leak had occurred. The Bosch filter looked to be fine as you can see from the figure.

I was careful to wipe clean the oil filter housing and put a bit more oil on the gasket of the new oil filter (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8 Removal of the Bosch filter and pic of the filter housing after the leak.

The new oil filter that I ordered was longer in length almost twice as long as the Bosch filter. Intuition would tell me that the longer one would probably be better by virtue of it’s size. The Bosch brand is well known, so why the manufacturers would choose to shorten this. I can do this research for another time, right now, I need to press on. It’s amazing how much we rely on the humble car and take it for granted. It is only when you are without one, that you truly appreciate it’s necessity to everyday life.

Before putting on the new filter, I used my finger to go around the smooth flange circular area of the housing. This is to make sure there were no kinks or any abnormalities that I could feel with my finger. Something my 65 year old mentor had taught me during my summer break from school many years ago. He was one of the best mechanics to have ever come across.

I could not find anything obvious, so I decided to try my luck again and put the new filter on. The new oil filter ready to go into the housing is shown in Fig. 9

Fig. 9 The new oil filter to replace the Bosch

Once I started to screw the oil filter to the housing by hand, I immediately noticed the greater number of revolutions this went through compared to the Bosch. Could this have been the issue, where the previous filter did not properly. After all, I did see a dribble of oil come out of the housing before this leak happened.

I topped up with more oil and measured the dipstick periodically to make sure that I was measuring the right oil level. You will note that I was not reading the dipstick properly and overfilled the oil which may also have contributed to the leak ie. higher pressure.

I was careful to read the correct oil level this time on the dipstick (Fig. 10). You will see a slither of oil appearing on the dipstick on the photo on the right hand side.

Fig. 10 Oil dispstick showing oil and no oil inside the engine.

I kept topping up the oil and measuring the oil on the dipstick until it came about half way. I proceeded to start the engine and waited in bated breath. Success! No oil leakage and no red ‘oil’ indicator on the dashboard. I let the engine run to the running temperature and put my fingers around the edge of the oil filter and the sump plug just to make sure there were no obvious leaks. Everything seemed fine, but I needed to be absolutely sure.

I waited for the engine oil to settle down so I can take another measurement of the oil level. I was surprised to see that the oil had dropped a fair bit on the dipstick which may have been the ‘spread’ of the oil through the engine. Anyways, I didn’t want to conclude anything at this stage and decided to plough on. I topped up with more oil until it was halfway on the dipstick (Fig. 11)

Fig. 11 Dipstick showing half engine oil, barely visible due to the clean oil.

I ran the engine again and check the oil level. I was now ready for the drive. Since I am an eternal optimist and a pessimist and you never know when Murphy’s law was going to take hold, I decided to drive a short walkable distance… just in case. The car drove just fine and upon returning I checked the underside for any leaks and felt comfortable that my job was now truly done!

Summary

If anything could go wrong with an oil change, I think it must have happened to me but I plugged and prevailed.

I think the post will be useful to newcomers who want’s to do an oil change themselves. After all, it is the most significant maintenance routine of a car that will prolong the car’s life.

The fact that the cost in UK is over twice that in US, means there is definitely a business opportunity here. I was even thinking I could be a mobile mechanic and go around people’s home and do the oil change right in their driveway since I have the tools and anything else I need, I can always get online. However, with all my other work schedules such as managing my world beating drawing app Paintology and doing photo realistic drawings, I think I have to give it a miss.

Maybe you want to start something!

Update: September 28th, 2020

I thought I would post my post-oil change report to complete this blog post. It turned out that when I drove the car a second time to the shops and returned home, I saw burning, smelly fumes coming out of the engine. I was horrified that I may have caused untold damage to the engine and I would need to fork out for a new car. I kept calm and decided to let the engine cool before opening up the hood (bonnet) to see what was going on.

The engine oil by now must have settled down and I would have been able to take an accurate measurement of the engine oil. I looked at the oil on the dipstick and the engine oil was still clean but oddly enough the level and exceeded the top notch. I immediately realized why this was so. My driveway had a slight inclination and when the car was pointed towards my house, the rear was lower than the front. The measurement that I made on the dipstick while doing the oil change was actually higher than what was showing on the dipstick. When the car was facing the other way, naturally, the oil on the pan would be higher due to the gradient and would show oil more high up in the dipstick. Perhaps it was the reason why manufacturers have two notches in the dipstick so that you can keep the oil midway, compensating for the slopes in the driveway.

Anyway, I was relieved that the oil was clean and high up in the dipstick, which suggested that it wasn’t burning oil. Also while driving the temperature on my dashboard was rock solid.

I wanted to digress for one minute and tell you the time when the temperature need on the gauge was going all over the place and I think I did see some smoke. This is a natural reaction of the engine to burn more oil when it is not cooled enough sufficiently. As it turned out, the coolant had dropped and it was a hot summer which may have contributed to that. It is times like this when you worry if there were any irreparable damage done to the engine. Luckily, I spotted this right away and took action. Another concern where I became lazy in checking my engine was that my bonnet or hood would not latch open. A quick research online gave me a few ideas and asked my nephew to unlatch the hood open lever from inside while I pressed down on the bonnet. Voila! that worked to my amazement. I decided to spray a good dose of WD40 in that area and that seemed to do the trick.

Going back to my issue with the burning oil, I looked at the back of the engine and saw some oil dislodged on parts of the engine. I was almost certain that those residual oil was a result of my trip 60 miles with the oil cap open, see my previous notes. After all, I did see some oil that was lodged in the bonnet seeping out from the front. I used a long wooden stick with a kitchen paper towels tied to the end and wiped off the excess oil. This managed to do the trick!

I had an MOT that was due and I was again dreading that they may find something in the car. It turned out that the car passed with flying colors.

In most cases, I would not write a blog such as this but I felt that I was justified this time. If there ever was a time when anything or everything could go wrong with an oil change, it surely happened to me! I felt compelled to write about my experiences to help others.

I do hope it helps!



Leave a Reply