Changing your car’s motor oil is a necessary task to keeping your engine in good condition, and doing that will help you get the most value out of your car loan. However, there are definitely some things that you should know before jumping in. Different engines work best with different kinds of motor oil, and your car’s oil needs may even change as it ages and the engine suffers wear. Changing your motor oil isn’t hard, but you do need to do it correctly, so here’s a quick guide.

Keep your car on the road

Choosing Your Oil: What to Know

Not every engine is made the same, nor are all motor oils exactly alike. Certain formulations of motor oil are better suited to some engines than others. In general, there are four major kinds of motor oil: conventional, full-synthetic, synthetic blend and high-mileage motor oils.

Conventional motor oil is the cheapest kind and is pretty much all-purpose. It will serve perfectly well for almost any engine as long as you remember to change your oil frequently. Full-synthetic oils, on the other hand, are specifically formulated for modern engines that use high-tech materials and alloys. Synthetic oils are technically better lubricants than conventional oil, but you wouldn’t notice much of a difference with most engines. Only buy it if you need to; it’s about three times the price of conventional oil. Synthetic blend oils are mixtures of synthetic and conventional oils and are commonly used on engines that operate under heavy loading. Finally, high-mileage oil is doped with seal conditioners that benefit older engines.

How to Change Your Car’s Oil

First, use jacks or ramps to lift your car. That’ll give you enough space to work underneath it. If you’re using jacks, make sure that you brace them and place them properly in accordance with the owner’s manual; you risk damaging it otherwise. Once the car is lifted and braced, let the engine idle for a couple of minutes and then turn it back off in order to warm up the oil so that it will flow more easily.

While it’s idling, you should set everything else up. Find the oil pan on the underside of your car, put a bucket underneath it, and lay down some newspapers or rags to catch any errant oil. Open the bonnet and find the oil cap—the topside opening of the pan—and remove the cap. Now, remove the plug on the bottom side and let the oil drain out.

Once the oil has drained, replace the plug, locate the filter assembly and take it out so that you can replace the filter. Unscrew the old filter and throw it out. Take your new filter, smear its gasket with clean oil, and put that one in. Finally, pour the new oil in and replace the cap. You’re done!

That’s all there is to changing the oil in your motor vehicle. If you’re new to car ownership, check out our other two articles on car basics: Checking the Fluid Levels and Changing a Tyre. These three tasks are the most important things you should know about how to maintain your car, and they’re all easy to do.