There is very real danger anytime you go underneath a lifted vehicle. Be certain to have the proper equipment to support the car and only lift the vehicle on a level surface. Blocks and jack stands are the best means of assuring your safety. Always follow the vehicle and lifting equipment manuals to ensure proper lifting of your vehicle.
An oil change is one of the easiest maintenance items you can do on your car, and requires very few tools.
Here are the items you’ll need:
- 4-5 quarts of oil for a normal passenger car (check your owner’s manual for proper weight).
- Oil filter (the parts store will give you the proper one for your car).
- Oil filter wrench (available at auto parts stores for around $5).
- Adjustable wrench or socket set.
- Car ramps or jack and jack stands.
- Tub to catch old oil.
- Tarp to protect ground from oil splashes.
- Empty gallon jug to put old oil in for recycling.
The first thing you need to do is to familiarize yourself with where everything is on the engine. The oil filter is usually on the side of the motor, the oil filler cap is always on top of the motor, and the drain plug is always on the very bottom of the motor.
After learning where everything is, it’s time to get to work! Start by either driving the front end of the car up on ramps or jacking it up and put it on jack stands. Be sure to block the back wheels and set the parking brake so the car won’t roll off the supports.
Once the car is well supported, spread out the tarp underneath and set your tools and tub under the car where they can be easily reached.
- Using the filter wrench, remove the filter using caution to have the pan ready to catch the oil that will spill out while removing it. Turn the filter with the openings facing down in the pan so the filter drains out. Tip: Have a Ziploc bag handy to put the dirty filter into for recycling.
- Replace the old filter with the new filter making sure to coat the gasket on the filter with a little bit of oil. Once the filter is hand-tight, use the filter wrench and turn the filter 1/2 to 1 more turn. Do not over tighten!
- Once the filter is all set, locate and remove the oil drain plug; once again, making sure the tub is right below the drain plug. Let the oil drain until it’s just a small drip and replace the plug. Do not over tighten the plug, just make it very snug.
- Clean up under the car…you’re all done under there!
- Add new motor oil to the oil filler (4 quarts to start with)
- Remove car from ramps or jack stands. Do NOT start car until fresh oil is in the engine!
- Once the car is level, let the car run for 3-4 minutes and shut off. Check the oil level using the dipstick. Add 5th quart of oil if needed. Close hood and take a drive! You’ve done an oil change, and saved your self at least $15!
We strongly suggest putting old oil in a jug and take it, and the filter to a recycling center for proper handling.
Items you will need:
2) Distributor cap and rotor
3) Sparkplug wires (optional, but recommended)
4) Dielectric grease (usually comes with good grade wires)
Tools you will need:
1) Ratchet and small socket set
2) Screwdrivers (Phillips and flat blade)
3) Sparkplug socket (typically 5/8 for American cars and 13/16 for foreign)
4) Sparkplug gapping tool
5) Sparkplug wire puller (optional, but strongly recommended if not replacing the wires)
6) Socket swivel for hard to reach areas (optional for most cars)
How to get the auto parts:
To get the proper parts there are a few items you need to know: car make, car model, car year, engine size, if the car has air conditioning, and if the car has power steering.
The car’s make, model, and year can be found on your insurance card or registration card. The car’s engine size can usually be found by lifting the hood and looking around the engine compartment or underside of the hood for a sticker. The engine size may be listed in cubic inches (i.e. 350ci) or in liters (i.e. 5.0L). It’s easy to find out if the car has air conditioning, just look on the heater console on the dashboard. Power steering is usually standard on every car now, if in doubt, the auto parts clerk should know (he most likely won’t even ask you this).
Before shopping for parts you need to determine what parts you’ll need. Every car has sparkplugs (except diesels). Most cars have a distributor cap and rotor. Some newer cars now have electronic coil packs, which take the place of the cap and rotor. The electronic coil packs do not need replacing unless broken. Every car has spark plug wires. It is recommended that all these things be replaced every 20,000 miles or every 2 years for maximum performance and fuel economy. If you’re unsure about if you have a cap and rotor on your car, just ask the auto parts store, the answer should be in their database.
Shopping for parts is easy, and huge price differences can usually be found among different stores. It pays to make some comparative phone calls before going to a store. When making the calls, always remember to get the employee’s name, the price of each part, and if they have it in stock. Write all the information down, because after calling a few stores it’s hard to keep track of everything. Many stores offer better prices over the phone than in person to entice you to come in. It’s also a good idea to write down the brand name of the parts when getting prices. Don’t skimp on the parts…buy the better grade. Tune-up parts are very important to how smooth your car accelerates and runs. The better grade parts last much longer and are usually custom tailored to your specific car. Spark plug wires usually carry the biggest price differences among grades, but it’s well worth the added expense (cheap wires can cause power loss, wet weather roughness and stalling, and radio interference).
When picking up your parts be sure to have the clerk write down the proper sparkplug gap for your car.
It is important to follow these directions in order and completely. Failure to do so may cause your car to not run or run roughly. NEVER touch the sparkplug wires while the car is running, electrocution may occur!
Replacing the sparkplugs:
1) Starting at one corner of the engine, remove the sparkplug wire by grabbing the rubber boot that covers the sparkplug and pulling straight towards you. The boot may be very tight and could require the use of a puller or pliers if replacing the wires. It is strongly recommended you use a wire puller if reusing the wires.
2) Using the proper size socket, remove the plug. Take note of the angle of the socket, this is very important if there is limited sight of the plug.
3) Use your gapping tool and set the new sparkplug gap to the setting your auto store gave you (using your old plugs to find out proper gap will not work. The electrode wears away with use, making the gap different).
4) Put in the new plug at the same angle it came out. It is a good idea to start it by hand using just the socket and a small extension (this avoids stripping the threads in the engine). Once the plug is hand-tight put the ratchet on the socket and snug it down well (do not over-tighten!). Make sure to keep the socket at the proper angle or plug damage may occur while tightening.
5) Replace the wire temporarily if replacing them. If not replacing the wires, make sure you put a fresh dab of dielectric grease in the end of the wire then push the wire boot on as far as it will go, or until you hear a click.
6) Repeat the previous five steps for the remaining sparkplugs.
Replacing the distributor cap:
1) Locate the distributor cap by following the wires from the sparkplugs to the other end. The wires will end at the distributor cap.
2) Remove the screws or clips attaching the cap to the base. Do not remove the wires at this point, doing so may cause the firing order of the car to get out of order.
3) Once the cap is removed, the rotor will be exposed. There are generally two types of rotors, a slip on type and a screw on type. Remove the rotor by loosening the screws, or pulling the rotor sharply towards yourself. Some rotors may have a set screw around the base, which must be removed first.
4) Replace the old rotor with the new one. It should go on only one way. If it seems like it’s not going back on right, try rotating it180 degrees and re-installing it. Do not force the rotor on the spindle. Double check the new one with the old one to make sure they’re the same, if still not going on properly.
5) Install the new distributor cap. On the underside lip of the cap will be a notch, line up the notch with the notch on the base. If the cap rocks or feels at all loose, it is not installed properly. Remove the cap and re-install after turning it 180 degrees. NOTE- some General Motors distributor caps will have a coil pack, which will need to be transferred to the new cap. To do this, remove the plug(s) from the side of the cap, remove the 2 or 4 small screws on top of the cap, lift off the cap, remove the wires and metal connectors from their seats and lift out the coil. Reverse this process to install into the new cap making sure the pick-up and spring are in place when putting coil in.
6) Transfer the sparkplug wires from the old cap to the new one by locating the number 1 stamped on the top of both caps. Transfer that wire first. Continue transferring the wires in a clockwise direction to ensure that they are kept in order. If your cap has a wire in the center, transfer that now too.
7) Double check all wires are installed tightly and start car. If the car runs a little roughly it is probably time for new wires too. If the car runs very rough or won’t run at all make sure all the wires are connected, and that the wire order didn’t get confused.
Replacing the sparkplug wires:
1) Start by removing all the wires from the box and lining them up from short to long.
2) Remove the wire from the sparkplug farthest from the distributor cap. It may be necessary to remove wire-holding clips while doing so.
3) Replace the wire with the longest new wire, making certain to put a dab of dielectric grease inside the sparkplug end of the wire and route the wire in a manner that it will not rub on anything along the way. Set the wire into the holding clips to secure it. Make sure to leave a little slack at both ends to accommodate normal engine movements. If you don’t hear and audible click when installing the wire ends, it most likely isn’t inserted far enough.
4) Repeat this process for the remaining wires.
5) After replacing the sparkplug wires you may have 1 or 2 short wires left over. These are for the coil (the wire in the center of the distributor cap). Choose the wire that most closely resembles the original you removed. It is not uncommon to have a wire leftover.
6) Pat yourself on the back…you have just saved your self $100 or more! As a bonus you should have a smoother running car and should get better gas mileage, saving even more money!
This project deals with automotive radiators, which reach temperatures of 200+degrees. There is a very real risk of serious burns. Please use caution when opening any radiator. Only work on vehicles that have NOT been run in 12 hours or more.
Changing your coolant is very quick and can save you a lot of money in repairs. It is recommended that you change your antifreeze every year to prevent corrosion of the coolant system. This project requires few or no tools and can be completed in 10 minutes. Here’s the items you’ll need:
- Large tub or pan to catch old coolant
- 1-2 gallons of antifreeze-coolant
- Pair of slip-lock pliers
- Distilled water (1-2 gallons)
- Tarp to catch spills
For this project we recommend having a garden hose handy to dilute any spills which may occur. Animals and children are attracted to antifreeze because of its sweet taste. Antifreeze is toxic if ingested.
Start by covering the ground below the vehicle with a tarp to protect the surface you’re working on. Next, remove the radiator cap slowly, letting any pressure escape before lifting cap off.
Locate the drain plug on the bottom or lower edge of the radiator and remove it making sure the tub is below the plug to catch the coolant which will drain out.
When all the coolant is drained you may use a radiator flush product if you choose. Follow the product’s directions for proper cleaning of the coolant system. If not using a flush product go on to the next step.
Re-install the radiator drain plug.
Locate the overflow bottle which is usually located on the side-wall of the engine compartment. Using a pair of pliers, slide the clamp up the hose and remove the hose allowing the coolant to drain from the bottle to the pan. When bottle is empty, re-attach hose and move clamp back to the end.
Following the directions on the antifreeze bottle for your temperature zone; add the proper amount of coolant and distilled water (most areas a 60/40 or 70/30 antifreeze/water mix is typical), fill the radiator to the top. Be sure to also fill the overflow bottle to the "cold" line mark on the bottle with the mixture. DO NOT use straight antifreeze in your system, 100% antifreeze will cause corrosion and shorten your vehicle’s life.
Start car and run for 2-3 minutes, no longer, to eliminate air pockets. Turn car off and check the coolant level, add more coolant if needed. Replace radiator cap and close hood…you’re done!
Sometimes air pockets get trapped in the system. These can cause a vehicle to run hotter and possibly overheat. To remove air pockets we recommend following this procedure: The following day, or after driving the car for at least 20 minutes; making sure the car engine is cold again, remove the radiator cap and let the pressure escape. Add antifreeze if needed, also be sure to check the overflow bottle too. You may need to repeat this 1-2 more times to eliminate all the air.
Be sure to recycle your old antifreeze!
Routine Maintanance Checklist
This simple checklist reflects our experience in maintaining vehicles. This list may not agree with your owner’s manual. We strongly suggest referring to your owner’s manual for additional service schedules for your car. Every vehicle requires different checks at different times. These are basic items which can be checked by you:
Check every 2 weeks or 500 miles:
- Oil level
- Coolant level
- Top-off windshield washer fluid
- Transmission fluid level (if automatic transmission)
- Tire pressure
Check every month or 1000 miles:
- Check for uneven tire wear
- Air filter
- Time to change the oil?
- All lights for blown bulbs
Check every 2 months or 2000 miles:
- Time to rotate tires?
- Add fuel injector or carb cleaner to gas tank
- Oil door hinges