Oil Change

It seems that every time I take my car to the shop to have the oil changed, something else breaks. I'm really tired of the mechanics "finding" problems with my car, so I decided take action. I got all of the tools that I would need to change my oil. I stopped at the local Pep Boys and picked up some ramps, a drain pan, a funnel, 12 quarts of oil, a bucket (for containing the oil), and some shop rags. I also picked up some windshield wiper fluid with the Rain-X stuff in it. My coworker mentioned that the stuff was great for keeping the windshield clean.

The Tools

The Patient

The Mechanic

The Assistant

I started by reviewing my Haynes Repair Manual for the Alero. I got it earlier this year when I was having trouble with the Rack & Pinion. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to do simple maintenance on their own car. It has lots of pictures to help out, and the instructions are very clear. It helped me to understand the problem with my rack & pinion, and what the right solution was. It also has great instructions for doing regular maintenance. After reviewing the oil change section, I was ready to go to it.

The Patient is Prepped

Surgery begins

I got the car up on the ramps and popped open the hood. Every other time I did this was totally a bluff. I had no idea what was going on under the hood. I studied the Haynes pictures and noted where everything was: coolant, oil, brake fluid, battery, air filter, etc. I decided to start with something simple: the windshield wiper fluid. Nothing technical here, just had to flip open the cap and poor in the new fluid. The instructions on the fluid said that diluting it was unnecessary.

Topping off the windshield wiper fluid

Now it was time to get down to the dirty business of draining the oil. I had done this with my dad when I was younger, and the one memory I took away was that it was critical not to lose the oil plug in the drain pan. If you did, you bought yourself some filthy arms and some quality time mucking around in some warm oil. I grabbed my trusty ratcheting wrench set, and crawled underneath. To my dismay, the oil plug was a 5/8" head, and my biggest ratcheting wrench was a 9/16ths. Oh well, I switched over to my regular wrenches and tried the 5/8ths. This is where the first sign of trouble showed up. The wrench just wouldn't grip the head of the plug. The corners of the plug had been sheared a bit, and the wrench just couldn't find any purchase. Fortunately, my neighbor had an adjustable wrench which was able to tighten down to the right size. I successfully removed the plug (and didn't lose it in the pan, thank you very much), and allowed the oil to drain.

Wrestling with the oil plug

Successful drainage

The POS oil plug

Once I had the plug out and took a look, it was clear that it had taken some heavy damage. One edge had been crushed in, and all of the corners were heavily sheared. I'm not sure if I can find a replacement, but I'll definitely look into it. I'm not sure how the crushed edge could have happened. Possibly from a rock flying up underneath. The shearing was most likely from the torque guns the mechanics use at the shop. Those are pretty high powered guns that don't mess around.

Once I had the oil drained, I transferred it from the pan to the bucket and set it in the garage. I need to find a lid for the bucket for when I take it to the shop for recycling. Otherwise, I might end up with a horrible mess. After replacing the oil plug, I added the required 4 quarts of oil. I let the engine run for a little bit, and topped it up.

Gulp, gulp, gulp

Corbin ponders 16 years of waiting for the keys

Changing the oil was a pretty easy excerise. The oil was just under $2 a quart, so it is a little bit of a savings over taking it to a quick-change place that usually runs around $20. Of couse, that's forgetting the $60 I spent on the ramps, rags, bucket, drain pan, funnel, and other stuff. Plus, I'm getting more familiar with the different parts of my car. The more I know, the more comfortable I'll feel doing simple maintenance like this. I'll also be better prepared for when I really do need to see a mechanic. At least I'll have a foggy idea of what he is talking about.


Jade Mason