8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Change Your Own Oil

May 16th, 2023 by

There you are, socket wrench in hand, ready to save a buck and conquer the messy task of an oil change. It must be a simple job since every quick lube center advertises that they can get it done in minutes—right? What’s the big deal?

Knowing how to change your oil may seem like a rite of passage, but there are a number of good reasons (aside from laziness) why more people don’t go the DIY route. Don’t let that $20 or $30 dollars’ worth of savings sway you to the dark side. Take these potential problems into consideration before you slide under your vehicle and get your hands dirty.

1) May Void Warranty

Does changing your own oil void warranty coverage? It may, but you should read the fine print.

If you own a new(er) vehicle, the manufacturer warranty may specify that all maintenance, including oil changes, be performed by authorized service technicians or dealers. Should you choose to violate this requirement and perform your own DIY oil changes, you may very well void your warranty, which could come back to haunt you.

2) Time-Consuming

How long does it take to change your own oil? About an hour, though that depends on your skills, tools and know-how.

Changing oil for the first time will come with a fairly steep learning curve. Even with a DIY oil change kit, expect to spend the better part of a morning figuring everything out. That said, once you have the right equipment and enough experience under your belt, an oil change in your driveway may take just as long as a visit to a service center near you—though there are certainly other downsides to changing oil at home.

3) Safety Concerns

Is it dangerous to change your own oil? Yes, even with the right equipment there are definite safety risks when performing your own oil change.

Any time you’re working underneath a vehicle, you’re putting yourself in harm’s way. Jacks and ramps can snap. Hot oil can burn your skin. Hazardous materials can get into your eyes or lungs. Although rare, these risks outweigh the negligible money savings of a DIY oil change, especially if you’re not mechanically inclined.

4) High Initial Investment Cost

What do you need to change your own oil? Purchasing the right oil change materials and safety equipment can cost a few hundred dollars.

Changing motor oil requires several pieces of equipment. In addition to new drain plugs, rags, proper engine oil and quality oil filters—all of which can cost about $40 each oil change—here’s a list of basic, must-have items you’d need to change your own oil:

Car floor jack ($200+)

The tire jack in your trunk is meant to change a flat, not for oil changes. You will need a powerful hydraulic floor jack to lift the car high enough to slide underneath it. The jack should provide a lifting capacity that’s more than your vehicle’s gross weight; so, if you own a heavier vehicle, like a Hyundai Palisade or Santa Cruz, floor jacks will be more expensive.

Jack stands ($35+)

Once the vehicle is lifted, you’ll need at least a pair of jack stands to act as a “plan B.” Hopefully they’ll never need to act as your guardian angel, but if you’d like to play it safe, make sure to invest in quality stands that are made of steel, not softer aluminum. Stands should also hold at least 1 ton more than your vehicle’s weight, which will also add to your investment costs.

What about oil change ramps? Although many people have excellent results with metal or plastic car ramps, there are a number of horror stories out there that may give you pause. Jacks and jack stands are usually safer. (Just make sure you’re not using DIY oil change ramps, as these are less than reliable!)

Oil drain pan ($20)

While you may be tempted to create a homemade oil drain pan or DIY oil catch pan, there’s really no great reason to do so. They are not very convenient and can leak and dribble. A good oil drain pan costs less than $20, on average, and you’ll find it much cleaner and easier to use and store.

Drip pan or mat ($25+)

Protect your driveway or garage floor from oil stains by investing in a drip pan or mat. These also help you stay clean.

Oil change funnel ($5)

Prevent oil spills and keep your engine bay clean with a cheap oil change funnel. These are useful for discarding old motor oil, as well.

Oil storage container ($20)

Don’t let engine oil seep into soil or flow into sewer drains. Store your oil and have it disposed of properly. You can usually visit a certified service center or mechanic near you and ask them to recycle the oil.

Gloves and safety goggles ($20-$30)

They aren’t sexy, but nitrile gloves and safety glasses are must-wears when performing an oil change DIY task. Because used motor oil has absorbed billions of particulates, it is a proven carcinogen. Keep yourself protected!

Ratchet/wrench set ($35+)

A good set of ratchet or socket wrenches should be in every person’s garage or shed. You’ll need one with the right socket end to loosen and tighten your vehicle’s oil drain plug, which is not universal. Make sure you research what size (metric) plug and socket to buy.

Breaker bar ($30+)

Loosening an oil drain plug with a wrench can sometimes be difficult. A long breaker bar with the correct socket end can make this task much easier and less frustrating. You may even consider a digital torque wrench that can adjust its torque to help tighten or loosen oil plugs without stripping threads.

Many do-it-yourselfers will also buy other useful tools to make regular oil changes easier, such as:

  • Creeper (wheeled trolley for sliding under a vehicle – $50+)
  • Oil filter wrench ($5-$10)
  • Cardboard or tarp ($10+)

EZ or Fumoto oil drain valve (replaces traditional drain plug – $30+)
In all, expect to spend at least $300 up front to start performing your own oil changes at home.

5) Environmental Hazards

Where or how do you recycle old motor oil? Even a small amount of motor oil can contaminate an entire body of water, which is why you must bring it to a used oil recycling facility for proper disposal.

If you think doing your own oil change will be more convenient, remember that you’re going to have to deal with your dirty car oil. You can’t pour it down the sewer drain or toss your filter and old oil in the trash.

Collect your used oil in a clean plastic container with a secure lid—an empty motor oil container works well—and bring it to a facility or retailer that accepts recyclable waste. Many service centers and quick oil change shops near you, including Jim Burke Hyundai, will accept your old engine oil and have it recycled.

6) Quality Components

What’s the best oil filter for your vehicle? While most products offer adequate filtration and longevity, your vehicle will perform better with OEM parts rather than cheap oil filters.

Yes, aftermarket oil filters will cost a few bucks less than authentic products, but as the adage goes, “you get what you pay for.” These cheap filters are often manufactured with inferior materials and aren’t guaranteed to meet OEM standards. Many third-party oil filter companies create products that universally fit a wide range of vehicles, but they may not come out of the factory with a quality seal, which could lead to oil leaks.

Genuine oil filters are the opposite—they’re guaranteed to conform to your vehicle’s specs. And should they be defective, it may be possible to find a resolution via its warranty.

7) Skipping Routine Maintenance

When you perform an oil change at home, you may think you’re saving money, but what you’re really doing is avoiding the shop. Sure, no one likes to visit their mechanic or wait at a dealership service center, but that’s the cost of car ownership. Along with your oil change, you’re getting a thorough inspection and other regular maintenance tasks done, such as tire rotations, wheel alignments, brake checks, cabin filter replacements, AC repairs—you get the idea. By skipping your 3- or 6-month oil change at the shop, you may actually be neglecting your vehicle some much-needed TLC, which could result in more expensive repairs down the line.

Instead of worrying about long wait times for auto service, schedule an appointment early in the morning. You’ll have shorter wait times—often even less time than a DIY oil change would take—and receive a comprehensive inspection by certified experts. As an extra bonus, a qualified auto repair center will keep track of all your routine maintenance, which will help retain your vehicle’s resale value.

8) Potential Damage

Is it worth it to change your own oil considering everything that could go wrong? Unless your vehicle is about to bite dust or you’re extremely mechanically inclined, changing your car oil can oftentimes result in more expensive damage than the cost of service at a quick lube shop near you.

We’re all forgetful at times. Clumsy, even. When it comes to oil changes, you don’t want to be either, as forgetting to screw in an oil filter all the way, foregoing the replacement crush washer, or overtightening a drain plug can cause significant and very costly problems. Some examples of mistakes you don’t want to make with your DIY oil change include:

  • Using the wrong motor oil
  • Installing a defective or incorrect filter
  • Failing to remove old oil filter seals
  • Losing the oil cap
  • Over or underfilling the oil reservoir
  • Forgetting to put new oil in entirely (yikes!)
  • Reusing the same drain plug nut and washer
  • Accidentally using a double gasket when tightening the drain plug
  • Stripping drain plug threads
  • Cracking oil pan
  • Mangling or even piercing the oil filter

While some of these problems are quick fixes—a loose drain plug leaking after hitting a pothole is an easy solve, for instance—others can cause catastrophic engine damage. All that to maybe save $20 or $30? No, thank you.

Visit Jim Burke for a full-service Hyundai oil change in Birmingham. Schedule your appointment online or contact our Hyundai service center at (205) 502-2792 to set a day and time that fits into your calendar. If you require more than just an oil change near you, ask us about your auto service financing options.

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