Changing Oil Like a Boss!

Posted on July 7, 2013

As is the case every 3 months or 3,000 miles I recently found myself needing an oil change for my truck. RAMantha, as she is affectionately known (I thought of RAMuel L. Jackson too late) deserves only the best treatment. That is why my first call was to the local Dodge dealership to find out the price of an oil change. I was quoted $95. Yamahama! “Heck no” was my reaction. I’m not paying $95 for an oil change when a Jiffy Lube can have it done in 15 minutes (for a lot less money too).

My plan wasn’t to take my truck to a Jiffy Lube, but to do the oil change myself. After all, if Jiffy Lube can do it in 15 minutes, my lack of experience or general automotive knowledge couldn’t add more than what, a minute and 47 seconds right? As it turns out, there are a few things the Jiffy Lube employees have at their disposal that I do not. Namely, highly specialized training, all of the necessary tools, and a heaping helping of witchcraft.

Based upon my ill-placed self-confidence and inability to fathom what I was getting myself into, I decided to do it myself. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see the experience was priceless. I learned a lot about mechanics, my truck, and, about myself really. Like for example, what is my mental breaking point, and how many creative alternates for curse words can I come up with?

IMG_2801Before Picture: Look at the optimism…how cute and misguided – I wish I could tell past-self to PAY THE DEALER!

Karina for the record thought the $95 was worth it to have the dealership change the oil. This sentiment was roughly translated by my ego to sound something like “you can’t do it!” That sure sounded like a challenge to me. Besides, I asked myself “what’s the worst that could happen?” Fate, clearly not understanding the concept of a rhetorical question, said “oh, THIS!”

As you will see I took the “indirect” route to a successful oil change. I wanted to pass on my lessons learned to those of you contemplating changing your own oil. (Please note, this oil change method comes in very handy if your car is lacking the rustic smell of burning oil or if you are wanting to add “create diversionary oil slick” to your repertoire of Mario Kart vehicular weapons) So here is a step by step process to follow:

1. Unplug oil pan and let drain (onto fingers if possible) – This step can be particularly messy if you are not careful. But not to worry: if you are like me and accidentally get a few quarts of oil on your arm, it will wash off in just a few days.

2. Replace Oil plug

3. Unscrew Oil Filter – This step seems deceptively simple for two reasons. First, you may think to your self “self, I just drained all of the oil from my vehicle so the messy part is over”. Alas, this is not the case. The oil filter (commonly known as the practical joker of the engine compartment) has kept a store of dirty engine oil that it dumps all over your hand once you unscrew it.

Oh, but you only get that surprise if you manage to unscrew the filter. This was the first time I had attempted the change on my truck and the previous owner had apparently welded the oil filter on. I used every method I could think of (including my bare hands, an oil filter wrench, poking a screwdriver through the filter in an attempt to gain leverage, a c-clamp, and finally a belt.

Helpful tip: Have your spouse check in periodically and shout words of encouragement like “I told you you should have taken it to the dealer” and “you’d better not track oil on my floor”. You can channel the resulting feelings of shame and rage into strength!

4. After hours of futile attempts, call friends who actually know what they are doing to help – It turns out I wasn’t just weak and clueless. Oh no, the filter was putting up quite a fight. How bad? It took 2 FARMERS to finally force the oil filter in submission. I thought the only thing that would take 2 Farmers to solve was world peace. Thanks Dusty and Dan!


Those are the legs of sweet victory

5. Put on new filter making sure to use some of the old oil to lube the gasket on the new filter as well as the gasket you accidentally left on the engine from the old filter.

6. Fill the engine with new oil

7. Cry manly tears of agonizing frustration when the oil apocalypse occurs underneath your vehicle.

GUSHERIt was like this, only upside down-y-er

It turns out that leaving something as small as a tiny washer where it doesn’t belong forces your vehicle to violently expel all of the oil you had just lovingly given it. Uggh.

On the bright side, I did make it into the Guinness Book of Records!

Oil Spill RecordsLargest Oil Spills in History

8. Go back to the store for more oil and a new, less oily filter

9. Complete steps 1 through 6 again (this time omitting #’s 4 & 5)

10. Fill engine with new oil and bask in pride as everything works as planned

11. Begin undertaking massive cleanup operation

Slide1After Picture: Finally done!

After analyzing my experience, a few things pop out to me:

  • It is frankly amazing that Jiffy Lube can go through all of this in 15 minutes. They must have several people around to help cleanup after the Gusher step
  • Was it worth it? Based solely on this first attempt, the answer is a resounding “no”! Financially I did not come out ahead, as you can see in the comparison chart below:

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 5.11.46 PM

Results? Inconclusive.

Despite the experience and cost of this attempt. I do plan on changing the oil in my truck again next time. Of course I am going to be prepared. All I need now is to grab a few tools to make the process even easier. Namely a new oil wrench and eye of newt.

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