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What Exactly Is An Oil Change

Published on May 14, 2012 under Humble Mechanic

I talk all the time about changing engine oil. I have said that it is the one, if not THE, most important thing you can do to keep your car healthy. I went back and checked all the “Behind The Wrench” interviews I have done. Everyone said that changing engine oil was the most important thing for your car.

What exactly is an oil change? The obvious answer is “changing the oil” DUH! But oil changes are more than that. When I do an oil change on a customer’s car, it goes something like this.

  1. Take a quick spin around the lot. That give me a chance to listen for any weird noises.
  2. Check all the lights on the car~I don’t want my customers getting a ticket
  3. Check the wipers and make sure they clear properly.
  4. Look under the hood, here I am checking for any damage to belts, hoses, vacuum lines. I also look for any coolant or oil leaks.
  5. Check the oil level. I want to know if it is low before I start the service.
  6. This next step varies from car to car. Some I change the filter first, other I change it last. On my Passat, I do the filter first. On the other 1.8t engines I do the filter after. It doesn’t really matter.
  7. Next I drain the engine oil. I try to let it drain for about 10 minutes, or until the oil is dripping out. The more oil that comes out, the more through of an oil change it is.
  8. While the oil is draining, I take a look at the rest of the under car. Checking tire pressures, looking for anything that might be an issue, including brakes.
  9. Install and torque the drain plug. To be honest, I don’t put a torque wrench on the drain plug in the oil pan anymore. I have a really good idea of what 30nm is. 😉
  10. After lowering the car down, I fill the engine with oil, checking the level twice.
  11. Next I top off all the fluids, do another quick check under the hood, and wrap it up.

As you can see, there is a lot more to an oil change, than just draining and filling engine oil. At my shop we call an oil change a LOF/S. That is a Lube, Oil, Filter, with Synthetic. The lube is generally topping off all the fluids. We have went over the oil. Then of course the Filter. The filter is a very important as well. It is the filter that catches all the little partials, and junk floating around in your oil. Remember that your oil carries debris and the filter holds it. You would not all that junk to get caught in an oil passage, and cause engine damage.

Clean engine oil is so so critical to a vehicle! I don’t really care if you do your own, or bring it to the shop. Just get your oil changed. I am actually due for an oil change on my car. When I do it, I will shoot a little video for you guys. You can see exactly what I am talking about.

UPDATE~ I am traveling for training this week. I leave on Wednesday and will not be home until Saturday. That should not affect any posts with week, but traveling might throw a wrench in things. I will be learning about our new diagnostic software. I will give you a full report when I get back. I hope I can find some cool stuff to show you while I am there. Remember you can always connect with my on Facebook, Twitter, and email.

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13 Comments

  1. Charles

    @Michael,
    At my dealer it is cheaper to use synthetic. We buy it in bulk and can sell it at a better price to our customers. All VWs take synthetic anyway so it works out great. Well, all VWs but the Routan, but I don’t consider it a VW. 😉

  2. Garrett Craven

    Do you know of any cleaning methods or additives to do or add to remove build up or sludge? I heard a rumor about dodge running the engine dry for a few seconds during an oil change for my old truck. Sounds scary to me lol i know they have a flush process for cooling systems etc with certain chemicals or whatever just curious if there is one for internal engine.

    1. Joe

      @ Garrett: I’ve never tried this but a guy I work with told me that a mechanic friend of his drains out a quart of oil and tops it back off with automatic transmission fluid. Drives it for a couple days then changes the oil, says it works good. I personally can’t see the harm in trying it if your engine is sludged up really bad. ATF is high in detergency and is a lubricant. I wouldn’t run the engine under high stress conditions (don’t hammer it), I think it would be more important to just get if up to full operating temp. And if it works it might save you from needing an engine in the future. I personally used Gunk engine flush years ago, then after the fact read an article that said how this type of product destroys the lubricating properties in the engine oil and could cause damage.

  3. Alex@iHeartEuro

    Great article and I wish more mechanics did what you do… I have heard quite a few horror stories from friends who got their oil changes at dealerships (not VW though… mostly Japanese) and found out the mechanic either forgot to put oil or forgot to torque the drain plug… so most of the oil leaked out within few weeks… anyways, I do my own oil changes. My ’95 VW usually gets full synthetic Castrol and I check all my lights, fluids, and a few other things at least twice a month 😉

  4. Joe

    We had a car in for body repairs, the owner requested an oil change too. The engine sound like it had a fairly loud rod bearing knock. I pulled the car back out and told the bosses to tell the owner no on the oil change. It has a knock and I’m not going to chance the shop for getting blamed on causing it. (CYA)

    I did an oil change on our receptionists car who worked for the Lincoln dealer next to us before she worked for us. She claimed she had them change the oil in her Topaz every 3000 miles. I remove the drain plug and not one drop of oil came out. I checked the drain hole and it was plugged with sludge, of coarse I showed the receptionist before using a screw driver to open the hole up. I put 5W-30 in it and told her to run the car up the interstate a few time this week then we need to change the oil when it’s hot and she’s put about 100 miles on the car or otherwise she end up blowing the engine up. Of coarse she didn’t listen and I think it was within a month I came to work and her car was sitting there in the driveway as if a tow truck dropped in off. Sure enough the engine was junk. All because she didn’t want to pay for a second oil change at 100 miles. So it cost her about 1200.00 to put a used engine in it….

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