Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cold Weather Driveway Oil Changes


Be the weather fair or foul, doing your own oil changes can save you money to spend on worthier things -- beer and smokes, for example.

Following are some notes and hints on driveway oil change procedure.

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If you wear a wristwatch and/or a ring, take it/them off. If it's cold out and you're wearing a scarf, make sure the scarf's ends are tucked inside your buttoned jacket. No dangling draw-cords, either.

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Pictured below is almost everything you need for a driveway oil change.

I say 'almost' because I left something out. After I'd taken the picture, I had a nagging sense that I'd forgotten something. Sure enough, I'd forgotten this.

A funnel.

Ok, so now we have everything. The socket wrench is 5/8" for the 16mm hex-head drain plug on my Ford Ranger. (5/8" = 15.875mm; it fits fine.) The drain plug on your vehicle may or may not take the same size of wrench. That plier-style filter wrench is the best thing I know of for the job -- you can really 'feel' what you're doing with it. The little oiler bottle is for wetting the new filter's gasket with oil prior to installing it.

That combination drain-pan/jug is excellent, but when I first got it years ago, it had a little shortcoming; it had no vent.

With no vent, as oil would drain quickly into the pan the oil would 'pile up' at the pan's drain opening, and there'd be a series of messy little 'eruptions' as the draining oil and the air inside the jug fought with each other. There was a flat spot on the pan's moulding that looked like it had been meant to be made a vent, so I drilled there and tapped it 1/4"-20 for a screw with a gasket washer on it. The thing now has a vent, and it accepts oil smoothly with no more splashy little eruptions. Here's a close-up of the vent.

Cold Weather

The weather today is not bad for mid-October, it's about 15° C, but it's not too difficult to do an oil change outside at much lower temperatures. An oil change is just a sequence of discrete steps, no one of which takes very long at all. So, in cold weather, you can go in and warm up between each step and it's really not an ordeal. A windless, sunny day is what you want, and there are always a few of those that come by in the course of a winter. It goes like this:

1) Open hood. Pull the dipstick. Set drain pan in place. Unscrew the sump's drain plug and let the oil begin to drain. Go inside to keep warm while the oil drains completely. Take the sump's plug with you to wipe it clean.

(I didn't mention anything about jacking or ramping the vehicle. I have it easy with my Ranger because there's enough clearance that I can get at the drain plug easily. A lot of cars need to be jacked a bit or ramped.)

If I may digress here for a moment, I must point out a little detail that quite impresses me. The drain plug on the Ranger is an M14 hex washerhead bolt with a groove machined under its head to a precise depth, and an O-ring in the groove. Here's a view of it.

The O-ring is snug -- it can't fall out and get lost, and it's impossible to ruin the O-ring by over-tightening the plug; a very nice little piece of engineering, that.

Anyway, to return to the oil change sequence --

2) Reinstall the drain plug. Drag the drain pan out from under. Remove the oil filter and set it upside down on the drain pan to empty. Go inside and warm up.

3) Install the new oil filter. Go inside and warm up.

4) Pour in a jug of oil.[1] Put the dipstick back in. Start the engine and check that all is ok. Shut it down. Close the hood. Go inside and warm up.

5) Go out and gather up your gear and the old filter. You're done with the outdoor work. Emptying the drain-pan/jug into another jug for disposal can be done inside. I like to stuff the old, emptied filter with used paper towelling, so it won't drool oil in the garbage bag after I toss it.

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Driveway oil changes are a pretty good money-saver, especially if you watch out for specials on oil. This particular oil change was exceptionally inexpensive.

The oil was on for less than half price, and I had a $5.00-off coupon from the store's flyer. I got the oil and the filter for under $12.00. You can't beat that with a stick.

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[1] What I just said there might be very bad advice for owners of cars with small engines. The 3.o litre V6 in my Ranger happily takes an entire 5 litre jug of oil, even though its capacity is stated to be 4.3 litres. Smaller engines may have significantly smaller oil capacities. Consult the owner's manual; the oil capacity spec will be in there somewhere.

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