During the first decade of owning my very first new auto, I relied on having my engine oil changed by the auto dealer at every 3000 mile interval. However, I have slipped on many occasions and learned that I could still have the oil change done several thousand miles even after the recommended miles had been exceeded. Although not recommended, I'll admit to have not changed my oil even after 6000 miles.
For as far back as I can recall, the price for changing oil was only 21.99. Several years later, it crawled up as much as 34.99. I really didn't mind the cost since they did include the service of ensuring all fluids were topped to the maximum level. Of course, later I realized not to bet that they would always be consistent. After the last oil change done, they forgot or intentionally did not refill my power steering fluid. Needless to say, I never returned for another oil change. After that day, I've learned and managed to change my own engine oil and top all my fluids.
I usually need about 4 bottles of 5W-30 oil for just $1.75 each. Then get an available oil filter for about $9 that's compatible for my car. The auto parts store typically will have a book along the same isle that lists the right oil filter and other parts for my car for a particular brand. Having this already written down onto my Palm Smartphone always comes in handy.
Waiting for all the oil to pour out is what takes the longest. But for the most part, it's fairly simple to perform. Here's how I changed my engine oil for maintenance:
1. Got into appropriate clothing that were okay for catching oil stains.
2. Backed my car out and positioned my Wheel Ramps.
3. Aligned the ramps carefully for the left and right front wheels.
4. Drove up the ramp carefully until I was positioned over the center of the ramps.
5. Turned off the engine and set the Emergency Brakes.
6. Removed the Oil Cap and waited until the Engine was cool.
7. Prepared the Oil Drain pan and the Socket Wrench, and the correct Socket for Drain plug (17mm).
8. Slid underneath the engine from the front towards the Oil Tank area.
9. Placed the Oil Drain pan directly underneath the drain plug on the oil tank.
10. Unscrewed the Drain plug carefully (after cooling down) - sometimes I'll be lucky to catch the drain plug; other times it falls into the Drain pan. Using towel can be helpful. Used a breaker bar if the drain plug is too tight.
11. Slid back out and waited for enough time to completely drain out the oil into the drain pan.
12. Prepared the new Oil Filter and the Oil Filter Wrench and slid underneath the engine from the front again.
13. Reached in above the oil tank to wrap the Oil Filter wrench around the old Oil Filter.
14. Turned the Oil Filter Wrench counter-clockwise and unscrewed the old Oil Filter out by hand.
15. Removed the old Oil Filter, applied oil on rubber edges of New Oil Filter and screwed it back in by hand. Didn't over-tighten to prevent any damage to the seal.
16. Returned the Oil Drain Plug and tightened it back in securely. (25 lbs. ft/ 300 lbs. inch)
17. Slid back out and began to add the new 3 bottles of Oil from the top using a Funnel. Checked the oil guage and added more to reach closer to the maximum level line.
18. Returned the Oil Cap and twisted it back on securely.
19. Closed the hood and drove off the Wheel Ramps in reverse.
20. Wrote down the mileage from the dashboard for my records.
Advisory Update: December 2013
Many malicious mechanics target customers that they presume have no knowledge in mechanic repair and maintenance.
Last Friday, I was over at the house of a relative who discovered that their oil filter was put on loosely by an auto shop that provides Oil Change services for $24. As a result of such sabotage, the vehicle gradually lost a lot of engine oil during travel which caused the engine to overheat and damage the head gasket. Cylinder misfires, oil leaks, and coolant leaks followed.
The quote for replacing their head gasket: $1300.
Advisory Update: July 2014
According to the Honda Civic Operator Manual, using 5w30 Engine Oil is advisable for cold to warm weather climates while 10w30 Engine Oil is advisable for warm to hot weather climates.
Without paying close attention, I realized I had purchased and filled my engine with 10w40 Engine Oil. But rather than flushing out the wrong oil to waste, I figured that the thicker oil could better protect my engine. And since it seemed to start perfectly fine and run without any issues, I decided to leave the 10w40 Engine Oil alone in my vehicle.
Well, after 5,000 miles I learned that 10w40 works well only until it begins to thicken even more after thousands of miles causing your car to have difficulty starting. Until ultimately, I needed to pump the accelerator to help turn the engine.
However, now that I've flushed it all out and put in the lightest 5w30 Engine Oil, the vehicle now starts like a charm.