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Preparing for a Road Trip: DIY Oil Change

Tonya Prater, Owner

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DIYOilChange #CollectiveBias

Preparing for a Road trip- Routine Car Maintenance
As a travel blogger and frequent road tripper, I’ve learned it’s important to take simple steps to ensure that your trip goes off without a hitch. Basic vehicle maintenance, including frequent oil changes for those of us that drive a lot, can extend the life of your engine. And you know what that means, don’t you? More road trips, of course!

preparing for a road trip with routine maintenance

Before I set out on a road trip, there are a few basic steps I take to make sure my vehicle is road trip ready. Here they are:

  1. Check the tires to make sure you don’t see signs of uneven wear and make sure the tires have sufficient tread. You can check this easily with a penny. Insert a penny into the tire’s groove with Lincoln’s head upside down, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.
  2. While checking your tires, you also want to check the tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge. Make sure you’ve not driven your car for at least three hours and check the pressure. You’ll find what the proper pressure is for your vehicle in the owner’s manual. Proper tire pressure improves the fuel function and safety.
  3. Check your brake fluid, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, motor oil, and coolant and top them off as needed.
  4. Check your belts and look for cracks or tears. You may want to schedule a consult with a mechanic.
  5. Replace your windshield wipers if necessary.
  6. Check your motor oil. If it’s dark, or it’s been awhile since your last oil change, you should consider changing it along with the air filter.

My personal vehicle nearly 180,000 miles! More often than not, if I’m traveling a long distance, I opt to rent a vehicle these days. But that doesn’t mean that I neglect my minivan. My vehicle is over ten years old, so my husband changes the oil every 3,000 miles using full synthetic motor oil. We rarely pay a serviceman to change our oil since we can save money changing it ourselves and it only takes a few minutes. And when I say “changing oil ourselves,” I mean my husband. I really have no interest in changing the oil, but now I do know how to do it, just in case I ever get the urge to perform routine maintenance on my vehicle. I’ll show you how easy it is.

First, I went to my local Walmart with my husband to buy an oil filter and oil.

Purchase supplies for a DIY oil change at Walmart

We purchased Pennzoil Platinum full synthetic motor oil. This high-quality oil has been specially designed to give your engine complete protection, including:

  • Cleaner pistons
  • Better Fuel Economy
  • Horsepower Protection
  • Unsurpassed Wear Protection to protect engines from loss of power
  • Excellent Performance in Extreme Temperatures
  • Backed by a 10 year/300,000 mile Lubrication Limited Warranty.

When changing your own oil, make sure you adhere to standard safety procedures. And you should always refer to your car’s manual before changing your oil. Your owners manual will tell you how often you need to change your oil as well as what weight and grade your vehicle requires. For example, my minivan uses 5W 30 motor oil.

Now, how to do your own oil change.

First things first. You can jack your car up, or drive it up on a ramp like we do. Place bricks or wedges behind the tires to make sure your vehicle doesn’t roll.

Jack the vehicle up or use ramps to get under the vehicle to change the oil.

Make sure your car’s engine isn’t hot- you don’t want to burn yourself.

Place a container under the oil pan to hold the used oil.

Using a socket wrench, or vice grips, loosen the bolt on the oil pan.

Draining the old oil.

Drain the oil into some type of container.

Draining the oil in to an oil pan.

When the oil has drained, replace the oil plug.

Removing the plug from the oil pan to drain oil.

Remove the oil filter. Mine is at the front of the engine and is hard to see. You may be able to remove it by twisting it with your hand, or you may need a specially designed, adjustable tool just for removing oil filters.

Remove the oil filter. You may be able to do this manually with your hand or buy a specially designed tool.

Replace the filter.

Now you’re done under the car. Stand up and open the hood if you haven’t already. Find the oil cap and remove it. It’s clearly marked.

Oil cap on the engine.

Remove the cap and begin to pour the oil into the hole. Using a funnel makes this process easier. If the oil drips onto your engine, it will smell as your engine heats up until it burns off.

Fill up the oil.
Pour until you’ve added the amount specified by your owners manual.   You can use the oil stick to double check that you’ve added enough, but be careful not to overfill.
Check the oil to make sure you have enough oil.
That’s it. Now you can clean up and put your tools away. It’s important that you don’t pour the oil out on the ground- you can get fined for that. Simply pour the oil into the empty oil container (if you used it all) and recycle it at an oil change facility that accepts oil containers or at a household waste recycling facility.

Oil that was overdue for a change.

By the looks of that oil, my minivan was way overdue for an oil change!

That was a quick run down on how to change your oil. If you want a more in depth, step-by-step version, watch this 20-minute video on how to change your own oil.

Want to learn more about Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic Oil and how easy you can get your vehicle road trip ready with a DIY oil change? Visit this page for more tips and tricks for changing your oil. How do you get your vehicle ready for road trips?


Tuesday 6th of October 2015

Sorry - should be orginal - darn auto correct. Also depending on your engines condition oil can turn dark very quickly the main thing here is that is not gritty good rule of thumb is about every 3000 miles. If you do a lot of highway driving you can stretch that to 4000 or 5000 miles easily.


Tuesday 6th of October 2015

Only thing to,say is you do want the oil hot - this way any sludge that is in the oil pan will be thinned and come out with the dirty oil. I have a 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan with 374,000 miles on it and still the orgination engine.


Monday 12th of October 2015

Wow- 374,000 miles! That's awesome. I wonder how many more I can get on my van. It still runs very well so I'm hoping at a minimum for 250,000. Keeping my fingers crossed and the oil changed. ;)

David @ Spiced

Wednesday 23rd of September 2015

Awesome! My car is due for an oil change soon, and I might just give it a shot myself this time. Thanks! #client

Shell Feis

Wednesday 23rd of September 2015

Aww man I wish I would have seen this last week before I went in for an oil change, I could have saved a lot of money! Thanks for this though, I'm saving it for the next time I need one. Protection Status
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