How To Change Your Oil Filter

June 25, 2019

Changing your car’s oil filter is a job that you should do ideally every time you change the motor oil. This is an important car maintenance job that you can do at home. You won’t need many tools or that much mechanical prowess to get this job done. We will break down this overview into three simple steps: Preparation and safety, changing your oil and oil filter, and disposal. Regardless of your vehicle’s make and model, this will help you get the job done. 


  • Adjustable open-ended wrench
  • Oil filter wrench (strap-style or socket-style)
  • Car jack (most cars have a kit in the trunk)
  • (Optional) lug wrench 
  • Funnel
  • Oil drain pan
  • Thick plastic container for old oil (not milk carton)
  • Gloves and paper towels
  • Motor oil and oil filter (check your owner’s manual or local auto parts store for type and volume of oil as well as size oil filter)

Preparation And Safety

It is important to be safe whenever working under your car, and for this job, you will need to access the oil pan and oil filter from the undercarriage of your car. To prepare your car, you should run the engine to warm it up. After this you will want to turn the car off and make sure the car is in park with the emergency brake engaged. You want to make sure it will not move on you. 

Oil Filter Location

Look at the undercarriage of your car and locate the oil pan and oil filter. The oil pan looks like a large rectangular bowl and the oil filter is usually a cylinder around 3” long. Check to see whether the left or right side of the car will give better access to the oil drain plug and filter. You can always consult with your manual if you have trouble finding the exact location of the oil filter, as it can vary from car to car.

Place the car jack on the frame of the car near the front wheel as if to change the wheel. Whenever working under a vehicle make sure to place an object that is taller than yourself underneath the frame of the car near where you are working. This is in case the car falls. Avoid using material such as bricks that can break upon impact if the car falls on them. Finally, clean the area where you’re working to avoid getting dirt in the engine.

How To Use An Oil Filter Wrench

Using an oil filter wrench might be necessary during the process of changing your oil filter. This is because the filter casing can become so tight that a specified wrench is needed to remove it.

There are several variations of oil filter wrenches - the common styles are strap-style filter wrenches that fit several sizes of filters and adjust to a casing. Socket-style wrenches are built to fit a specific size and type of filter casing. 

  • To use a strap-style wrench, you will pass the fabric strap over the filter and pull it tight. To increase the pressure, lift the handle and the oil filter should loosen.
  • To use a socket-style wrench, pass the ring of the wrench over the oil filter and lift the handle until you feel a firm hold. The further you lift the handle, the more the oil filter will unthread.

Strap-Style Oil Filter Wrench
Strap-Style Oil Filter Wrench

How To Remove An Oil Filter

Once you are under your car, you can try first to loosen the oil filter by hand. If it is too tight you will need to use an oil filter wrench as specified above. Once loose, be ready to place the oil drain pan underneath the filter and the oil drain plug. 

  1. Remove the filter and place it in the oil drain pan to drain. Loosen and remove the oil drain plug with the adjustable wrench and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Place the plug off to the side. 
  2. Now go up to the engine of your car and remove the oil-filler cap. Once all the old oil is drained, replace the oil drain plug and get your new oil filter ready to attach. 

Installing An Oil Filter

Now that you have the old oil filter and oil-filler cap removed to drain the old oil, it’s time to install a new filter and fill your car with fresh oil.

  1. Lubricate the new oil filter gasket that comes with the new filter, with some new motor oil and tighten the new filter in place. Be sure the thread is aligned (you shouldn’t feel resistance when tightening). Tighten the filter slightly more than hand tight. 
  2. Now, you can add the new motor oil to your car. Use the funnel to help pour the oil in the oil-filler port. Once you’ve added the proper amount of oil replace the cap and start your car to cycle the motor oil in your engine.
  3. Turn your car off and check the oil level. First wipe the dipstick clean, replace it and then pull the dipstick out again to look at where the oil level falls. If you need to add more oil, do so. 

At this point you’ve changed your motor oil and your oil filter successfully.

Installing An Oil Filter tips

Proper Clean Up And Disposal

If you didn’t already lower your car off the jack (and replaced your wheel from under the frame), do that now. At this point your car is up and running and you’re left with an old oil, filter, and dirty paper towels. 

You can discard the paper towels and gloves in the trash, but you must properly recycle the oil. We recommend pouring the oil into an empty plastic container with thick walls. Containers such as milk cartons can be dissolved by the oil and leak, so try to avoid those. Empty laundry detergent containers made from HDPE plastic are a good choice as containers. The empty containers of your new motor oil work too. 

You can choose to drain the old filter for a day and then toss it in the trash or you can bring both the old oil and filter to an oil recycling station. Most auto parts stores will take your old oil and filters. 

You’ve now safely changed your motor oil and oil filter and disposed of the waste properly. Feel proud of your mechanical expertise! Keeping up on routine maintenance like this will save you time and money in the long run. You can Find The Right Oil Filter For Your Ride by shopping here on our online store. We make it easy to plug in your VIN or make and model to find the right parts for you!

More DIY Vehicle Maintenance Info

How To Change The Alternator In Your Car 
How To Change The Brakes On Your Car