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How To Change An Oil Filter: 11 Easy Steps

Follow These 11 Easy Steps to Make Changing Your Oil Filter A Breeze

how to change an oil filter

Replacing your oil filter should be part of your routine vehicle maintenance and is a relatively simple process you can add to your regular oil changes. We’ve put together these 11 easy-to-follow steps for how to change an oil filter to get you started. Oil filters help your engine run smoothly. Once you purchase one of the best oil filters, we recommend changing your oil filter when you change your oil. This helps simplify the process and ensures your engine’s oil system is in top working order.

How To Change An Oil Filter in 11 Easy Steps

1. Locate the oil drain plug and put a drain pan underneath it. Make sure your car is parked on a level surface with the parking brake set, and the engine is cool.

2. Unscrew the oil fill cap and let the oil drain. Make sure that you quickly remove your hand as you are removing the cap because the oil will immediately start flowing. To protect your hands from the oil, you can wear disposable gloves.

3. Once the oil is drained, put the cap back, making sure that you don’t cross-thread it. Tighten the plug by hand or use a wrench to snug it up. Never over-tighten the plug.

4. Locate the oil filter. If you are unsure of the location, check your owner’s manual.

5. Move the oil drain pan underneath the filter.

6. Grab and twist the filter to remove. If you see that the filter is stuck, use a key such as an oil filter wrench or even a simple pipe wrench to unscrew it. Remember that it will unscrew only if you turn it counterclockwise. Additional oil will leak out when the filter comes off so be ready for this.

7. Wipe off the filter mounting surface using a clean cloth.

8. Before installing the new filter, lubricate the gasket or rubber o-ring by putting a little fresh motor oil around it. This helps reduce friction and ensures the new filter fits snugly without overtightening it.

9. Use your hand to screw the filter on and tighten it until it makes contact with the engine block. Do NOT use a wrench to tighten it further. It should feel snug but not tight; make sure you don’t overtighten it.

10. Take a clean funnel and pour in the appropriate amount of fresh oil into the engine.

11. Check the level of the oil and over the next few days, also check the filter and the drain plug for any leaks.

Change Your Oil Filter Routinely

Oil filters strain out any contaminants and small particles that might be in the engine oil, preventing these contaminants from circling through the engine. If your oil filtration system is dirty or worn out, you could cause damage to your engine. Like air filters, fuel filters, and cabin air filters, oil filters need to be changed regularly if you want the best performance from your vehicle.

Luckily, with a little practice, the right tools, and these 11 easy steps, changing your oil filter can be as easy as changing your oil.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is an oil filter located?

The oil filter location will vary from car to car, but typically can be found on the underside of your engine. It may be shielded by an undertray or other covering that you may need to remove to access the oil filter. Refer to your owner’s manual for exact information on your car’s oil filter location.

How often should I change the oil filter?

Generally, it is recommended to change your oil filter with every oil change or every three to six months. Keep in mind that how frequently you change your oil filter will depend on the type of oil and filter that you use as well. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended service intervals.

Can you just change an oil filter?

Yes, you can just change your oil filter without having to drain and change your oil.

How do you know when your oil filter needs to be changed?

It can be difficult to know when an oil filter is failing, which is one reason why it is recommended to replace your oil filter regularly before you run into an issue. However, if your engine starts to act up, overheats, or has low oil pressure or you notice oil leaks, it is likely time to change your oil filter.

How do I remove a stuck oil filter?

If your old oil filter is stuck, you may need to purchase a special tool to unscrew it. Oil filters may be hard to remove if they have been overtightened or if their gasket was not properly lubricated on install.

About Kristen Arendt

Kristen is a writer and editor based in Colorado. She came to motorsports by way of her husband's passion for track days, autocross, and fast cars and is now the proud co-driver of two E36 325s and an overland-in-the-making Lexus GX470. She is a volunteer driving instructor with the BMW CCA Rocky Mountain Chapter and enjoys any event that involves getting behind the wheel or navigating from the passenger's seat.