Car Care: Get the good oil to avoid car trouble
Tips to ensure car care at home doesn't prove costly
A mate texted to ask if I would mind dropping around to his house to look at a problem he had with his 15-year-old car.
He had carried out a much-needed, and well overdue, oil change in his driveway after earlier checking the engine oil level and finding it hardly registered a reading on the dipstick.
After completing the job he patted himself on the back for a job well done and the savings he had made by not taking the car to the local garage. That was until he started the engine and tried to move the car. The automatic transmission lacked any response at all, when either drive or reverse gears were selected.
Instead of draining the engine oil, he had drained the automatic fluid by mistake. Thankfully, it turned out to be a quick fix. We managed to pour the auto fluid back into the transmission via the dipstick tube.
Job all done then: an owner feeling a little embarrassed, but close the bonnet and walk away?
Well, sort of, but not really. Here are tips that home mechanics may find helpful.
Tip 1: Find out where exactly the various fill and drain points are, as well as having a suitable and clean drain pan to catch the old oil before the job is started. My mate is very tidy and organised, so the transmission fluid was drained into a clean plastic drain pan. Pouring contaminated fluid back into the transmission could have led to further issues.
Tip 2: When the engine drain plug is removed, many of them will have a soft crushable washer attached that should never be reused. Using the old washer can often lead to unwanted oil leaks. Replacing it after an oil change means draining the oil again which is a task that should be avoided.
Tip 3: Think carefully about the type of new oil to be purchased. Not the specific brand; it’s more the grade of oil that’s important. It’s never a good idea to buy engine oil based on price alone. Individual manufacturers have their own recommendations. For older, high-mileage vehicles the recommended grade of oil may change, so it’s best to seek advice from somebody within the trade first, even if it means paying a little more.
Tip 4: It’s not a good idea to change the engine oil only and ignore the oil filter. It’s really a job only half-done especially if it’s been a while since the last service. Once again, buying an oil filter on price alone can have its downsides. The removal of an oil filter can be done with a decent pair of poly grips or similar handyman’s tool, but the retightening of a new filter should only be done with a specific tool or using a very firm hand grip only. The use of poly grips or the like can often damage the filter and create a leak.
Tip 5: Allow the engine to idle until the dash warning light goes out (a sign that oil pressure has been restored) once the new oil has been added.
Tip 6: While your head is under the bonnet check other levels such as windscreen washer reservoir, cooling system, power steering and brake fluid.
Tip 7: Dispose of the old oil and filter in an environmentally friendly way and take all the necessary safety precautions, especially when you are working under a raised vehicle.
Tip 8: If you’re not sure or confident, save yourself the stress and hassle and take the car to your local garage.