Sunday, August 2, 2009

Oil Change

I finally did it. Some 34 years in the making ... I finally changed the oil in my car.

It all started on Friday when I was running an errand. The oil light in my car came on. If I remember one thing my father told me about cars is that it is NOT good when the oil light comes on in your car. So I pulled back into work and parked it. I pulled the dipstick out and there was not a drop of oil on it; not good at all.

My good friend Alan (Big Al, as I call him) drove me up to AutoZone to get some more oil. There was a special for five quarts of oil and filter for $12. Sweet. When I got back to work, I make the (il)logical conclusion that if there was no oil on the dipstick, well, then the car must have no oil in it at all (of course!). So, I proceeded to pour a full 4.5 quarts of oil in my engine. Turns out that is too much. In fact, approximately 2.5 quarts too much. I called Herb, our maintenance guy, who helped me out.

Alan and I got to talking. Could I change my own oil? "I do it all the time," Alan said. Well then, I must do it also! No more $45 bucks at the dealership. No, sir. Saturday morning, I took my happy little butt down to Wal-Mart (where they have the cheapest everything, including synthetic oil) and got some (you guessed it) synthetic oil and a filter. I already had a filter from Friday's escapade but I was worried that I didn't pick out the right one. I used Wal-mart's handy computer to help me select the right one and off I went.

Noel had to be sold on the whole idea of Doug changing the oil on anything other than the lawnmower. After 24 hours of cajoling, I as jacking up the car.

Challenge #1. Where is the drain plug on the oil pan? You would think it would be on the bottom. Oh no, it's not on the bottom. It faces the rear of the car.
Challenge #2. How do I get it off? Not one of my metric sockets fit the darn thing. It's a Volkswagen for crying out loud. To make matters worse, my set only goes up to 17mm.
Phone call #1 to Alan. Do you know the socket size? In my defense, Alan used to own a VW Jetta, it wasn't like I expected him to know the correct socket for every make/model out there. He recommended a standard socket. At that point, I realized I have a whole slew of standards sockets on my workbench. Turns out it's a 3/4 inch.
Challenge #3. Once I caught all of the oil in my oil basin (the one I use to drain the oil out of my lawnmower), I had to get the oil filter off. No small task, mind you. I am not sure what kind of arm strength the dude at the VW dealership has, but his name must be Hanz or Franz. Phonecall #2 to Alan. It took lots of pulling, grunting and grip(p)ing to get it off. And, once I broke the seal, oil spilled out all over it making it nearly impossible to grip.

From there it was smooth sailing. The new filter I bought (a Fram) has a rubberized coating on the bottom that makes it easy to grip (you go, Fram!). That was easy to put on. One funnel and four quarts later, my Jetta was back in action. All in 50 minutes. I hope to cut that time in half during the next go around. We'll see in about 5,000 miles.

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