How to do your own oil changes

Oil ChangeWhenever I get an idea for a post, I write it down on a list I keep. Usually I’m pretty good about writing about ideas not that long after I make a note of them, but this one I wrote down back in February and I’m just getting to it now. (Oops!) I guess better late than never!

Anyway, in February, I wrote a post called Things I never pay for. Number 6 on that list was oil changes. Reader Melinda responded in the comments that she’d like to see a blog post on how to do it, and I thought that would be a perfect DIY thing to share with you. Like I said in the post, if I can change my own oil, then anyone can. (While I heart The ’Bee, I am not at all a “car person.”)

So, for anyone who’s ever been scared to try it themselves, here is the super-simple way my dad taught me to change your own oil. It saves you a few bucks, avoids a trip to the shop, and makes you feel kinda proud at your handymanship. :)

Em’s Dad’s Super-Simple Oil Change Tips

1. Get your sh*** together (as my Dad would say). You don’t want to be fumbling for a drip pan when there’s oil running down onto your driveway, so make sure everything’s all ready and within reach.

What you need?

  • Oil (obviously)
  • An oil filter
  • A socket or wrench that fits your drain plug
  • A filter wrench
  • A funnel
  • A pan to catch the oil
  • Rags

You’ll want to check your car’s manual (or the dealership) to find out what kind of oil is recommended for your car. You don’t want to use something just because it’s super cheap because cheaper isn’t always the better buy in the long run.

2. Find the drain plug and put the catch pan underneath. It will be on the bottom of the oil pan, probably near the back of the engine. Again, consult your manual or your dealership if you’re totally lost.

Once you’ve found it, put the drip pan underneath so that when the oil drains, it doesn’t stain your driveway (or run off into the grass). If anything spills or your pan placement is a little off at first, mop up the oil with a rag.

3. Remove the drain plug. Turn it counter-clockwise (“lefty loosey!”) using the socket or wrench. Let the oil drip into the pan, When it’s done, put the plug bag on (tight, but not so tight you’ll never get it off again).

4. Find the filter on your car. Another tricky bit you may need some help with the first time around. Depending on your car, it could be pretty much anywhere. One way to make it easier? Take a look at the filter you were told to buy for your make and model, then look for something that looks like that!

5. Remove the filter. Some filters have a grip coating on them, others don’t. If yours doesn’t (or if the filter is on there really tight), you’ll need to use the filter wrench for this. Be careful not to spill any oil that might still be in the filter! (Did I mention you should wear old clothes when you’re doing this? Because you totally should, especially the first time! And always keep those rags handy.)

Make sure the rubber ring (the “gasket”) on the filter comes off with the canister. If it gets stuck on the car and you don’t remove it, the new filter you put on won’t seal right, and you’ll get oil leaks.

6. Put a little oil on (and in) the new filter, then put it on. Dip your finger in the new oil you’ve bought and rub a little bit on the gasket of the new filter. This makes it easier to twist it onto the car.

Next, pour new oil in the new filter to about the halfway point, then twist the new filter onto your car. A good rule of thumb to make sure it’s on tight (but not too tight!) is to twist until the gasket touches the car, then do one more twist.

7. Refill the oil. Open the hood and unscrew the oil cap. (This should be a lot easier to find!) Pour oil into it with the funnel in small amounts, and keep checking the dipstick until you’ve reached the right level. (Make sure to wipe the stick off on a rag before you check each time to make sure the reading’s accurate.) Replace the cap when you’re done and, before you close the hood, make sure there aren’t any tools or rags left in there by mistake. (Don’t laugh, it can happen!)

8. Run the engine for a minute. This gives the new oil a chance to work its way through the engine. Make sure your oil pressure light doesn’t come on and that there aren’t any drips under the car when you turn it off. (If there are, you’ll need to check your filter.)

9. Dispose of the old oil responsibly. Your dealership or a local car repair shop will probably take it. If not, call up your city’s sewer department to find out the best way to recycle it. Do not throw it in the trash, pour it down a drain, etc.! This is not only awful for the environment, it’s illegal.

And that’s that! I know it seems like a lot to take in all at once, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. And like I said, it’s such a cool feeling of accomplishment to know you can do something like this yourself.

Do you do any sort of car DIY? What is it?





photo credit:   AJ Hill – Blacklight…

Blog Roundup (7-19-13)

I always love sharing my favorite blogs with people, so each week I’ll be giving you guys a roundup of the posts I’ve really enjoyed reading.

If you like them, make sure to subscribe and follow these great bloggers on Twitter and Facebook to share the love!



Are there any great posts you came across recently? Share them with us in the comments!

203k Loans – A Mortgage And Home Repair Loan Combined

home red[This is a guest post by Ben Michalek. Think you’ve got what it takes to be a guest poster? Contact Em at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com to learn more about becoming a guest poster yourself!]


If you are interested in purchasing a fixer-upper home as your primary residence, you may want to consider applying for the FHA’s 203k home loan program. These loans are administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and are available to any homebuyer that meets the minimum requirements for the program. Here are some things that you should know about 203k HUD loans.

What Are 203k Loans For?

203k loans are ideal for purchasing homes that are not in the best of condition. There are always homes available on the market that were not maintained by the homeowners, were trashed by renters, or have fallen into disrepair while vacant. 203k loans allow you to obtain a mortgage on the property plus additional funds to fix up the property and return it to habitable condition. This way, the cost of rehabbing the home is spread out over the entire term of the mortgage loan.

There are two types of 203k mortgages available: regular loans for properties that need structural repairs and streamlined loans for those that need only non-structural repairs. For the regular loan, the maximum mortgage amount is 110% of the expected value of the property after it has been rehabbed. The streamlined loan allows the buyer to add a maximum of $35,000 to the purchase price to pay for any improvements that will be made to the home.

Using The 203k Loan

Because these loans are endorsed by the government, lenders are more likely to issue these loans to qualified buyers. Often called Homepath renovation loans, they can be used to purchase and rehab a wide variety of private residences, including single family homes, condominiums, multiple family dwellings up to four units, and moving an existing home to a new foundation. There are certain types of repairs that can be paid for with these loans, but luxury upgrades, such as installing a pool or a hot tub, are prohibited from being paid for with the program.

In order to qualify for a 203k loan, the homebuyer must meet certain criteria. The buyer must have a steady, verifiable income and a credit score of at least 600. The buyer is required to put down at least 3.5% of the value of the home price and repairs as a down payment on the home. According to the FHA, “All persons who can make the monthly mortgage payments are eligible to apply” for a 203k loan.

Photo credit: nikcname

Cash back sites: get paid to shop!

Money FlyingSaving money when you’re shopping online is a great feeling. So is making money by shopping online.

In addition to trolling my usual price comparison, coupon code, and free shipping sites (that’s another post in itself!), I always try to see if I can also earn some cash back for my purchases through the various cash back sites I belong to.

Just like using a cash back credit card that gives you points (or a percentage of your purchase) for every purchase you make at a certain location, cash back sites give you points (or a percentage of your purchase) for buying through them instead of through the store’s website.

For instance, if I were shopping at Kohl’s (which I do regularly!), instead of going to the Kohl’s website, I’d go to one of the sites below, find Kohl’s on their list, and click the link to the Kohl’s site. By entering Kohl’s through the cash back site’s link, the cash back site tracks your spending and then rewards you for using them as a kind of shopping “hub.”

Why do I use several sites? Because, just like price comparing, I like to see which site will give me the most bang for my buck for a certain store. Here are my big faves. (Some of them also give you coupon codes, points for filling out surveys, etc., so take a look around for all the benefits!)

Have I missed any other good sites? Add to the list in the comments!





photo credit:   Tax Credits