Oil is the most important fluid in an automobile engine, with coolant at a close second. With practice, the at-home-oil change can be completed in about 25 minutes and requires basic hand tools. The cost starts at $20 for conventional oil and $35+ for synthetic oil. This is an estimate that includes the oil filter and the required number of quarts for your car. Typically cars will require 4 - 6 quarts, depending on the engine specifications.
Before beginning, you should familiarize yourself with the engine components. Open the hood by pulling the lever usually located by the driver side door near your legs. Once you have released this, reach under the semi-popped hood for the release lever. Pull this upward (usually) to fully lift the hood. Look along the front of the engine bay for a hood prop if it is not automatically supported. The most important thing to note about the engine bay, on any oil change, is how the engine sits. This will help you locate the drain plug and filter. The Honda Civic is a front wheel drive car (FWD) , which means the engine and transaxle (transaxle = FWD transmission) are oriented transversely, or perpendicular to the side of the vehicle. Because of this, the engine must have a dominate side as will the transmission.
Before diving in, here is what you'll need
- Metric wrenches, most likely a 14mm or 17mm
- Oil catch pan
- Jack - you can use the one supplied with the car
- Oil filter and right amount of oil
- New crush washer - recommended but I haven't always needed to replace
Also - this writeup can be seen on my car repair blog with more information and recommended tools.
From the picture, it is evident that the engine is on the left side of the engine bay when viewing from the front. This is important because when you are under the car, this is the side you will want to look for to drain the oil pan. It is possible to drain the transmission oil and fill the engine with twice as much oil, try to avoid this. For rear wheel drive cars,trucks and SUVs with all or four wheel drive, the engine and transmission will most likely* be oriented longitudinally, or parallel to the sides of the car. For this scenario, the oil pan will always be near the front of the car and the transmission will be behind it.
*Mid engine RWD cars such as the Toyota MR2 use a transverse engine similar to FWD cars but it's in the back, driving the rear wheels.
With the hood open, begin by unscrewing the oil fill cap and placing it aside or rest it angled on the fill hole. This allows air to enter the crankcase as oil is drained, faster. The alternator can be seen attached to the engine block on the right side. Other belt driven accessories; power steering, air conditioning, water pumps, oil pumps (more rare), and superchargers (more awesome) must be on the front of the engine too. The oxygen sensor is seen in the exhaust manifold also on the right side. The engine control unit uses feedback from this sensor to calculate and inject an efficient amount of fuel into each cylinder at the right time.
Using a jack, lift the car to a comfortable level and use a safety jack stand. Lift the engine side of the car to allow the most room to the oil pan. Make sure to use the right jack points for whatever jack you use, they are usually distinguished by two notches cut 1"- 3" away from each other on a frame rail or other marking techniques. The owner's manual has this information if you're unsure.
Directly under the engine is its oil pan, or sump. Unless you have a dry sump, which is way to cool for this writeup to apply to. Good, we have a wet sump. Place a suitable container under the oil drain plug and remove the plug with a wrench or a ratchet. They can be very tight sometimes so position yourself properly and avoid rounding the head of the bolt. Once you break it loose, unthread it with your hands until it is completely out. When it comes out oil will flow out of the hole, and can go out to 8" - 10". Place the container to compensate for this. As the oil drains the distance it shoots will decrease, so if you have a small container you may need to move it during draining to keep clean. If you're doing this on your driveway, I recommend using a towel or tarp under the container to prevent stains.
While waiting for the oil to drain, locate the oil filter. On most cars this is a colored metal cylinder with a manufacturer logo and part numbers on it. On less fortunate cars, the filter has no shell and is inside the engine, contained with a cap. Consult google for these models. Continuing, the oil filter ranges in size but is usually about the size of a mug for cars and getting bigger for trucks, especially diesels. Remove the oil filter by spinning it counter-clockwise. If it is too tight, there are tools available at autoparts stores to remove them. Another option is to stick a screwdriver through a diameter of the filter near the end and use the screwdriver as leverage. The filter may have oil in it - be cautious. It may not always be as easy as with this Civic, so some searching may be required. Removing the filter reveals a threaded extrusion coming from the engine with a mating surface around it. Wipe the mating surface with a towel and ensure the gasket from the old oil filter did not stick on here.
I bought a 5 quart (1.25 gallon) jug of conventional Shell oil and an oil filter for this model car. The crush washer on the oil plug bolt seals the connection. It is recommended to replace this but I have seen a lot work after many reuses.
With gloves on, a fingertip dipped in the oil can be used to lubricate the red rubber gasket on the mating side of the oil filter. Without this, the gasket may fail during use. Thread the prepared filter back into place. Make sure not to cross thread the threads. A rule of thumb for this is to turn the filter 'hand tight' (not the hardest you can do, but sufficiently tight), and then back the filter off 1/4 - 1/2 rotations. Make sure the filter could not come off with small amounts of torque.
The torque specifications for the oil plug are given in the owner's manual. If you do not have a torque wrench, apply a safe amount to the bolt with a wrench or ratchet, definitely not your hardest. The oil fill quantity is also given in the manual. Sometimes two numbers are given, one for when you replace the filter and one for when you don't. You should replace the filter and use that number (it will be larger since the filter is empty upon installation). Using a funnel placed in the oil fill hole ontop, pour the proper amount of oil into the funnel. Exact amounts can be gauged using the transparent stripe running vertically along the jug. Screw the cap on when you're finished.
Verify the amount of oil in the engine BEFORE STARTUP by looking at the dipstick. Dipsticks generally have a high and a low indicator; shoot between these. However if I had to choose, I would go higher than lower. The oil dipstick is always located on the engine side because it physically reaches down into the engine. Place the dipstick back in the tube and get ready to start the car.
Turn the key to the ON position but do not start the car. Observe what the oil indicator light looks like and where it is. This light can act as a warning to the driver of a low or no oil condition. Start the car and wait about 5 seconds for this light to go out. If it does not go out turn the car off and verify with the dipstick that oil is in the car.
With the oil indicator off, allow the car to run for a few minutes while checking for oil leaks around the filter and drain plug. Make sure to check the floor for oil, assuming the floor was clean after the oil change was completed.
Some cars alert the driver of an oil change with an indicator light on the dash, or a percentage or mileage countdown. This Civic uses an oil life percentage displayed on the odometer readout. This can be reset (all can) according to instructions in the owner's manual. Not all vehicles will tell you when you need to change the oil, so record this and put it somewhere in the car if it doesn't.
Resetting the light on this car entails;
• turn the ignition switch on
• press the SEL/RESET button repeatedly until the engine oil life indicator is displayed
• Press SEL/RESET for about 10 seconds, the engine oil life and maintenance item codes will blink
• press SEL/RESET for more than 5 seconds, the maintenance items will disappear and oil life will be at 100%
A very convenient luxury some older cars just.don't.have.
Use the maintenace section in the owner's manual and the maintenance codes that blinked during oil life reset as a tool to check the cars other systems. Along with completing the oil change, checking other fluids such as brake, power steering, coolant and transmission is recommended. Check both the fluids fill level and quality.
The transmission dipstick is located on the transmission side and will usually have a colored handle. Check the fluids when the car is on a level surface. Reference the owner's manual for the procedure to check transmission fluid. Some manual transmissions do not have dipsticks and use the fill hole as the right-amount indicator.
Good luck and make sure to check the oil and under the car after the first few drives for leaks.