Changing your vehicle’s oil is a fundamental maintenance task that more and more people are doing at home to save some time and money. If you aim to do an oil change at home, however, you are going to need the appropriate tools. So, what do you need for an oil change? There are several tools and materials that this article will introduce you to, as well as some tips and tricks on how to use them properly. The more you know, the safer and more efficient the process of changing your car’s oil will be.

Let’s get started.

What Do You Need For an Oil Change? header image

What Do You Need For an Oil Change?

Although changing your oil is a relatively quick and simple task, having the right tools and materials makes the whole process a lot easier. Plus, you need these things to not only protect yourself but the environment.

Tools Needed For an Oil Change

By having these tools and materials on hand, you’ll be equipped to perform a successful oil change and maintain your vehicle’s engine in good condition:

Box End or Socket Wrench

One of the most essential items is a box end or socket wrench. These tools are used to loosen and remove the drain plug located on the oil pan. The drain plug allows the old oil to drain out of the engine. A box end wrench or socket set is typically used for this task.

Oil Filter Wrench

Getting an oil filter out with just your hands is not only messy, but it’s also nearly impossible. That is why you need an oil filter wrench. This tool provides you with a secure grip on the filter, making it easier to remove it. There are various oil filter wrenches available, including strap-type wrenches and socket types. Each wrench is designed to fit different sizes of oil filters. Make sure you choose the correct one for your vehicle.

Oil Drain Pan

Never let the oil run onto the ground. An oil drain pan is absolutely essential when it comes to changing your vehicle’s oil. The oil drain pan must have the capacity to hold the total amount of oil in the engine. If possible, get a pan with a screw-on, air-tight lid, and/or pour spout, as this makes it easier to recycle the old oil. However, you can also use retired kitty litter boxes and other pans and then pour the oil from said pan into a sealed container for transport. Just make sure to clean up any oil messes made in the process.

Latex Gloves

Wearing latex gloves is important to protect your hands from dirty and potentially harmful oil. They provide a barrier between your skin and the oil, preventing any skin irritation or contamination.


A funnel is needed to pour the new oil into the engine without spilling it. It helps ensure a clean and precise transfer of oil from the container to the engine.

Jack and Jack Stand or Ramps

These tools are optional but may be necessary depending on the ground clearance of your vehicle. You may need to raise the vehicle using a jack and support it with jack stands. Alternatively, you can use ramps to elevate the front of the car for easier access.

Miscellaneous Tools

Although these things are not a requirement like the other tools in this list, the following items are convenient to have around:

  • A flashlight or headlamp
  • Paper towels to wipe up spills
  • A car creeper
  • Safety glasses or goggles

Materials Required

What else do you need for an oil change? Make sure you have the following before beginning the process:

The Correct Oil

You will need the appropriate type and amount of oil for your specific vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual or manufacturer’s recommendations to determine the correct viscosity and quantity of oil required.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t mix oils of different types or weights. Furthermore, topping off oil if you don’t have enough for a complete oil change is not recommended.

A New Oil Filter

Never change your oil and leave in the old oil filter. This is a surefire way to have to change your oil sooner than later. Old oil filters become covered in grime and other contaminants that can get into the new oil.

Replacement Drain Plug Washer

This is optional but may be necessary. Some vehicles require a new drain plug washer to ensure a proper seal when the drain plug is reinstalled. If you forget the drain plug washer, you may end up with an oil leak! Double-check the owner’s manual to see if a drain plug washer is required.

Why Is It Important to Have the Right Tools and Materials For an Oil Change?

Now you may be wondering, “Why do I need all this for an oil change?” Having the appropriate tools and materials is essential for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one is related to health and safety. Investing in the right tools help you stay safe by doing the following:

Personal Protection

Let’s face it: Oil is dirty, slippery, and potentially hazardous. It can also be hot if you don’t let your car cool down enough for changing the oil. That is why you need to wear personal protection equipment like latex/neoprene gloves. Wearing latex/neoprene gloves while working on the car helps protect your skin from direct contact with the oil, preventing any skin irritation or potential contamination. Gloves also provide a barrier against harmful substances that may be present in the oil, such as chemicals or contaminants.

Proper Lifting and Support

If you need to lift your vehicle, using a jack and jack stands or ramps ensures proper lifting and support. These tools help elevate the vehicle and keep it secure while you work underneath. Additionally, using jacks or ramps gives you space to maneuver without scraping your back and shoulders or laying uncomfortably on the ground.

Failing to use appropriate lifting and support equipment can lead to a mechanic’s worst nightmare: the vehicle falling and causing severe injuries or even fatal ones. 

Preventing Spills

The funnel facilitates a controlled and precise pouring of the new oil into the engine, reducing the chances of spillage or overfilling. The pan prevents the oil from causing messy spills that may cause slipping and other issues.

Avoiding Burns

As mentioned earlier, the motor oil and the engine itself can be hot to the touch during an oil change. If you wait long enough for the oil to cool, this should not be a problem. That said, you never want to come into contact with hot oil or metal, so it is better to use the right tools when doing an oil change. Wrenches and funnels help you handle parts and fluids safely without risking burns. The proper tools also allow you to manipulate the oil filter and drain plug while minimizing the risk of contact with hot surfaces.

Protecting the Environment

Properly disposing of used oil and filters is essential for environmental protection. By having the necessary materials, such as an oil drain pan and container for used oil, you can collect and contain the old oil without contaminating the environment. It is crucial to recycle the used oil and filters by taking them to authorized recycling facilities to prevent pollution of soil, water sources, and wildlife.

And yes, you can usually recycle your old oil for free!

Efficient, Effective Work

Last but not least, having the right tools and personal protection in place enables you to work with confidence. When you are not worried about slipping, spilling liquids, or burning yourself, you are able to get your work done at a more efficient pace. Similarly, using the appropriate wrench or socket size, for example, prevents the stripping or rounding off of plugs, preventing issues like leaks in the future.

In the event that you cannot gather the appropriate tools for an oil change, it is highly recommended that you bring your car to a mechanic instead. Otherwise, you are risking your own well-being to perform this maintenance task. Automotive technicians will have the correct equipment and materials to perform the oil change quickly, though it may cost you a little more than it would by doing it by yourself.

Ultimately, it is up to you to weigh the risk and reward, but you should always lean towards safety!

Step-by-Step Guide to Changing Your Oil

You should now know the answer to the question, “What do you need for an oil change?” Now let’s talk about how to do an oil change using the aforementioned tools and materials in this article. This will help you know what to expect if it’s your first time doing this process or give some insight if you never had a certain tool before.

Need some visuals? Check out this video:

1. Check the Oil Type and Amount Needed

Consult your owner’s manual to determine the recommended oil type and quantity for your car’s engine. This is important. The make, model, and even the year of a car will have individual oil requirements. For example, a Honda Accord does not have the same oil requirements as a Ford diesel pickup truck.

2. Get Your Materials Together

Gather all the necessary tools and materials mentioned above before starting the oil change process. If you need anything, now is the time to go out and buy it.

3. Prepare Your Vehicle

Ensure that your engine and oil are warm but not hot. Ideally, you want to wait around 10 minutes after driving your car to start doing an oil change. If necessary, raise the car using a jack and jack stands or ramps for better access.

4. Check The Oil Level (Optional)

While this is not a compulsory step, checking the oil level before changing it out can give you an idea of what you are working with. Is the oil extremely black and gunky? In this case, you can expect the oil to take a while to drain into the pan, because it is going to be full of sludge. You may also want to look out for metal shavings in the old oil, as this condition usually means the oil has been in need of a change for a while.

Use this as a chance to diagnose any other issues you may have noticed and decide from there if you want to proceed with the oil change on your own or have a professional do it.

5. Locate The Drain Plug and Oil Filter

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you may be able to access the drain plug and oil filter from the hood. Other vehicles may require you to get underneath to find the drain plug and oil filter. Take this time to figure out where you have to go and if there are any obstacles in the way.

6. Drain The Oil

Position the oil drain pan beneath the drain plug, slightly offset to accommodate the oil stream. Use a wrench to remove the drain plug and let the old oil drain completely.

Is the drain plug stuck? Check out our guide for that.

7. Tighten The Drain Plug

Inspect and clean the drain plug, making sure there are no old washers stuck to it. If the old washer looks worn or has tears in it, consider replacing it with a new one. Tighten the drain plug securely without over-tightening.

8. Swap in the New Oil Filter

Use an oil filter wrench to remove the old oil filter. Drain any remaining oil from the filter and clean the filter sealing surface. Apply a dab of new oil to the new filter’s O-ring and install it by hand. Tighten the filter according to the owner’s manual.

9. Add New Oil

Now you are free to add the new oil. Before doing that, however, make sure you have replaced the drain plug. Next, come to the oil filler cap. Fill the reservoir to the recommended amount (found in the owner’s manual). Start the engine for a short period to let the oil circulate through the engine. Shut off your vehicle and let it cool for a few minutes.

10. Check The Oil Level (Mandatory)

After letting the oil settle for a moment, once again check the oil level using the dipstick. You may find that you need to add a little more oil after it has circulated through the engine. Top it off to the recommended level. Avoid overfilling your engine with oil, as that can lead to leaks and performance issues.

11. Dispose of Old Oil and Filter

Congratulations, you have successfully changed your car’s oil. Now, properly dispose of the old oil and filter at an auto parts store or a household hazardous waste drop-off location.

Final Thoughts on What You Need for an Oil Change at Home

What do you need for an oil change? Hopefully, this article has given you the answers to that question. Items like wrenches, gloves, and jacks are critical to the oil change process and also make the task safer and easier to do. If you can’t source the items or find that you are having trouble using them, it’s recommended that you leave the oil change to the professionals.

Categories: Oil Guides


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