Sunday, January 9, 2011

w/mo2h #1: down and dirty on the driveway

So, a few weeks ago I decided to attempt something that I had never done completely 100% solo.  Able-Bodied Boyfriend was away and virtually incommunicado, but it had come time to do the deed and we had a break from the freezing temperatures.

I changed my car's oil, with no help (save the inter-webs).

Now, this is not entirely new to me.  Around the time I was acquiring a drivers license, Able-Bodied Father insisted on teaching me many things; among them, how to drive a stick shift, how to change a tire, and how to change my oil.  But oil changes are not always easy on every car, so I dutifully went to the local lube shop every... ummm... whenever I remembered...

My newest car, as we have discovered, is super easy to deal with.  The oil pan plug and the oil filter are very accessible, so it's just a matter of getting them off and back on again.  So for the last two years, all but one oil change have been done in the driveway of our house.

And for all but the latest oil change, I needed help; the oil plug was just too tight for me.  Normally, I would give up and ask Able-Bodied Boyfriend (who is most likely hovering nearby anyway) after just a few tugs.

But this time I figured that if I couldn't get past that first step, I wouldn't really be in a pinch.  I would just be sad that I couldn't do it myself.

So I dove under my car on a warm, rainy morning.  Discovered a new direction from which I could easily leverage the wrench to get the plug off, and I was just fine!  I used the inter-webs a couple of times when I hit minor insecure moments of "oh shit, do I really know what I'm doing?!?" but came through unscathed and with a happy car.

Why would I do this when I could have someone else do it?

First, it's cheaper!  I spent $4 for a filter and by shopping the sales, I can generally get 5qts of synthetic oil for $25 or less.  After having my used synthetic oil tested by Blackstone Labs, I was told I can use it for 13,000 miles between changes.  I can spend less than an hour getting happy-dirty-sweaty twice a year, rather than get overcharged for synthetic oil, or sit in the smelly waiting rooms four or more times a year.

Second reason I do it?  I CAN.  Do you know how many times I've purchased my oil and filter from the auto parts store down the street and have gotten odd looks and offhand comments?  Yeah, this Bud's for you.  I can also change a flat, replace my air filter, clean my battery, check and replace all my other fluids, and drive and/or roll-start a manual transmission.  Go me.

Ok, that sounds like I'm doing it for some feminist reason.  It's not that.  It's knowing that I have some basic understanding of this thing I bought, I'm still paying for, I'm using, that's pretty much worth more than everything else I own.  Both in terms of monetary value and intrinsic value (getting to/from work, my first new car, etc).  It's mine, so I really feel much better having some understanding of it's functions and maintenance.

A colleague mentioned a recent survey just prior to this oil change, and I managed to find some trace of it at this link.  No supporting/source information included, but just thinking of it made me smile as I lay on a piece of cardboard with grease on my hands...  "Women say having THIS makes them feel independent..."   Tools.  Rock on.

Have you ever changed your oil?  Changed a tire?  Any other car repairs?  If you haven't, what is keeping you from doing so?

Here's my challenge to you.  When I do this again in late spring or early summer, you should join me.  Bring your car over and we can take a look at it to see how feasible it would be for you to change your own oil.  Some cars are indeed a pain in the ass, some are better.  You can watch/help as I do mine.  And hell, maybe we'll run to the shop, grab some oil and a filter, and do yours too... who's in?!?!

Much love,
Able-Bodied Girl



  1. Answer: No, I think once, no, and I'm lazy and uneducated with no real desire to learn. Why? A couple of reasons. 1) I have had this issue with getting "icky" ever since I was a kid. 2) Able-bodied Husband does it for me because your Able-Bodied Father taught him too.

    I'd love to join you, but I have to be completely honest.... even if I learn, the task will probably still be all on Greg anyway. But it would be nice to know that I COULD do it if need be. Just like driving stick. I certainly don't LIKE driving stick, but I had Greg teach me just so that I COULD in cases of emergency.

    So sign me up for Carlie's Auto Body Oil Change Instructional. I'd love to know that I COULD do it, if I wanted to. But really... the true challenge for me will be setting aside my "icky" issues. But I think I'll be ok so long as I know there is some soap and a shower in the near future. (P.S. They totally used that statistic on MIX106.5s Big Fat Question of the Day and I thought it was pretty accurate, too. Unfortunately, it just wouldn't make any sense for me to get another set of tools when we already have a full set, possibly two, down in the basement. Maybe if I at least know where they were, I'd feel a bit mroe independent?)

  2. i have a special pair of gloves i use for vehicle work... so we can keep your hands clean! we use a large sheet of cardboard on the ground in case there are any oil spills, but that can also keep your clothes free of major driveway/garage dirt. you might come out of it just sparkley!
    i have my own set of tools, but they are put away somewhere and i have full access to Able-Bodied Boyfriend's... so that's satisfactory i suppose!
    ~ Able-Bodied Girl

  3. If only I lived closer, I would join you for sure. I used to try to help my dad do it when I was a kid, but my sister was slightly more tomboy than me, so I usually got to observe and hand in tools while she got first crack at everything. Now that we actually own a car instead of lease, and have far less money, this sounds like fun.

  4. I think the oil-changing is all you, Carlie :) I'm normally right there with you in the doing-for-myself department, but car maintenance has never been on that list (though I *can* change a tire).