How to Avoid Oil Change Disaster



Every day there are several posts where a motor is burned up due to a botched oil change. The oil change is a simple procedure but it is critical that it be done properly. A bad filter, improperly fitted filter, the drain plug can be under or overtightned can all cause oil to leak out sometimes in a rush, sometimes over a period of time.

Once I changed my oil and was about to fire up the car and saw my new oil containers sitting on the floor and realized I hand not put the new oil in the motor. That experience was a close enough call that I learned to double check my work, and to check the work of any mechanic that has touched my engine.

So, after an oil change before I leave the shop I open the hood and look at the new oil filter to see if is “new” looking, I look under the car for drips, and I pull the dipstick to make sure there is oil in the crankcase. Then I go home. For the next week I look for oil spots when I back up out of the driveway, and I’ll pull the dipstick after 2 or 3 days to check the oil level. Perhaps this is a bit much, but I haven’t burned up any motors.

What are your simple, easy, and practical double checks to avoid an oil change disaster?


Well said. In cold weather I occasionally use a rapid oil change shop down the road. I trust these guys and know the owner, who trains his staff well.

But, I always check the oil level right after, and as you say look for any oil spots on the floor after parking it at home.

I personally once left the old oil filter gasket on my Dodge Colt and soon was alerted by the large puddle of oil on the floor after starting the car. Live and learn.


I do change my own oil no matter the time of year or weather. The last cross threaded drain plug by someone else was enough for me.

My simple steps mostly involve paranoia. I could change my oil in about 20 minutes. I usually take more like 45 min because I do everything very slowly and deliberately. I check the inside of the new filter, completely clean the mounting surface, double checking that the old gasket isn’t there, I triple check that I’ve put the drain plug back in, I - echoing your experience, double check that I have exactly the right number/size of empty new oil containers before starting. I also take a quick read of the dipstick before re-starting though this is messy. I run the car for about 5 mins on ramps while I look for leaks. I then roll off the ramps - shut down & check the oil. Then I let it sit for as long as possible and check it again before going anywhere. Then for a couple of days I check the oil again just about every time I stop.

Like I said - paranoia.


I first started working on my cars in my early 20’s. I remember one of my first oil changes when I put in the new oil before re-installing the drain plug – a messy learning experience. Now, I leave it to the pros. My mechanic gives my car a quick visual inspection while it’s on the lift and the oil is draining. He has caught a few minor things I would have missed. Well worth the cost to me.



You’re a man after my own heart, cigroler. At the places I’ve worked, when it’s time to reinstall the oil drain plug and filter, I do one RIGHT after the other, so they’ll get done. Then, even if there’s other work to be done on the car, I immediately put it down and

get oil in it. One time the service manager asked me to stop what I was doing cause he wanted to talk to me about something important. I was in the middle of pouring new oil into the crankcase and I wouldn’t stop. He flipped out! Later when I told him why I refused to stop, he managed to cheer up.

Not “paranoia”, cigroler, “positive OCD”. Haha, just kidding.


Dont ask me to do anything else when I’m in the middle of an oil change or anything else-because I will probaly forget some critical step,gone are the days when I could multi task.I try to be to be methodical now and step by step-Kevin


I remember advising a friend to do his own oil changes, he drained the transmission fluid instead, called me because the oil was full before he added any, luckily no long term damage.


I understand, Kevin. When I was in my 20’s, I could read a book; talk to someone; and watch television all at the same time, and keep track of it all very well, though no one believed it and they used to scream at me. Those days are long gone.


It is impossible for me to over-torque or under-torque my drain plugs. I only remove them once, and then I replace them with one of these

I am sure I could change my oil in 15 minutes if I wanted to, but I take my time measuring the exact amount of oil I need, checking the mating surface of the filter, and inspecting the CV boots, coating the filter gasket with clean oil, etc. The only multitasking I allow myself to do it to change the oil on more than one vehicle at a time.


So it’s impossible to over or under-torque the Fram product you bought from Amazon? Interesting, I would think that would be possible with anything that has threads on it. Oh well, live and learn.

Uncle Turbo’s approach sounds sensible, and doesn’t have any of the OCD I’ve seen on this site, with checking the oil every time you drive the car, or squirting graphite into the locks every six months (where did the graphite you squirted six months ago go?).

To be fair, I have only recently been made aware by postings on this site that over tightening the crankcase could cause leakage.


If I understand correctly, the product Whitey refers to has a spring-loaded drain mechanism, so there’s no screwing of the plug to screw up.

(I suppose one could over- or under-torque the installation, but after that, it’s all good.)


I must say, I gave up changing my own motor oil when I move to the my present location and accumulated so many 4 stroke gas and diesel engines in the form of tractors, outboards, generators and other equipment that needed servicing, that I had to make a choice around accumulated waste oil, which is more inconvenient to safely and economically dispose of in this area. With used fluids in the gallons for the tractors to dispose of, I had to make a choice. Fortunately the plant nursery I work at has a waste oil furnace. That’s been my biggest problem over the years. I now let the dealer, 4 miles away do the cars which as luck would have it, just happens to be next to “my” golf course.


In all fairness, I suppose you could over- or under-torque the valve when you originally install it, but I think installing it on a young vehicle prevents the threads from becoming worn. When you install a valve once, I believe you are more likely to use a torque wrench and do it right, as opposed to repeatedly removing and installing a normal plug.

Once the valve is installed, the actuator and the valve cover only need to be hand-tightened. Sometimes I use a pair of pliers to remove the cover, but it would be really hard to over-torque or strip the threads on something that only requires hand-tightening.


. Fortunately the plant nursery I work at has a waste oil furnace

A lot of towns in my area have waste oil furnaces. They LOVE to get peoples used motor oil. Saves the towns a lot of money heating in these cold NH winters. Our town would love to expand to heating more buildings, but we don’t get enough oil. Waste oil heaters are a great way to get rid of used oil.


I pretty much do the same thing. I double check and recheck everything, even though I do my own oil changes. I’m not infallible either, and I know it.

I do much of my own work, and have access to a multibay shop staffed by friends where I work, but sometmes I have to access a private shop and when I do I’m super diligent in checking everything. When I have work performed at a private shop, I too do my own verification that the work was done before I leave the shop lot. If at all possible I stay and watch the work.