Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Tips for making oil changes easier and less messy?

Here’s mine

  • Car ramps.
  • Lay a piece of slippery linoleum under the car to lay on and to protect against small spills. Easy to clean.
  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Line the drain container with a plastic disposable garbage bag.
  • If your car requires 3.4 quarts, don’t try to pour the 0.4 quarts from a full container. Fill a empty container with 0.4 quarts instead and use that.
  • Pour the oil from the drain pan into your recycling container (Clorox bottle in my case) using a disposable funnel cut from the top of a plastic soda bottle.

Any other ideas to make oil changes a little easier and less messy?

I actually have one of those large drain pans to catch all the spill. I can usually position it so that it catches oil from the drain bolt and oil filter area both at the same time. Then I empty if back in the now empty new containers.

I cover the garage floor with some cardboard and then some old newspaper on top. Call it overkill, but cleaning the garage floor is more work, don’t ask me how I know.

After the oil change, I will leave the cardboard under the car for another day to check for leaks.

Most of the mess I see is oil that drips onto the suspension when the oil filter is removed. Put rags or paper towels on the suspension and newspaper below on the ground to catch this oil. Wiping it off the suspension never seems to work.

If your oil filter hangs vertically, slip a newspaper bag or similar plastic bag over it before unloosening it. That will catch the initial oil flow that always dribbles down the sides.

Don’t trip while moving the drain pan. (I liked that shirt…)

OK, seriously, get a second drain pan (or at minimum, a disposable aluminum cake pan. When pouring the used oil into the empty oil jugs for recycling, place the jug in the second drain pan/cake pan to catch any spills.

After 40 some years, I’ve got the process down pretty good. Wear glasses though in case the filter slips out of your hand and drops in the pan splashing oil in your eyes.

Mine is take it to my well respected mechanics and let them do my oil change, It is about 10 dollars more than parts, but I do get thrifty and do my own, safety glasses, no rubber gloves a typical oil catch pan and 5 gal bucket to take the oil to recycling. Wow

Good suggestions folks! Here’s another . . . instead of a piece of slippery linoleum, I use the plastic bags from my dry cleaning . . . crunches up easier to store away and you can slide under easily (just leave it all crumpled up). It’s free! It catches oil drips! It crumples up into the palm of your hand! Maybe I’ll patent this idea and sell it as such, any names suggested for my Trademark? One question . . . do you warm the oil up before changing? I usually let the vehicle sit overnight and drain it then next morning . . . let it drain until the drips stop. This seems to help with the messy part of the oil filter, which is less full if you do it this way instead of running the engine just before the oil change. It also makes me “believe” that more sediment and particles drain down to the pan this way, but I can’t document this. Rocketman

Good ideas all! I use ramps and use newspapers on the floor, use a creeper to move around easily, use a plastic wash bucket to catch the oil, use elbow long diswashing rubber gloves so oil won’t run down your arms when loosening the plug and filter.

I keep a number of gallon jugs (water, milk) around to put the old oil back in and take it to the recycle depot.

I keep a roll of paper towels around for general cleanup.

Thanks for the useful comments. I’ll add one more …

While the oil is dripping out those last few drops, if the car is a front wheel drive, now is a good time to inspect all four of the CV boots for tears. Try not to get engine oil from your hands on the boots in the process. I usually pull out the shop vac and vacuum the intake air screens under the windshield (intake air for the heater, AC, etc) of leaves, pine needles, and other debris at this time too.

I Do A LOT Of Oil Changes.
I Have Set Up A Small Rolling Oil Change Tool Box. It Makes It Easier For Me Than Gathering Various Tools From My Large Roller Cab/Chest. It Has It’s Own Filters Wrenches, Socket Set, Paper Shop Rags, Cleaning Supplies, Zip-Lock Bags For Used Filters, Etcetera.

I also made a set of flat “ramps” from 2x12. They’re stepped to raise the car enough to get under it for oil changes and I slide on a 5’ x 5’ piece of plastic tarp. The tarp wipes clean easily and folds.

Since I do oil changes on 7 vehicles I stock several of each OEM filter required and cases of motor oil, both 5 quart (for changes) and 1 quart (for topping). I buy oil when there’s a sale for that particular brand. The box even has a card showing the proper size filter and drain plug wrench as well as filter and oil capacity of each vehicle.

Each car is due for a change when the odometer ends in an even 5,000 mile reading (10,000, 25,000, 80,000, 105,000, etcetera). Each car driver in the family can help me easily monitor changes required. I keep a log in each glove compartment showing maintenance and repair work done.

I gave up lining the drain pan with a bag and went with one of the pans that contains oil beneath and has a spout. I put a twist type open/close valve and hose on it to make it easy and clean to put oil in the recycling bottles. I use a credit card (from the box) to quickly scrape the oil on top of the pan down the center drain, spray on some cleaner, give a wipe, and it’s clean.

I put the proper amount of oil in a 5 qt. oil bottle (and/or additional qt. bottles). If a car only holds 4.5 qts. then I pour off one-half quart from a new bottle before I use it. I also use those spiggots on the 5 qt. oil bottles. You can tip the whole bottle up above the car’s filler, get it completely in the filler opening and open the valve.

I use aluminum foil to drape over and shape around items (A-arms, hoses, axle boots, etcetera)that drain oil could fall on when I remove the filter from the engine. One should be careful not to wrap foil around any exposed electrically charge wiring. When finished I remove the foil and dispose of it.


Good tips in this thread.

When I was a greasemonkey GS back in the day, I swore by the blue latex gloves with the long cuffs. I can’t stress them enough when you don’t want constantly dirty hands after work every day.

I found one of these vintage oil cans in an antique/junk store. They are great for the no-spill adding of oil. Why did we get away from using these things??

Those cans were used to measure and add oil from bulk tanks but they could spill and would be difficult to use on many late models that have the hood packed with the oil fill hole located behind/under some interference. For many years bulk oil was dispensed and sold at service stations in glass bottles like this

I used a large bucket similar to this when servicing large trucks 50 years ago.

CSA, I like your idea of noting the wrench size needed for the drain plug fastener. It’s frusrating to peek at it, make a guess, crawl under, and find I have the wrong socket. I write the oil filter number and the number of quarts needed on the inside page of the owners manual, so I’ll write the socket size there too. Good idea. Thanks.

For maintenace records, that seems like a good idea too. I use a manila folder gadget for each car similar to what lawyers use for case files, a manila folder with prongs on top to hold the pages in the order they were added.

The intervals for oil changes for my car occured at the three commencements for my institution–fall, spring and summer. Since I had my cap and gown on anyway, as soon as I would get home from the commencement ceremony, I would roll under the car and change the oil. Now that I am retired and don’t use my cap and gown anymore, I just take my car to my independent shop for its oil changes.

I like CSA’s cart idea but don’t have 7 cars thank heavens or the room. I also keep all my maintenance records in one book instead of in the cars. In there though I have the socket size for the drain plug, capacities, parts numbers for normal parts, other information such as radio codes, paint codes and so on. I also devote one cabinet in the garage for new and used oil, drain pan, filters and so on, so its all in one place.

Also in my maintenance book, I keep records on all my other equipment as well as home improvement info, with wall color codes, yard information, etc. So virtually everything needed for repair and maintenance is pretty much just in one loose leaf book. Its amazing what you forget once you reach a certain age.

In addition to my maintenance book though, I keep about four or five expandable pocket folders with folders that contain owners manuals with the sales receipts, on everything. One pocket folder for small engines, one for major power tools like compressors, one for household stuff, and so on. Its really easy to keep up and find most anything I need, like how to reset the garage door remotes.

Didn’t mean to side-track but it fits in with making life easier anyway.

The Log Books For Maintenance And Repairs That I Keep In Each Vehicle Are Just For Quick Reference.
I Keep Complete Records/Receipts In Folders For Each Car, Boat Motor, PWC, Tractor, Motorcycle, Lawn Mower, Generator, Snow Blower, Leaf Vac, Leaf Blower, Weed Whacker, Ice Auger, Trash Pump, Etcetera, In The House, Along With Household Stuff, Too.

I also have the complete set of Factory Service Manuals for each car in the house and a copy of the Owner’s Manual, besides the one in each glove compartment.

Whenever I get a new vehicle I order the SM set and extra OM right away. I keep vehicles for a long time and have found that the manuals pay for themselves. I found that the extra OM comes in handy and when I have a question about something that’s covered in the OM I hate going outside to look it up.

The way the weather’s been here I don’t even enjoy going outside. For weeks now we’ve had lake effect snow day and night with waves of Alberta Clippers. Schools were open only Monday and Friday last week.


Holy cow CSA! Where do you live with weather like that? I thought that it was nasty here in the Pennsylvania Pocono mountains, but you seem to have me beat! Rocketman

I have two 2x2 sticks that I ziptie a small tarp to. This way you can spread the tarp out quickly and it won’t fly away because the 2x2’s are holding it down. When I’m done, roll it up and the drive way isn’t any of the wise (no oil splattered anywhere).

Then, when fall comes and leafs need to be picked up, I use the same setup to ‘tarp’ them onto.