So Easy Even a Caveman Can Do It…

Oil changes are still pretty simple. But easy is another thing. If you haven’t done one in awhile – to a new car – you might be surprised by how much more complicated the process has become.

First, it’s gotten harder to get underneath new cars. Or rather, to get them up in the air, so you can get at things.

Driving them up on ramps – as was common back in the day – is often not possible today because the front end of many new cars will push the ramps forward as you try to drive up and on. Or they get pushed unevenly. That can be very dangerous to your wallet as well as to you. The ramps may also hang up on the lower part of the fascia – the rubber front end cover all late-model cars have – and be damaged during the attempt.

A $40 oil change becomes $400 in body damage.

One way to avoid that is to use some boards to “step up” gradually to the ramps – as in this picture.

Similarly, standard floor jacks may not slide under a new car’s low-slung bodywork.

The good news is there are low-profile floor jacks specifically made to get around this problem. The bad news is if you haven’t got one already, you’ll need to buy one – and a good floor jack usually costs at least $75 or so. Either way, be certain of your jacking point before you start pumping up the jack. Most new cars are unibody designs – integrated frame and body – and it can be not-obvious which is body and which is frame. You want frame.

Don’t apply jacking force to body panels such as the floorpans or the rocker panels.

Once you have the car raised, you may discover you can’t find the oil drain plug.

Many new cars are fitted with plastic underbelly pans – designed to smooth airflow underneath the car, for reasons of fuel economy as well as noise reduction. But these pans have to come off before you can access the car’s mechanical underbelly, including the engine oil drain plug (and oil filter, if it’s not topside).

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