How to Change Your Oil

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Changing a car’s oil is one, if not the most important maintenance staple. Not correctly changing your oil at the recommended intervals could lead to such disasters as sludge, seizing your engine, or worse. A lot of people would like to be able to do their own changes, but either never have the time or are too afraid to break something. But, there is nothing like changing your own oil to make you feel truly empowered! Okay, maybe empowerment isn’t the goal here, but with any luck, this guide should keep you on the straight path to oil success.

Things you’ll need:

Why do you need your owner’s manual? Won’t this guide be enough? The answer is absolutely not. Every car is different in some way and you will need your owner’s manual to determine how much new oil you need to buy and what kind of oil filter to buy as well. Some manuals even contain their own oil change instructions. Make sure to get the right weight oil for your car as described in your manual. Do not use a different weight than recommended unless you really know what you’re doing. Head out to your favourite auto parts store and grab the consumables. Also recommended but not required on every oil change is to change the washer for the oil drain plug. Ask your auto parts store for help finding these and be sure to pick up a few for the future.

To start off, we want to get the old oil nice and warm so that it drains completely. Take the car for a five-minute drive or so and make sure the temperature gauge is in the normal driving range. Bring the car back to where you will be doing the work. This should preferably be on a flat surface and indoors if possible. Open up the oil filler cap on top of the engine and set it aside. I also like to remove the oil dipstick to allow for better flow when I remove the old oil.

2012 Oil Pan

Then, we need the car to be raised. Drive the car onto ramps or jack the car up from each side and place jack stands on either a major suspension component or structural part of the frame. Locate your oil drain plug. It is a smaller bolt usually at the bottom of a big tub hanging from the bottom of the engine, like the one pictured above. This is the car’s oil pan or reservoir. Place your collecting container underneath the drain plug. Find the appropriate socket size for the drain plug and begin to slowly loosen the plug. Stop using your ratchet to loosen the drain plug once it is free enough to loosen by hand. Slowly continue loosening it with your hand until oil starts to come out. Once a considerable amount has been drained, you can slowly remove the drain plug entirely, making sure not to drop it in your container.

Towards the end of the draining, locate and remove your oil filter. For some cars, this is easier said than done and might require a special tool called an oil filter wrench that hugs the oil filter in order to get it out. Be careful when taking it off as oil will probably fall out of it when you do. Dispose of the old filter.

Now that the draining is complete, wipe off the area around the drain hole, put on the new washer, and replace the drain plug, tightening with your ratchet only so that it is snug. Take your new oil filter, wipe off the mounting surface, and take some of the new oil onto your finger and apply some to the rim of the new oil filter. Screw the filter in by hand until it is snug; be careful not to over-tighten.

Now we can lower the car, which will be necessary if we want to add the appropriate amount of oil. Once lowered, take your funnel and put it in the oil filler hole. Take the appropriate amount of oil from the owners manual and add just a little bit less than that to start with. Replace the oil dipstick, remove it, wipe it, replace it again, remove it again, and check to see if the level is within the acceptable range. Add oil until it is. Make sure NOT to overfill the oil as you will have to lift the car and drain oil again. By this stage in the process, you will not want to do that.

Once you fell comfortable with the level, close everything up and start the engine. Look underneath the car and at the oil filter for any leaks. If everything checks out, go for a spin, and check the oil level again after the engine has sat for another ten minutes. And that’s it!

Please note that we are not responsible for any damage you may accidentaly cause to your vehicle following these instructions. These instructions are meant as a very general guideline and further research on your specific vehicle is always recommended before attempting any of your own work.

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Winter is Coming, Do You Know How to Install Your Snow Tires?

tire_change_heroThe ubiquitous season is about to be upon us, and that means winter tires. Alternatively, you hit a tree branch and now you’re on the side of the highway. Time to change tire(s)!

Unless you are a body builder with laser-precise torque vision, you’re going to need a few things. First and foremost, a tire mounted on some sort of wheel that matches your vehicle, a floor jack (or scissor jack) and some jack stands, a decent sized ratchet with the appropriate sized socket for your lug nuts (the things that keep the wheel on the hub threads), a ½ drive torque wrench, and some caulks or anything heavy enough to block off the car when it’s jacked. A pneumatic impact wrench is nice to have on a job like this, but not necessary.

Some people opt to mount different tires on one set of wheels. While this is a good way to keep your car looking good all-year round, this method requires a large machine to remove and replace tires on a wheel. Die-hards will note that this is also possible by hand, but it can be difficult and much more likely to damage your wheel – and patience. A nice cheap set of black steel wheels (“steelies”) is a great way to minimise risk and cut down on the time for this job.


Start by parking the car in your flat service area of choice and remove any hub caps/nut covers. Take your ratchet (an impact gun or a breaker bar is helpful) and loosen the lug nuts without removing them. Now, make sure the car is in park (or in gear) with the handbrake on and with the opposite tire blocked off. Start to jack up the car by the pinch welds under the bodywork. These are usually indicated by little slots at either end of the car and are very obvious. Check your manual for specifics if you get lost. Lift the car enough to clear the ground and the new tires.

Remove the lug nuts completely and remove the wheel, being careful not to bang on any brake components in the process (don’t lift with your back!). A dolly comes in handy at this point. Older cars with older lug nuts might be tough to get on with some corrosion and you may want to spread a tiny amount of anti-seize to the base of the lug nut (or new lug nuts), as long as you make sure the lug nut threads (studs) are completely clean and dry. A good wipe with an old rag should do it.

Once you’ve mounted the new wheel on the studs (again, not using your back!), screw the lug nuts in by hand. You can even give it a couple of turns with a ratchet to make sure it stays snug to the hub. Lower the car. With your torque wrench, complete the tightening of the lug nuts. Most cars take between 80 and 100 of torque. If your car has a five or more lug configuration, you will want to do this in a “star” pattern, i.e. tightening the lug nut opposite of the one previous. Make sure NOT to do the final tightening with a breaker bar or an impact wrench, a common mistake. Check your tire pressures and that’s it! (Mostly) ready for winter driving.

How To Drive Off-Road

So the salesman told you your new 4 wheel drive vehicle is capable of charging through streams, driving over mountains, carving a path through thick forests, and ripping through the desert without even raising a sweat…

There’s just one problem, while your new pick up truck or SUV looks great, you’ve never been off-roading before! While this guide is no substitute for enrolling in an accredited 4WD course, it will help you get more out of your new 4WD vehicle.

Ridin' Dirty: How to Go Off Roading

Tame The Terrain

Mud and Sand: The trick to getting through mud and sand is to use steady momentum (keep even pressure on the throttle, don’t jerk your foot on and off). When driving in mud, don’t select too low a gear as this will cause your tires to spin rather than grip. Second or even third gear is the way to go. In sand, a lower gear is usually best.

Snow: Use steady momentum when going through deep snow, and don’t select too low a gear, as it will cause tires to spin. If the wheels do spin, ease off the throttle and let the spinning slow to regain traction. Select the highest gear possible for the conditions at hand.

Water: Make sure the river’s safe for you to cross and NEVER attempt to cross a river during a flood. Accelerate as you enter the water slowly to create a bow wave, and then drive at a nice even (slow) pace to avoid overtaking your bow wave (this should sit about one meter off your bumper). Choose a place where the river is wider to cross; while the narrow portions might look more favorable, they are likely deeper than the wider sections, making it more likely that you get stuck!

Hills: Always try and walk the hill, mainly so that you know what’s on the other side of it. Always drive straight-ahead at a hill, never approach from an angle (which could cause your car to rollover), and choose the highest gear the vehicle will ‘pull’ in. On your way down a hill, make sure you’ve stopped and assessed the ground. Pick out a rough path and then, choosing first-gear low range, or 1 in an automatic-equipped 4WD (this will provide the maximum amount of engine braking) set off. If you have hill descent control, use that on your way down.

Airing Down: Means dropping your tire pressures to increase their footprint, which improves traction in soft sand. It’s also worth airing down on rocky terrain as it allows the now soft tire a chance to roll over an obstacle. Make sure you carry an air compressor to re-inflate your tire once you get back to regular terrain.

More Off-Roading Tips

Know exactly how big your vehicle is – that also means knowing its approach and departure angle, ground clearance and ramp over.

Where possible walk the ground you’ll be driving over. A preliminary survey could save you from getting stuck later!

If the hill is too steep, the track too narrow, or the water looks too deep then turn around and find another way to go. Swallowing your pride before you have to get towed is much easier (as well as easier on the wallet).

Keep both hands on the wheel, but never lock your thumbs inside the rim of the steering wheel (kickback could lead to injury).

Tell someone where you are headed, which route you will take, and when you plan to be back (or when they can expect you to check in). You never know what might happen off road.

Check your tires and gear for cuts and pump them back up if necessary.

Don’t set out to go Off-Roading without these items:

  • Tow rope
  • Shovel
  • 2-way radio or a comparable communication device. If relying on your cell phone, make sure it is charged and you get reception where you are going.
  • Clothing that is appropriate for the climate, should you get stuck outside.
  • Footwear that is appropriate for the terrain.
  • GPS navigation and maps
  • Food and water. Keep a big bottle of water and a stash of power bars, beef jerky, or whatever high energy food you prefer on hand just in case.
  • Extra fuel
  • Did we forget anything? What do you always bring on your off-roading adventures?

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    How to Sell a Used Vehicle (legally, with the correct paperwork)

    While many Canadians enjoy the convenience of trading in their used cars at the dealer, selling privately is still the best way to maximise profit. After you’ve familiarised yourself with prepping a car for private sale, there are various governmental procedures that you have to keep in mind when transferring ownership to someone else.


    Selling A Used Car with Proper Documentation

    Before you begin, make sure that all of your current documentation is in order. Make sure the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on the vehicle and on your permits match. These can be found on the driver’s side of the windshield in the bottom corner looking at it from the outside. If the car hasn’t been insured for a while, make sure you have the documentation from when it still was.

    While provinces vary to certain degrees, the most common factor you’ll find is requiring valid mechanical inspections. Some provinces choose to impose mandatory inspections on most (if not all) used private vehicle sales, but many simply require that the vehicle has passed inspection previously and is still within specified time constraints. It’s always fun to gripe about having to pay out-of-pocket for sometimes-unnecessary mechanical inspections, but remember, most of these inspections go towards keeping vehicles on the road safe for the occupants and everyone else on the road. When selling your vehicle, make sure you have all the proper documentation of the vehicle’s past inspection(s) to give to the buyer and to show at the motor vehicle agency at signing. Some provinces even make it easier by slapping a windshield sticker on the car so you don’t need to worry about this step (Québec, for instance).

    Another piece of documentation that is necessary for most provinces is a Transfer of Ownership (tax) form that is available from each respective government agency’s website. Make sure to fill out this form accurately and ask the buyer to do the same as it can cause problems the day you go to transfer the car and because tax forms. These official forms should not be confused with a Bill of Sale, which is something else you should prepare for the transaction.

    On the Bill of Sale, which can be on something as crude as a piece of loose leaf paper, make sure to record the buyer and seller names, the date of sale, the description of the vehicle including colour, mileage, etc., price, and signatures all round. This is something else that you may be asked to present at the motor vehicle agency.

    Lastly, licence plates are typically associated with the owner of a vehicle and not to the vehicle itself. This means that you must ensure that you take your plates off the car before handing it over to the new driver. If you no longer need the plates for another vehicle – and assuming you don’t hang them up on your garage walls like me – you can often apply for a refund for the remaining period before your plates expire and then surrender them to the motor vehicle agency.

    More information can always be found on your province’s motor vehicle association’s website and it is strongly recommended that you follow all steps listed there before completing any private car sale.

    Happy selling!

    Thinking of Purchasing a $500 Beater Car?

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    Wouldn’t you love to drive a car that you can push shopping carts around with in an empty parking lot at night? Wouldn’t you love to drive a car that you can plough into a snow bank with and then park at home just like any other day? Need a ride for school and don’t have much cash to spare? Sounds like you want the $500 beater!

    Most enthusiasts use the $500 beater to supplement their driving needs when it’s too harsh out for their precious garage babies. But, there aren’t any rules in the used car world and that doesn’t mean that you can’t drive one to supplement public transportation, or worse, your bicycle. Owning a car cheaper than a video gaming rig can be fun and joyous despite how terrible it sounds at first.

    The first thing you have to remember when buying the $500 beater is that you are buying a complex and very heavy piece of machinery for the same price as the tires on said complex piece of machinery, in some cases less. Your standards should start low. The seats won’t be factory fresh and the paint won’t gleam in the Sun. This is what makes the $500 so good. Want to get into wrenching but didn’t want to muck up your Audi? Here’s your chance. Want something that accommodates your posterior for the amount of time it takes to get somewhere else and no more? You’re in luck! Just make sure to consider a few things first:

    Buying the $500 beater means you will most likely have to fix some things. A car is only worth $500 when it is either A: not running, B: the seller is in a rush to move and needs it gone, or C: in great shape! (but needs a new alternator, battery, water pump, transmission, exhaust system, air conditioner, and wheels). For the purposes of this article, we will avoid situation A since that is pretty much useless to us. If you find yourself in situation B, that’s great because all you need to do is fix a few small items and you’re on your way. Situation C is a bit more complicated, however.

    When you are buying the situation C $500 beater, you are going to want to check for two things and two things only, the powertrain and the wheels. If the engine idles roughly or varies RPMs randomly, that might be a simple fix like a new airflow sensor or maybe a new throttle body. But if it is spewing black smoke and takes a few days to get to speed, there are other cheap cars out there. If the tires are a bit worn, but the wheels are otherwise straight and vibration-free, then slap on some new rubber and get rolling. But if the car goes left when the steering wheel is pointed straight and if one of the wheels wobbles like a drunken otter, there are other $500 beaters out there. Air conditioning not working, radio not working, cigarette lighter not working, doesn’t matter. This is the compromise-mobile! You have to pay to play for such luxuries as working airbags and door locks.


    Your $500 beater broke down and it’s going to cost you thousands to repair? No problem! Sell it to some other chap for $500 or scrap it and get at least a fifth of your investment back. Not a bad deal if your alternative is back to what you were doing before. Put a grand or two of parts and hard work into the $500 beater, and it can last you until that big promotion. Get fed up with one $500 beater, sell it, move on to another one, rinse, and repeat. There simply is no losing!

    Just don’t buy the $400 beater, that’s a whole other ballgame.