October 08, 2019

Having My Dad Teach Me to Change the Oil in My Car (a 40 Goals by 40 Years Old Goal)

40 x 40 Goal: Having My Dady Show Me How to Change the Oil in My Car

For those of you that read my previous post in its entirety, props to you! Hahaha, I have never written a post that long before without breaking it into different segments, but I hope that it will be helpful to anyone that coaches cross country or is interested in coaching cross country. It explains a lot of what I do during the months of July through October!

Today, I had such a great morning with my dad! I got to cross off one of the goals on my list of things I'd like to do before I turn 40 years old (in January 2022): Have my dad teach me how to change the oil in my car.

It sounds like an odd goal, but my dad has been an auto mechanic for his entire life; even now that he's retired, people still prefer to bring their cars to him. I wouldn't trust anyone else with my car!

Because of his expertise, I've saved literally thousands of dollars over the years by having him do the work (for free, because family discount, haha). My dad is getting older (so is everyone, obviously, but working on cars isn't as easy on his body as it used to be. He's not going to be around forever, so I wanted to learn how to do things for myself. (I also asked him today if, when he dies, I can have his garage full of tools! 😂)

I literally knew NOTHING about changing oil going into this. I may have learned something in Auto Shop class in high school, but mostly what I remember of Auto Shop was leaving class to get fast food with my friend Jake. (Our teacher was a first-year, and sadly, we took full advantage of that).

First, I had to buy the oil and filter. My dad explained that it would either be in the car's manual or I could look it up in a book at the store (they have books for a few different brands at the store so you can conveniently look up by car make, model, and year to get what you need.

Unfortunately, my car (a 2015 Jeep Renegade) called for an expensive oil: 0W-20. They didn't sell it in the big containers, so I had to buy several quart size ones (I bought five but it turned out that I needed 5-1/2, so I still have to add half a quart as soon as I can get one). My dad said next time, I can buy the 5W-20 instead, which will work just fine and and be much cheaper.

Expensive 0W-20 oil

Sometimes my dad is very patient and sometimes not so much. I was glad he was very patient with me today, because I learned so much! He taught me how to check the levels of brake fluid, antifreeze, washer fluid, oil, air in my tires, the condition of the brake pads, fan belt, engine filter, and more. The engine filter was filthy! He said I should probably buy a new one, but for now, he used a high pressure air hose to clean it out. That's what I'm unscrewing in this photo:

unscrewing the filter

He told me to wear clothes that I didn't mind getting messy, and once I got started, I discovered why. There is a lot of lying on the ground (he has carpets outside to make it a little more comfortable, but they aren't the cleanest, either).

After checking all the fluid levels and filling what needed to be filled, we got to work on the oil. After checking the oil level, he was shocked at how low it was. He said it wouldn't have lasted a couple more weeks and would have done some serious damage. Yikes!

Anyway, he said the very first thing I should do is open a window in the car so I don't somehow lock myself out. (Smart. He remembers all the times he had to rescue me in high school when I either ran out of gas or locked myself out of my car).

Then, he showed me where to put the jack lift under the car to raise the car up.

lining up the jack lift under the car

When I was a kid, I remember playing with the jack lift--one of us kids would stand on it and the other would jack us up, hahaha. The lift seemed so much bigger back then! I specifically remember one time I was standing on the jack, chewing root beer bubble gum (with a liquid center--ew! and some of the liquid dripped on my thumb. Apparently, a bee was attracted to the syrup I was stung. It's funny, random the things you remember.

Once I got the lift in position, it was time to jack it up. This is basically a good arm workout, pumping up and down until the jack lifts the car off the ground high enough to get a one of those small jacks underneath it.

jacking up the car

Once I had two jacks under the car (one on each side) as well as the jack lift, I prayed that the car wouldn't fall on me while I was underneath it. My dad's been doing this for 40 years and has never had a car fall on him, so I was pretty confident.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the messiest part--removing the old oil. I had to unscrew the old filter and the oil came gushing out (it's not just a drip when you remove the old filter--it gushes!) into an oil pan, but while I was unscrewing the cap, the oil was pouring down my hand. My dad has a dozen (well used) towels lying around, thankfully.

Once the oil had all drained into the pan, I had to screw the new filter in. Thankfully, I'd bought the correct size! If it hadn't fit, I'd have to go buy another (with someone else's car). Screwing in the new filter was messy, too, because there was still a bit of oil dripping down into the pan (and all over my arm). After that, the mess wasn't too bad.

getting read to empty the old oil

Once the new one was screwed into place, it was time to lower the car. Basically, I did everything backwards. I lifted the car just a touch so that I could remove the jacks, and then I slowly (well, he told me to go slowly, but it was tough to keep it from dropping down quickly!) lowered the jack lift.

With the car back on the ground, he said it was a good time to check the the air in the tires (which I did, and they were all at 30 psi--and they needed to be at 35 psi, so I added some air. Then he said it was a good time to check all the lights (headlights, brake lights, etc.). I checked them all and they all worked except for one fog light, which I'll have to replace (although I rarely use the fog lights).

If you have a Jeep Renegade, here's a short tip. Even after changing the oil, the oil change light will still come on when you start the car. To reset this, you just turn the key halfway (to where it's just the battery on) and then pump the gas three times within 10 seconds. Turn the car off. Then start the engine, and voila! No more change oil light.

Other than the air filter, the only other thing that needs replacing is my tires. I'm dreading it, because it'll cost a fortune, but it must be done. Preferably before winter.

Anyway, I'm glad to have knocked another goal off my list, and this was a fun one! I got to spend some quality time with my dad and learn all about my car. And now I'll be able to change my own oil the next time it needs it :)

Dad and me


  1. GREAT picture of you and your dad!! And so glad you were able to knock another goal off the list! I should really have my husband teach my how to change my oil. Or really, teach me anything about my car lol. He has the patience of a saint but me, not so much! I have a very short attention span that usually doesn't go hand in hand with learning something I'm not too interested in to begin with ;)

    1. I thought it was really fun to learn! And since I've been super into DIY'ing everything lately, it just seemed to fit ;)

  2. FYI - The thing you lifted the car with is called a "floor jack" and the stationary ones that held the car up are called "jack stands". Thankfully, my husband handles all this stuff though I know just enough about all of it. I changed my first tire all by myself when I was I think 44 (flatted at work). Was pretty proud of myself. But my dad made me learn how to check all the fluids and such when I was 16 (though honestly I have pretty much punted that to hubs since I was 22).

    1. I'm sure my dad told me what they are called, but I just named them something other than "this thingamajig" and "that thingamabob", hahaha. I have a very funny flat tire story that I should share on my blog soon!

  3. You have a great Dad. Well done Katie!

    1. Thanks! He really is great. And so patient while I learned--there were a couple of "oops!" from my mouth, haha.

  4. That is such a sweet picture. Plus a sweet memory. You look like your dad a lot!

    1. Thank you! I don't have very many pictures of my dad and me, so I'm glad I have it :)

  5. I love that your dad taught you how to change the oil and care for your car. What a good day!

    1. It was fun! And I feel much more confident now if any of the fluids should need to be changed :)

  6. We used to play on the jack when we were little too, one person would jack it up, and then when it was at the top, twist the handle to let it down fast and see if the person standing on it would fall. Ah the good old days!

    1. Yes!! That's exactly what we used to do, too. It seemed so much bigger back then. It's funny, my dad told me at least 800 times to make sure that I twisted the handle SLOWLY to lower the car. And each time, I swear it somehow just cranked too fast and went down harder than it should have. Oops ;)

  7. You are a lucky girl. My father is not handy at all. I admire how u are not afraid to get a little too.

    One day maybe you and your dad can show your oldest son when he is ready to drive all the things you learned. It is valuable and how to change a tire.

    I love the picture too. Tell your dad he has a online fan club. 🤩


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