Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm reinforced in my desire to change engine oil myself

Changing the oil on your own car is something I don't think everyone should do, but it's good to know how (and how internal combustion engines work). My mother's late model Corolla was due, but I detest oil rigs and wasn't about to take it to one for her. As I mentioned a few years back, I like to do it myself, and I've always done it on my own car ever since these idiots so overtightened the drain plug and nearly stripped the threads!

Then there's the question of trust. I'm actually not sure of the last time the oil and filter were genuinely changed on my mother's car. For all we know, they've just been draining the oil and leaving the same filter. It's no mere stereotype that mechanics try to rip people off, and they can see an elderly woman like my mother coming from a mile away. Unfortunately I don't have the time to bring her car to a shop for her, which has cost her. When the car had only 34,000 miles, some scammer said she needed new brake pads and rotors. Her brake pads seemed fine to me, let alone the rotors, but what the hell did she know? So she ok'd the job and in the end paid $700.

Moreover, this last oil filter, a TVI brand, put on is a piece of junk. A "cap" filter wrench, the kind that fits over the edge of the filter and hooks onto a 3/8" ratchet, just kept slipping on the smooth painted end. The flattened parts were still too rounded. Ordinarily that's not a problem; I'll just get what I consider a "true" filter wrench, except that some Toyota designer was drunk on sake and designed a tight space with no way to turn a wrench! Even with the swiveling handle at 90 degrees, I had no room to turn it such that it could grip onto the filter. There could be room if I removed the oil pan, but what a job just for an oil change.

Maybe it's no coincidence that, frustrated, I came inside to rest for a minute and saw that my wife was watching mass on the Filipino cable channel. The priest was saying something about the Lord pouring grace or whatever, and I said, "Well maybe the Lord can do something about this filter!" After some water, I went back outside to think of what I could do. I've been known in my family since I was little for ingenuity in jury-rigging or otherwise doing things with limited materials and tools, and this time was actually easy. "Oh what the hell." I started hammering the cap wrench onto the filter, uttering a steady stream of curses, and miracle of miracles, that did it. It wasn't perfectly tight, and I had to hammer it back on several times, but each time I could get several degrees of turn on the filter.

"Maker of quality parts" is printed on the side. What a joke.

So I got the little bastard off, and the rest was straightforward. At least now the job is done, I know it was done, and it was done right. Props go out to Craftsman, maker of awesome tools like this ratcheting wrench set. Sometimes you can find them on sale for half price. When I first saw them, my frugal wife initially thought I'd be buying the equivalent of toys, but they've more than earned themselves, including today. Memo to self: 14mm next time.

Props also to Fram's oil filter designers, who have the sense to put rough grips on the end.

Finally, to whoever made the starting-to-rust two-ton jack that's served me so well.


Blogger Brad said...

You can always try the "strap" style oil filter wrench. When I had my motorcycle, I did all the maintenance myself, and one of the annoying bits about motorcycle oil filters is that they're much smaller and parts/tools for motorcycles -- like for boats -- cost a fortune. The strap style wrench was nice, and it was also small enough to fit into my tool kit under the rear seat of the bike (where all space is at a premium).

The other nice thing about the strap style filter wrench is that it can be used for any size oil filter. You don't need different wrenches for different cars.

Monday, June 29, 2009 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I also tried my Craftsman strap wrench. There wasn't room to turn that, either.

Monday, June 29, 2009 7:29:00 PM  

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