Fixing My Car (part 2)

(continued from here)


Is messy. Sarah recently criticized me by saying she’d never heard of changing oil being messy. I’ve heard it only described with two words: easy. messy. It’s messy. But that’s not bad.

1. Josh was determined to have us do it in his own driveway. But we couldn’t jack the car up in a way to get it onto some stilts to hold it up, and because I couldn’t convince him that it was a good idea to drive half the car onto the railroad tracks so that it’d be naturally lifted off the ground, and he swore to me that I’d never be able to lie on my back on a skateboard and get underneath it, I was doomed to do it like it was the first oil change ever.

At Michael’s we just lifted the car and put on aprons. It didn’t feel nearly as ‘Happy Days’ but it was faster, easier, cleaner.

2. An oil change involves emptying the oil from the car, changing the oil filter, and filling the car back up with oil. And if you take it to a shop they’ll probably check the air filter and tell you it’s dirty and ask if you want to replace that too. Both times I went shopping for this stuff at Wal-Mart. Michael used to buy special oil for his truck, very expensive stuff, from the repair shop, until he went into the back of the shop and found out it was actually cheap stuff they were marking up. So, to Wal-Mart where you don’t have to know much more than than the make and model and year of car, type it into their dirty little computers, and it tells you which filters to buy. As for oil, I chose W5-30 (I can remember this because W is the first letter of my sister’s name, who is 5 years younger than I am, and on my 30th birthday I’m going to cry. I have no idea what it all means, though.) And I just chose something that was in the middle of the road, $15 or so for 5 quarts, also choosing something claiming it’s better for vehicles with over 75k miles.

3. So, under there you’ll find a bolt that you can just ratchet loose, and then position yourself to pull it out and not get hit by the stream of dirty black oil that’ll burst out. Regardless, we used a specialized container for catching the oil with a proper filter so you can drop the bolt (or oil filter later) without losing it in the oil. At Josh’s it was still late April and I’d only driven my car a few miles in the past day, so the oil was only warm. And yes, as soon as I pulled out the bolt it came pouring down my arm, but it was mostly caught in the container.

At Michael’s my car had been running all day and it was August. Michael stood beside me with rags to catch any oil that might want to run onto my designer clothes, but in the meantime, as soon as I got the bolt unscrewed I had to scream a lot of bad words because the oil was really, really, hot, like, hot enough to pour on an enemy who’s scaling your wall, or on someone who’s been accused of an act of terrorism without any evidence whatsoever to help them through his writer’s block.

4. After it’s all dripped out use a rag to mop it up from anywhere on the car it’s gone running. I think this is to distinguish oil that we’ve allowed to spill there from oil that may leak in the future. So, now tighten the bolt back in. Really tight.

5. Now, find the oil filter and unscrew it and drop it into the oil-catching container with its top side down so the oil comes out of it. Unscrewing it is very difficult, and there are special tools made for unscrewing it. I’ve seen two different sorts of these tools. And neither worked. So your best bet is to just find somebody who’s very strong to do it for you. And even these strong people will have trouble doing it, as the strong people I found were 1) an eagle scout, and 2) a marine.

6. To prepare the new oil filter you pour a bit of new oil around the moat on its top, to, if I remember correctly, help make a…I dunno, suction or air-tightness to it once it’s screwed in. And then screw it in tight. But maybe not so tight that you’ll need a marine to unscrew it for you next time. I don’t know.

7. You don’t want to pour in too much or too little oil. So I called Toyota to find out how much is enough. My brother had estimated correctly when he said I should pour in a little more than 4 quarts, which includes the bit that I put into the filter itself.  This leaves one quart to carry around in my trunk in case I need more oil.

8. Now, check the oil with the dipstick, as usual. And after driving home, check it again, just to make sure nothing’s leaking.

9. As for the air filter, you find its compartment lid, and it’s opened by releasing some obvious latches. Pay attention to how the air filter looks when it’s in there, which side is which, etc. And then just prepare the new one to look precisely the same. Pull the old one out, and if it’s dirty, swap it with the new one. Make sure it clicks in satisfyingly. Put the lid on.

10. Hooray. You just saved like…$10 and missed out on a shop vacuuming your car and making sure it’s in decent shape.


1. Now, this motherfucker was drying and cracking. It was going to cost nearly $300 to have replaced. Replacing it involves buying a new one for $20, yanking off the old one and putting the new one on. While fixing the A/C we had to take it off entirely. Now, I didn’t actually put it on myself, but I watched, and I know the details. 1ZZ-FEengine

2. Pull off the old one. Now, we had an easy time pulling it off because we’d removed the compressor and so the thing just fell off. But in case you’re not in the middle of gutting your car, there’s something that looks like a bolt that, in this diagram (which may not be a diagram for a Corolla, since it came from a Spyder website but has so far worked), is called a ‘tension relief bolt’–and is pretty neato.

3. You turn the tension relief bolt, which is attached to the Tension Spring, which as the diagram shows…relieves the belt’s tension. Righty tighty lefty loosey does not apply here because it’s on a spring that will bring back the tension when you let go.  So you relieve the tension and dilly dally the old belt off each of the wheels it’s wrapped around. Notice that one side is smooth and the other side has grooves in it. The side with the grooves in it will be wrapping around the wheels with grooves in them, being, as I recall, the larger wheels, while the center smaller wheels are smooth and when wrapping the belt around them you’ll expose its grooved side and wrap its smooth side.

4. Which is what you’ll do now, which you won’t be able to do unless the tension bolt is turned so that it can make its way around everything.

5. Hooray. You’ve just saved $280.

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