Oil Change

Author: Jonathan Swain (aka "PurdueGuy")

Relevant Models

All S-Series


  • 14mm socket & ratchet
  • Filter wrench (cap type & socket, or strap type)
  • Funnel (optional)


  • Oil filter
  • Oil (4-5qts)


Step 1

Warm up the engine.  Warm oil will flow out of the engine better than cold, so take the car for a quick drive to warm it up.

Step 2

Raise the front end.  Ramps are really nice for this, or use a jack and jackstands.  Be sure to set the e-brake, and preferably use some wheel chocks on the rear (whether on ramps or stands).  NEVER work under a car that is only supported by a jack.  I don’t want to hear any stories of squished Saturn owners.

Step 3

Drain the oil from the pan.  The drain bolt is on the rear of the oil pan, which is one the passenger side of the car.  A 14mm socket will loosen the drain bolt, be sure to have a pan underneath to catch the oil.  Account for flowing oil that will arc out of the pan, as well as dribbling oil when it’s mostly empty when placing the pan.  The bolt is normally threaded (lefty loosey, righty tighty, aka: clockwise to tighten, counter-clockwise to loosen).

Step 4

Reinstall the drain bolt.  Make sure it has the round rubber gasket on it, and take a moment to wipe the bolt threads off, and wipe the area around the drain hole as well.  Clean parts are less likely to bind up and/or leak.  Snug the bolt nice & tight, but no need to go crazy on it.

Step 5

Remove the oil filter.  You may be able to do this by hand, but it’s pretty likely that you’ll need a wrench of some sort.  I use the kind that cups over the end of the filter and attaches to a ratchet, but a strap kind works too.  The filter will be full of oil, so be ready to set it somewhere to drain.  The oil will dribble/pour down onto the engine cradle and make a mess, this is normal, though there are tricks to getting around it if you want to take the extra time.  It doesn’t really hurt anything, just gets things dirty.  The oil filter is also normally threaded.

Step 6

Install the new oil filter.  Make sure that the gasket from the old filter came off, as they’ve been known to occasionally come off and stay behind, which can easily cause a bad leak that can ruin the engine.  Dab the new filter’s seal in some oil to help it seal, and spin it on.  It should require spinning around a number of times before it is tight, if it only turns a few times, it could be a sign that you’re cross-threading the filter on, or some other problem.  No need to use a filter wrench when tightening, just get it good & snug with your hand (unless it is now super-slippery because you got oil all over your hand).

Step 7

Refill the oil.  I’ve always found that 4qt will get the level into the hatch marks on the dipstick, so throw 4 in for now.  Fill through the oil fill hole on top of the engine.  Once you’ve got some oil pouring/poured in, take a glance under the car for leaks.

Step 8

Put the car back on the ground.  Get it off the ramps or jackstands or whatever, onto level ground.  It’s ok if you have to run the car a little to do this, as long as you put the 4qts of oil into it already.  It won’t hurt anything if it’s a tad low.

Step 9

Top off the oil.  If you didn’t run the car to get it off of ramps, go ahead & start it up for half a minute or so, then shut it off and wait a couple minutes so the oil can settle back into the pan.  Pull the dipstick, wipe it off, put it back in all the way, pull it out again and check the oil level.  Add oil as needed.  From the bottom to the top of the hatch marks is 1qt, to give you an idea of how much you’ll need to add if it’s off.  Do not overfill.  Take another glance to be sure you don’t see any leaks.



Installation is the reverse of removal.

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