How to Service Your Engine Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my series of articles on How to Service Your Engine. Previously we covered what parts are needed and what brands to use. Now we move on to fitting them.

Getting Started:-

Rub some barrier cream onto your hands and, if you have them, you may wish to use latex rubber gloves too. Using barrier cream is important as this can help make the job of cleaning your hands later easier but also helps protect your skin from harmful carcinogenic chemicals. Used engine oil is not good for your skin!

    • Thoroughly warm the engine. This is usually best done by driving a few miles.


    • Once the engine is hot, apply the handbrake.


    • Put chocks in front and behind the rear wheels (or the front if you happen to have a mid or rear-engine car).


    • Remove the keys from the ignition and do not leave them inside the car.


    • Disconnect the battery.


    • Now you can jack the car up on a solid level surface, making sure your jack is positioned under a load bearing point or a jacking point.


    • Once you have jacked the car up high enough for you to get underneath and move freely, insert the axle stands underneath a strong part of the chassis. Lower the car onto the stands slowly and carefully. Making sure they are stable, secure and level (Your life depends upon this! Most people find it rather hard to breathe when they have a ton or two of motorcar land on their chest).


    • With your oil bowl and a rag at the ready loosen the oil filter. This is usually located on the side of the engine and you may need to use a filter wrench or a strap wrench to loosen it. Remember, “lefty loosey, righty tighty”, if you don’t know which way to turn it. Depending upon the model of car, you may have to do this from below or above. Oil will dribble down, so have your bowl ready to catch the oil. Unscrew the filter the rest of the way by hand and try not to spill oil all over your face if you are under the car.


    • Get your new oil filter and make sure the rubber oil seal on it is fitted firmly and correctly, then, using your finger, rub a bead of oil around the contact surface of the seal. Screw the new filter onto the engine as tight as you can by hand. Congratulations, you have now fitted a new oil filter!


    • Loosen the sump plug and place the bowl beneath it. The sump plug is located at the lowest part of the sump at the very bottom of the engine. Loosen the plug the last few turns by hand and drain the oil into the bowl. N.B. The engine oil will be HOT and may hurt your hand, so use the rag to remove the hot oil quickly if it splashes you. Leave the oil to drain out thoroughly. That last little bit will be full of particles that you want to remove from the engine, so let it drain out well. At this point I usually will leave the oil to drain while I go and replace the spark plugs.


    • The spark plugs are usually screwed into the side or top of an engine. You may have to remove a cover to gain access. Each spark plug will have an ignition lead connected to it or, as in a growing majority of cars these days, they will have an individual coil sitting piggy back on top of each spark plug instead. Either way, this has to be removed to access the spark plug. Often a plug lead can fall apart as you remove it from the top of the plug. While this is not a problem if you are replacing the leads anyway, it can often be avoided by gripping the sides of the end part of the lead, rather than simply yanking the cable. It is recommended that spark plugs are replaced one at a time to avoid the possible mistake of replacing the wrong lead from another plug. Using your socket set remove the spark plug. This may be quite tight to undo initially, if necessary use a longer lever.


    • Get your new plug and check the gap is correct using the feeler gauge. If you need to bend the end of the plug to increase the gap then be sure NOT to lever against the centre electrode or the porcelain of the plug. Use a small screw driver or plug gapping tool to adjust and set the correct gap.


    • Once gapped correctly, smear a small amount of copper grease on the threads, making sure NOT to get any on or near the porcelain or centre electrode.


    • Screw your new plug in by hand and then only use the ratchet to tighten the plug the last bit. Do not cross-thread or over-tighten the spark plugs, as this can damage the cylinder head and will cost you a fortune to repair. If in doubt, use a torque wrench, set to the correct setting as recommended by the manufacturer.


  • Replace the plug lead making sure it is pushed firmly onto the top of the plug (usually you will feel it click into place).

Some of the old boy brigade will tell you that if the plug does not look badly worn that you can get away with cleaning a spark plug with a wire brush. DO NOT DO THIS. Cleaning with a wire brush leaves microscopic scores on the plug which causes carbon deposits to build up faster. You can also damage or crack the porcelain and cause misfires. Basically, if a plug is worn or not working, replace it with a new one. Cleaning and reusing an old spark plug is only any good in a “get you home emergency situation” and then the plugs should be replaced as soon as possible afterwards.

    • Once you have replaced all of the spark plugs one by one (and the plug leads in the same manner if they are due to be replaced) you may now replace any cover that you had to remove earlier. N.B. If you have replaced the plug leads it is important to make sure that they come off one at a time and are replaced in the same order. Always ensure that they are fully pushed home at both ends to avoid future misfires and corrosion. used engines near me


    • By now your oil will have drained out fully. So go back and refit the sump plug with a new washer, tightening it to the correct torque. Once again, if in doubt, use a torque wrench.


    • Wipe any excess oil from the engine using a rag.


  • Refill the engine with fresh good quality oil. Don’t rely upon the dipstick until the car is back on all four wheels. Don’t over-fill it. Not all engines take a whole 5 litres!

I can’t stress enough the importance of regular oil changes using a high quality oil, doing this correctly can easily more than double the lifespan of your engine. Not to mention your engine will run smoother, be more responsive, burn cleaner, be better for the environment and give better mpg figures.

Now you have changed the oil and filter, the life-blood of your engine. Well done, now your engine will avoid premature wear, excessive friction build-up and a myriad of other potential problems.

  • At this point it is probably a good idea to remove the bowl from under the engine and pour the old oil into a sealable container, such as an old empty oil bottle. Be sure to do this promptly while the oil is still warm, as it pours easier and you are less likely to trip over a bowl of dirty oil. If you are using a funnel to pour the oil into a bottle lift the funnel out of the bottle slightly and hook a small piece of wire over the lip of the bottle. This creates an air gap around the edge of the funnel and stops the oil from glugging back and blowing bubbles of dirty oil at you as the pressure equalizes.


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