The Changing of the Oil

Boys learn many "man lessons" from their fathers, and I am no exception to that standard. 
One of my favorite "man lessons" that I learned from my dad was how to change the oil on a car.  I started "helping" my dad around age 12 or so - and I think I was changing the oil on the cars FOR my dad by the age of 14 or 15. 
Since I was leaving for a road trip (to go duck hunting), the oil in my car was in need of changing, and I was on a time crunch, I stepped out of character, and clipped one of the oil change coupons from our paper to have someone else change the oil in my car. 
$15.99 for an oil change (plus a nominal fee for oil disposal)... 
On the day before I was going to leave, I dug in my work-bag to get the coupon, and make the appointment - when I noticed I forgot the coupon at home. 
Folks, I am a cheapskate (often times to a fault).  I was not about to pay full price for an oil change that I had a coupon for, so I changed gears a bit, and decided to make time to change the oil myself. 
By the time I was 18, I thought people who paid someone to have their oil changed were crazy.  The most expensive part of an oil change (per unit) was the filter.  You could buy a quart of oil for 99 cents (and often less when it was on sale).  For years now, the price of oil has been steadily climbing - and it is not uncommon to find quarts of oil for between three or four dollars.  That brings the price of an oil change (when you include the filter) to over twenty dollars.  Not even considering the hassle of clean up, and disposal of the old oil.
I stopped at the auto parts store on the way home from work, and while truly focusing on the cost of changing the oil myself, it really struck home that (even on sale) I was spending the same to change the oil myself as it cost to have someone change it for me.  The sale was "five quarts of oil and a filter for $15.99. 
The long and short of the story is that by the time I was finished (some two hours later), along with my changed oil, I had several small oil spills on the garage floor, a pair of oil soaked underpants (I know you are all wondering...  It was not the ones I was wearing...  It was an old pair in a box of storage stuff in the garage.. Hey, I ran out of rags...) soaked to the point that I had to throw them away, no oil disposal container, and a broken plastic under-chassis cowling from the car that I now have to buy parts for...
That was it... I had an epiphany moment....
I was no longer going to keep "doing it myself".  For less money, and less time, and less problems / headaches, I can have the oil changed - all while I sit and listen to The Doors, The Bloodhound Gang, or even the previous days recorded Ron & Fez Show on my Sansa....
Does that make me a bad father? 
Is my attempt at saving time and money by having the oil changed, somehow neglectful of the tradition (and the knowledge) that I wont be passing down to my boys (and / or girls)? 
Maybe there is a happy medium were I can (intentionally) spend the extra money and time - with the sole purpose of creating a "teaching moment" - and still change the oil myself from time to time... 


  1. I learned long ago that there were some things just not worth my time.

    There are plenty of teaching moments in mowing the lawn, changing the innards of a leaky toilet, replacing spark plugs and air filters, etc.

    And then there are the big projects, like home remodels and landscaping.

    Yeah, sometimes tradition isn't worth continuing!

  2. Time is money - and when you've got 5 people begging for the "spare" time after work, well, you've gotta make choices. My dad taught me all about cars and oil changes and all that good stuff. He would ghasp if I ever mentioned "getting my oil changed" rather than "changing my oil." Yes, I can do it. I choose not to. My poor kids will never learn that fine art from me or their father . . . or their grandfather since we live so far away.

    There are some things I'm willing to write the check for :-)

  3. The fact of the matter is, automobiles are becoming ever more complicated and routine repairs are anything but. Even garages and dealers have to hook up the engine to the computer to diagnos what the problem is.
    Pretty soon, taking care of your own car will be a lost art. I have changed oil before and it just isn't worth it for me anymore.
    There are many more things to teach and things to do.

  4. Keep the oil changing equipment and teach your son how to do it, and then teach them the "value of a man's time."

    Every man MUST know how to do a few basic things:

    - change your oil
    - change your tire
    - knot a tie (one knot is sufficient)
    - unclog a drain
    - shoot a gun
    - cook an egg

    hmm, what else? I dunno.

    But also, some of our oil changing places round here also give you a free car wash and with the water ban, well...not only is it fiscally responsible, it's helping to save the environment when I let someone else do it.

    So see, a double lesson!

  5. All I can do is second all the good advice everyone else has given and wish I, as a girl, had been taught how to change the oil. I'm lucky I know how to change a tire! I had to get a boyfriend to teach me to drive a stick shift (Dad wouldn't, for some reason).

    Girls need to know these things, too, if only to know. I'll still take the car in to have the oil changed.

  6. Sigh. Sometimes I feel like I fail as a father. Oil changes? Jiffy Lube. Toilet repairs? $120 an hour plumber. Shoot a firearm? Not even on a firing range (I don't even know where the closest one is). Change a tire? Well, OK, there's ONE lesson. Build a computer from scratch? THERE ya go. If my kids are ever out in the wilderness and need help (because their engine melted from lack of oil and they can't shoot food), maybe they can build a pine cone cell phone with a satellite link and call for help.

  7. I am not sure why, but this post got duplicated.... The first post had two comments, the second post had six.... So I deleted the first post, and am adding the two comments left on that post here...


    OhCaptain said...

    I figured this out too. It really is no longer cost/time effective to change the oil myself. Does this make me a bad father? I don't think so. Now I have more time to spend with my kids on the weekend.

    10/4/08 7:54 AM

    Terry said...

    I actually am coming from the other direction... Like you I was brought up to change my own oil but somewhere along the way I just didn't have the time and started paying people to do it for me.

    For what it's worth here is what I have learned from the experience:

    1.) You can't trust some other guy to use a decent filter (They use the crappiest cheapest ones they can get their hands on)

    2.) You can't trust some other guy to pay attention to (Much less care about) other mechanical issues on your vehicle. Oil change is when I check my brakes and look at my suspension components and u-joints for slop.

    3.) You can't trust the other guy. The last time I had both of my vehicles to a large 'reputable' chain, I was settling up and getting my keys back when I asked if their service included grease. To my surprise the cheerful response was "Yes sir, both vehicles!" Since my Toyota is rack & pinion and he couldn't possibly have greased it, my suspicions were aroused about my truck. Sure enough, I found a couple of tie rod ends that were dangerously low, and that all of the zerc's were still crudded over and obviously had not been touched.

    I think in the long run that you save money doing it yourself if you factor in the prevention of unnecessary repairs. Plus you get a dandy of an excuse to hang out in the garage and listen to the bloodhound gang (which I confess left my repertoire about 15 years ago...).

    10/6/08 10:27 AM

  8. Phil, that reminds me... The ballcock in my toilet IS dripping, and is on the "to do" list!! Thanks for the reminder!

    Commonmom - as far as MY dad goes... He pays to have his oil changed now too...

    DadStuff - oh so right... plus, many of the car companies offer "free oil changes" for XX number of years... then (as long as you are a repeat customer) they offer them for "lifetime".. (we just got the free oil change upgrade for our Van...

    Postulates and Pasttimes - Yeah... and a free car wash is (at least around here) worth about 6 bucks! So there is some added value in that!

    Eva Aurora - Yup... My girls are going to get all the good "man" stuff too... Oil, Tires, (I don't have a manual transmission anymore, but if I do, it will be on the list)

    Both the boys and the girls need lessons from both their mother AND their father to be well rounded people!

    Good Father - We cant teach them everything... My father never hunted... That only came after I turned 18 and could hunt with my buddy Ed! I don't resent my father... He taught me the stuff he knew about.

    Oh Captian - It's the time with the kids that really pushed me over the oil changing edge!

    Terry - You are correct on all your points, but then again, it boils down to the time. I have a hard enough time finding the time to change the oil - let alone check all the lube points, etc.

    You are right about another thing though... You are getting the LEAST quality products when you have someone else do it - especially "on the cheap"... I guess I look at it this way... Change the filter with a cheap replacement, or wait another thousand miles (which I am embarrassed to admit) then turn into two)...

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  9. Well, I will always change my own oil as long as I am physically able. Why? Because I have major trust issues when it comes to my vehicles....that's it!


  10. I save time AND money. When the dipstick is dry, just throw some Castrol down the filler.

    No changing for me or the other guy!

    OK, I only do that on the wife's car...


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