How to Find Oil Drain Plug

by Dan FerrellUpdated July 07, 2023
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Photos courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker /

Finding the oil drain plug on your vehicle is the first step to changing your engine oil, oil filter or drain plug gasket, which should be part of your regular maintenance schedule. This should be done every three months or at the intervals recommended by your car manufacturer. Regular oil changes help increase the life of your engine more than anything else will. And with this guide, you will not only be able to find the drain plug, but also replace the oil and filter on your car – totally DIY. Being able to check the motor oil level, change your car’s oil, put in a new oil filter, and discard old oil from the drain pan are good skills to have – and being able to do it yourself will save you time and money from the auto parts store or auto repair shop. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how to find the oil plug in the oil drain pan and discard the contaminants.

Things You Will Need

  • Oil filter
  • Engine oil
  • Floor jack and 2 jack stands
  • Chocks
  • Wrench
  • Ratchet and socket
  • New drain plug O-ring or gasket if necessary
  • Brake parts cleaner
  • Wire brush
  • Shop rag
  • Filter wrench
  • Catch pan
  • Small funnel

1. Buy Oil Filter and Fresh Oil

Buy the oil filter and the correct amount of fresh oil recommended for your particular vehicle model. If necessary, consult your vehicle's owner's manual or service manual. It’s usually about a quart of oil per automotive that you’ll need.

2. Let Engine idle for 3 minutes

Start the engine and let it idle for three minutes. This will bring the engine to operating temperature and allow dirt and other small particles around the engine to flow down with the oil, which makes it easy to remove. Then turn off the engine.

3. Using a floor jack, raise the front of your car

Raise the front of your car using a floor jack and install 2 jack stands for support.

4. Place chocks at the rear wheels

Place a couple of chocks at the rear wheels and apply the parking brake.

5. Look at the bottom of the engine oil pan

Look at the bottom of the engine oil pan. Around the bottom of the pan, you should see a single bolt. That's your oil drain plug. (Some vehicle models use a similar round plug, which you can pull to drain the oil.)

6. Place a catch pan

Place a catch pan under the oil pan, near the drain plug.

7. Unscrew the drain plug washer

Unscrew the drain plug washer using an oil filter wrench or ratchet and socket and let the oil drain into the pan. Be careful when removing the plug, since the oil is hot at this point. Do quarter turns until it opens up. Allow all the oil to drain out of the engine.

8. Remove the oil filler cap

Remove the oil filler cap from the valve cover on top of the engine to speed up oil removal. Most of these caps are marked with the words Engine Oil for easy identification. If necessary, consult your owner's manual.

9. Clean accumulated dirt and grease

Clean dirt and grease accumulated around the valve oil cap using a shop rag, if necessary.

10. Inspect the O-Ring or Gasket

Inspect the drain-plug O-ring or gasket. If worn out, replace it.

11. Thoroughly clean the drain plug

Thoroughly clean the drain plug, around the oil-pan mounting bolt and threads. Use brake parts cleaner, wire brush and shop rag to get rid of dirt and grease on the old filter too.

12. Replace the drain plug.

Replace the drain plug. Start the bolt with your hand to avoid damage to the treads. Then tighten the plug with the wrench or ratchet and socket.

13. Move the catch pan near the oil filter

Move the catch pan near the oil filter and unscrew the filter with a filter wrench.

14. Install the filter

Apply a light coat of your own oil to the oil filter gasket and install the filter with your hand. When the filter gasket reaches the mounting surface, give the filter an additional three-quarter turn.

15. Pour the new oil through valve cap

Pour the new oil through the valve cap opening using a small funnel, if necessary. Then install the valve cap.

16. Check for leaks

Check for oil leaks and lower the car.

Video: How to Loosen the Oil Drain Plug

Helpful comments from the video:

  • Is good to have someone explaining with every little detail.
  • Do not use that multipoint closed wrench. It will strip the nut head. Instead use a closed wrench that has the same number of sides as the nut - usually 6 point. Also, a longer length on the wrench will give you more torque and control to loosen the nut. Use a torque wrench to tighten the nut.
  • Thanks for the video I haven't change the oil for a long time. I just had to make sure which way to turn the nut before I end up threading it.

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