I've known how to change oil since I started driving, and for the first few changes I kinda liked doing it. Yet as the years rolled on and time grew scarce I began taking my truck to those quick-change shops, or the Tire & Lube center at the WalMart. I figured $30 wasn't too much to pay to have a professional (in the sense that they get paid to do the job) do all the work properly and dispose of the used oil. I'd never had a problem with their work and it gave me 30 minutes to mine the $5 DVD shit-bin for movie gold.
But I've been in mechanic-mode lately due in part to watching two hours of Spike TV's "Power Block" --a block of four shows all devoted to wrenchin': Extreme 4x4, Horsepower (my fav.), Trucks, and Muscle Car-- every weekend for the last month. All those TV shows recommend synthetic oils and I figured changing my own oil would satisfy my "manly" gene and give me a chance to investigate the synthetic hype.
I went to my local auto parts shop to compare the prices of conventional oil (Pennzoil, Quaker State, etc.) to synthetic oil (Castrol, Royal Purple, etc.). To my surprise, a quart of Castrol GTX High Mileage was only a buck more than a quart of Pennzoil motor oil! That, in my opinion, is a small price to pay to go synthetic. Seeing as how my Dodge only needs 4.5 quarts that translates into a $5 difference. Not too shabby. Also while I was at the auto parts shop I picked up a Haynes repair manual for my Dodge Ram. (I felt slightly embarrassed that I didn't already own one, as any do-it-yourselfer needs a manual for their vehicle.)
Before I took the leap and shelled out my dough for the oil, I figured I'd see what WalMart charged for a synthetic oil change; and here's the price gouge that will really blew me away: $55. That's a shit-ton of money for an oil change, especially when one aisle over you can buy 5 quarts of Castrol GTX for $14 and a Fram high mileage oil filter for $7. Add those together and you can do your own synthetic oil change for $21; a savings of $34! That's huge!
So that's what I did. I bought the fancy filter, 5 quarts of the super synthetic oil, drain pan, funnel, shop towel, and a jug of windshield washer fluid (I was dry), and my grand total: $37. Even factoring in the cost of the Haynes manual I still only spent $57, which is $2 more expensive than the synthetic WalMart oil-change, but lands me all those essential shop tools and the invaluable repair manual.
This post probably sounds like a consumer alert piece, and it is a little bit, but if you have the gumption to change your own oil you will save money and get a better bang for you buck. I'll leave you with one last cost comparison: WalMart conventional oil change-$30; changing it yourself oil with synthetic oil and fancy filter-$21. Now that's thinkin' with your dipstick!
The torque rate for a Dodge Ram oil plug in 25ft/lbs. Thanks Haynes!