Editor's Note: In this limited series, Under the Hood , we'll share do-it-yourself tips for drivers who want to wrench their own cars, no matter their skill level. Motor oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle\u2019s engine, and if you don\u2019t change it regularly, things can get ugly in a hurry. Luckily, oil changes are well within the capabilities of a DIY mechanic: the job is relatively easy to tackle at home, it can save you money and it\u2019ll help you get to know your car\u2019s engine better too. How Often to Change Your Oil To find your vehicle\u2019s oil change interval, consult the owner\u2019s manual. For most vehicles, the recommended interval is every 5,000 or 7,500 miles. In addition, modern cars often have maintenance minders on the instrument panel that will alert you when it\u2019s time for an oil change. (Side note: Service shops will often recommend having your oil changed every 3,000 miles; this frequency won't hurt, certainly, but it's ok to observe the manufacturer's suggested intervals instead.) Conventional vs. Synthetic Oil Motor oil comes in a variety of viscosities as well as two main types. Viscosities are identified by codes, for example, 5W-30 or 15W-50. The two main types of motor oil are conventional and synthetic. Conventional oil is manufactured from crude oil. Synthetic oil uses a higher-quality base oil; it\u2019s also chemically engineered for purity and to resist breaking down over time. There are also synthetic blends, which are a mix of the two. Full synthetic is often a good choice\u2014it lasts longer, provides superior lubrication, and doesn\u2019t form sludge as readily as conventional oil. There are also oils manufactured specifically for higher-mileage vehicles (usually 75,000 miles or more). These are formulated with a higher viscosity rating to provide extra protection for aging engine components. Depending on the brand, high-mileage oils may be conventional, synthetic or blends. Changing Your Oil To change your oil, you\u2019ll need some supplies. (You can easily purchase the following from eBay Motors or from your retailer of choice.) Motor oil (check the owner\u2019s manual to determine what viscosity you need and how many quarts are required) A new oil filter (the part number is listed in the owner\u2019s manual, but any auto parts store or website will have this information) Oil drain plug gasket (only if required \u2013 again, refer to the manual) Oil drain pan A floor jack and jack stands, or ramps Funnel Socket wrench Oil filter wrench Shop towels Rubber gloves A plastic bag and a large piece of cardboard Lift Your Car The first step is to lift your vehicle so you can work under it (obviously, high clearance trucks and SUVs may not require this step). Drive it up the ramps or lift it with your jack and jack stands. Place the jack and jack stands only at strong, dedicated lifting points \u2014your car\u2019s user manual will tell you where those are. Drain the Oil Once your car is lifted, pop the hood, locate the oil fill spout on the engine (reference the manual if needed), and remove the cap. Place a piece of cardboard on the ground below the engine to catch any spills or drips. Underneath the vehicle, locate the oil pan drain plug, and place the drain pan underneath it, noting that the oil will likely pour outward in a heavy, arced stream and not directly down. Put on your gloves and loosen the drain plug (counterclockwise) with your socket wrench. Carefully remove it\u2014oil will start dripping and then rapidly pour out once it\u2019s removed. Let the oil completely drain into the pan. Replace the Oil Filter and Drain Plug Next, locate the oil filter \u2013 it is screwed onto the engine block and is likely most accessible from above. Usually, you can loosen it by turning it counterclockwise with your hand. Keep a towel or small bucket close by\u2014the filter will leak oil as you loosen it. If it\u2019s really stuck, use the oil filter wrench to free it. Remove the filter, including its rubber gasket, and place it in a plastic bag. Check the draining oil. Once the stream of used oil from your engine has stopped, wipe off the drain plug hole, put a new gasket on the drain plug (if required), and reinstall the drain plug with your socket wrench. Make sure it\u2019s firmly snug, but don\u2019t over-tighten it. Add Oil New bottles of motor oil have a transparent slit on the side that will help you keep track of how much oil you're using. First, gently pour a small amount of fresh oil into your new oil filter (fill it up about halfway) and dab some oil along its gasket with your finger, noting how much oil you use in this step. Screw the filter back onto its mounting point. It should be hand-tight\u2014again, don\u2019t overdo it. If you\u2019re using jacks, lower your vehicle to the ground. If you\u2019re using ramps, do not start your engine to move your car\u2014there\u2019s no oil in it! Put a funnel in the engine\u2019s oil fill spout and add fresh oil, pouring slowly to avoid spills. Subtract the small amount you put in the filter from the engine\u2019s total capacity\u2014that\u2019s how much you need to pour into the fill spout. Once you\u2019ve hit that number, you're done. Screw the oil fill cap back on securely. Check the Oil Level Let the oil settle for a few minutes. If the car is on the ground, check the dipstick (pull it out, wipe it off, put it back in, and then pull it out again to check the indicator on its tip\u2013the line of oil should be at the "full" mark). Add more oil if necessary. If your car is on ramps, you\u2019ll need to return it to level ground for the dipstick to be accurate\u2013now that there is oil in the engine, start the car and carefully back off the ramps. Turn off the engine, check your dipstick, and add more oil if necessary. Then run your engine for a couple of minutes and check underneath for leaks. If there are no leaks, your vehicle is ready to hit the road, and you're officially a mechanic. While it might seem like a lot of work, an oil change is a pretty simple and quick process. Better yet, with regular at-home oil changes, you\u2019ll keep your car in good shape for many miles ahead.