Proper Mustang maintenance is the key to enjoying your car over the long term versus having an unreliable clunker thatís a constant headache. Of the maintenance items youíll run into, changing your Mustangís oil ranks at the top of the list. There are plenty of items to consider when it comes to general maintenance, but your engineís oil is its lifeblood. Ignore it too long, and not only will performance suffer, but your engine can suffer permanent damage.
Changing the oil is really a simple process, even for a beginner. Youíre bound to get messy the first few times, but with some experience youíll soon learn how to do it quickly and with minimal mess.
There are also a few tips that, once you know them, will help make the process easier and eliminate the mess. The first step is to swing by your local auto parts store and buy the supplies you need. You can choose synthetic or standard oil. Synthetic tends to be a little more expensive, but has some benefits in regards to longevity. I use synthetic in my GT but since weíre changing the oil in my 17-year olds car for this article, he opted to use standard oil due to his budget. The oil weight you require will be listed in your ownerís manual, as will the exact quantity of oil needed. Make sure you follow the specifications for your size engine, as the manuals are usually written for more than one vehicle. Purchase enough quarts of oil to cover your needs.
In the event you have misplaced your manual, you can download a copy from Ford.
Youíll also need a new Mustang oil filter, and the auto parts store can help you find the correct replacement. Iíve always been one to use Motorcraft filters, but there are other brands to choose from as well. Choose by quality, not by price, as youíre relying on the filter to keep your oil clean over the next few thousand miles. So for this Mustang oil change, we have 6 quarts of Valvoline motor oil, as well as a Motorcraft FL-400S oil filter.
The tools youíll need are pretty basic, but will vary between engines and model year. Once you change your oil a couple times, youíll know the socket size needed for the drain plug. The first time may require some experimentation with socket sizes however.
Here's a list of what you'll need for installation
Socket (sized to fit oil plug)
Oil Filter Wrench
Large Ziplock Bag and Latex Gloves (Optional but reduces mess)
Itís best to change a Mustangís oil when itís warm. So make sure the vehicle has been warmed up before you begin. Warm oil will flow better, helping you to get as much used oil out of the engine as possible. It will also tend to carry any residual sludge out as well, should there be any in the oil passages. Waiting about 15 minutes between shutting the engine off and draining the oil should give sufficient time for the oil to cool enough not to burn you, but still warm enough to flow well. The oil will still be very warm so use caution. Gloves will help during the draining to protect your hands.
Youíll want to jack the car up first, and set it on jack stands. In most cases, youíll find the oil plug towards at the rear of the oil pan. So the car being level isnít really necessary, and you can merely raise the front. Make sure that the rear parking brake is set to prevent the vehicle from moving before you jack it up.
Now remove your engineís oil cap, to further assist the used oil in draining from the engine.
Next locate the drain plug on your Mustangís oil pan. In some cases, such as older 5.0 Mustangs theyíll be two drain plugs, one at the back, and one closer to the middle of the pan. Most other engine configurations will make use of a single oil drain plug.
Position your drain pan under the plug. Then use a socket and socket wrench to loosen the oil drain plug. After itís broken loose, you should be able to spin it by hand.
Once the plug is loose, you can quickly move your hand back avoiding the warm oil. Make sure your pan is catching the oil draining from the engine, and adjust it if needed. When the oil has stopped draining, replace the drain plug. Do not over-tighten the plug, thread it in by hand, and then simply snug it up with your socket wrench an 1/8 of a turn or so.
TIP: Iíve seen threadlock used for the drain plug before, usually by novices. So I want to point out that you do not want to use threadlock on the drain plug.
Next, youíll focus on the removal of the oil filter. Use your filter wrench to turn it counter-clockwise. For strap-type wrenches, such as whatís used in the picture, position the wrench close to the end of the filter. The filter is strongest at the point, and the ridges help provide better grip for the wrench.
Once youíve loosened the filter, you can spin it off by hand. I like to use a large ziplock bag around the filter to minimize the mess. Place the bag around the filter to help catch any draining oil, keeping it off of the carís chassis, as you remove the filter. In the event you donít use a ziplock bag, position the drain pan under the filter to catch any oil that runs out.
Examine the old filter. Make sure the rubber seal is still attached to the filter. If itís missing, retrieve it from the oil filter mount where you removed the old filter. Your new filter will already have a seal on it, and leaving the old one on the engine will result in an oil leak because the new seal will not seat properly.
Use a little oil to lubricate the seal on the new oil filter.
While itís not necessary, I prefer to pre-fill the new filter. This helps to eliminate excess air in the oiling system upon the initial startup. Keep in mind that you may have to tilt the filter some to install it, so you likely wonít be able to fully fill it. Between Ĺ and ĺ full will be fine. Hand-tighten the new filter into place. Then use the filter wrench to snug the filter up between ľ and Ĺ a turn.
Many people donít realize that quarts of oil are designed with the spout off to one side for a reason. Utilize this design to your advantage, and pour the oil properly. Keep the spout towards the top of the bottle, as it allows the quart to be nearly level before oil starts to pour out of it. In most cases, when a quart of oil is poured in the correct manner, thereís no need for a funnel.
You can go ahead and pour several quarts of oil into the engine. Stop about a quart shy of what your manual listed as the capacity, as some of the used oil will always remain in the engine. You donít want to overfill the engine with oil. Wait a few minutes to allow the oil to flow to the bottom of the engine, and then check the oil using the dipstick. Remove the dipstick, wipe it off, then return it to the tube, and pull it out again. You should see a trail of oil on the dipstick, indicating the oil level.
Usually the target level is indicated by crosshatching, as well as a couple of holes. Youíll want the oil to fall between these two marks. If the oil is still low, add some more oil, wait a few minutes, and then check the level again. Repeat as necessary, and then replace the oil cap.
After the oil level is correct, start the engine up. Check to ensure that your oil pressure gauge indicates oil pressure, and that you see no leaks under the car. Itís a good idea to check your oil again after the first drive on a new Mustang oil change. As the filter fills completely up with oil, you may find that the oil level needs to be topped off again. Make sure to make a note of your mileage, and change your oil again at the next recommended interval.
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