When it comes time to change the oil on my car, I take it to my parents’ house where I back my car in the garage just enough so the front bumper sticks out of the garage. That way I can easily slide the oil pan under the car, remove the plug to drain the oil and remove the old filter. After draining the oil, I re-install the plug, replace the filter, add the new oil, and then finish the job by recording the date and mileage on the garage wall.
The wall on the garage is decorated with dates and mileages of previous cars I owned as I performed the many oil changes over the years. But no oil change is more memorable than the Great Oil Change Disaster of July 20, 1990. That’s when I owned a 1981 Honda Civic, my very first car. According to the writing on the wall, the last time I had changed the oil was on October 28, 1989, which was a span of 8 months and 22 days between oil changes. I was to learn what a mistake that was.
The oil change went off without a hitch, or so I thought. I changed the filter, drained the dirty oil and added the fresh oil, just I had done many times before. By the time I was finished, it was time for me to go to work, so I changed to my work clothes, got in my car and drove off.
As I was leaving the driveway, I glanced in my rear view mirror and noticed a long trail of oil that began where my car was parked when I did the ill-fated oil change and continued down the street where I was driving. All the oil had drained out and I was left to wonder what happened as I continued driving to work with an empty oil reservoir. Fortunately, my job was only a few miles away so it wasn’t a very long drive to and from work.
The next day I investigated what happened and found the cause. When I removed the old oil filter, a piece of gasket had broken off and stayed in place to prevent me from fully seating the new filter, thus allowing the oil to escape when I started the engine.
After spending a sweaty afternoon of scrubbing away the oily trail from the driveway, I’d say I pretty much learned my lesson.