08.05.09

Mike vs. the Oil Filter

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:58 am by mike

So I was insistent upon changing the oil in both cars last week, even after I threw out my back picking up my daughter.   So 600mgs of Ibuprofen and Tylenol later, I’m gingerly lowering myself onto my creeper and sliding under the G35.   No pain while standing or lying down, just the transition sucks incredibly.   Now the one upside to that pain, it really makes you stop and think: “Do I have everything I need?”  before you lie down and slide under the car.

So I’m one of the few people I know who still changes the oil it their own car.    But (this story aside) it’s one of those things that is much easier once you have all the right tools.     When I was trying to figure out how to pull speaker wires through my walls, a friend of mine suggested pulling the floor boards and running the wires behind them (a coming post).    The task initially overwhelmed me, until he lent me his air-compressor and nail gun.   Suddenly I was having a lot of fun.

But back to oil changes, there are a couple things you need to make your life easy.    First of all, you need to be able to get under the car.    A couple wheel ramps and a creeper help with that.   One thing you don’t want to happen is for your ramps to slide when your trying to drive the car up them.    That’s what the rubber Tweedy mats are for.

An oil recovery pan is necessary as well.   These need to be resealable so you can take the waste oil down to your local gas station or auto-parts store and dispose of it.   Kragen in San Francisco offers free disposal.

Finally, you need a decent tool set (sockets, wrenches, etc).   I’m still using the Craftsman set I bought while I was working at a gas station in high school.   Most importantly though (especially for this case), are the filter removal tools.

Unfortunately the G35 has a plastic rock shield covering most of the oil pan and undercarriage.    They did leave an access whole for the drain plug and filter such that if you’re a 12 year old girl, you might actually be able to fit your arm up there to take off the filter.    I usually remove 3 of the screws holding on the shield and stick my arm around it.   Usually the big-blue rubber glove will give me enough traction on the filter to remove it.   That was certainly not the case today.

Now at 6’3 I have pretty big hands and there was a time when I was bench pressing around 300 lbs, so even with the back screaming, I’m able to put a good amount of torque on a oil filter.    This one wasn’t going to budge.   But I’ve had this happen often enough that I fell back to the socket filter tool.   The one you see below is made out of some sort of polyurethane or ABS plastic.   It just so happens the G35 and Mazda Protegee use the same filter, so I picked up one of these for a couple bucks.  (I also modified one to replace the $30 BMW tool for the K75)  The tool fits snugly on the end of the filter, using the grips on the filter for traction with a square 3/8 socket attachment in the center.

The first couple tries, the tool stripped the grips filter, deforming the filter itself.    To solve this problem, I wrapped the filter in some duct tape, and tapped on the filter wrench with a small hammer.   Plugged the socket wrench back into the filter tool, and cranked.  This time I managed to strip the socket attachment of the tool itself.    (During all this, please don’t forget the excruciating pain I’m going through each time I have to slide out from under the car, stand up to do get a tool, and then lay myself back down on the dolly).    So the tool isn’t ruined yet, since it also has a 1 inch hex nut on the top.  So I grab the 1 inch wrench and figure I now have far more leverage I need, only to see the tool start slipping again, even on the duct-tape-wrapped filter.  (sorry, the cell phone close up isn’t that clear)

As you can imagine, my frustration level is pretty high and I’m now fantasizing about driving to the Infinity dealer and finding the idiot who used a pipe wrench to tighten the filter on, and borrowing his pipe wrench as blunt force learning tool…  Instead, I take a few deep breaths and move to plan B.

The second tool in the arsenal is basically just a square steel rod attached to a nylon strap loop.   The idea is you wrap the oil filter into the loop in the same direction you want to turn, and then use a wrench on the steel rod to apply more torque.    The problem was I now had to remove the entire plastic undercarriage protector (15+ screws) in order to have enough access to the oil filter to perform the task.    This is one of those tools you look at in the store and you question whether it can work, and how difficult it is to use.    You do need to use two hands to wrap the filter in the tool and then hold it there while you attach the wrench.    The torque you get is two fold:  as you turn the steel rod it tightens the strap on the filter and applies the turning force at the same time.    When you’re trying it, you don’t have any confidence it’s going to work.    But when I saw the first movement of the filter, it was the same feeling when you find that one non-null terminated string that was causing the memory arena overwrite crash two hours later.

From there everything else is pretty uneventful.  As much as I’d like to go scream at the dealer who last changed the oil, it’s not like anyone there would care, and I suspect it would be a rather non-fulfilling exercise.

Finally my last tip for you is clean up.   If you’ve never worked in a gas station or repair shop, you may not no about lanolin based cleaners.    If you’ve ever tried to use regular soap to clean engine grease off your hands, you know its next to impossible to do.    It turns out that if you mix sheep skin oil with the right cleaning agents, you get a very disgusting paste which instantly removes grease from your hands without requiring any water.    The trick is to not wet your hands first, and rub just the cleaner into your hands and fingernails and then wipe off with a paper towel.   You usually want to wash your hands normally after that, but you’ll be amazed at how easily everything comes off.    I’m not particularly attached to this brand, but you find this stuff at any auto parts store.  Just buy whatever is on sale:

So while the oil change on the Infinity did take over an hour, I was able to whip through the Protege in less than 20 minutes.    There’s a huge sense of empowerment in doing something so simple rather than having to pay someone else to do it for you.    Bad back and all, it made my weekend.

mp