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Baby's First Oil Change.

A car I maintained, not on fire, as the skies were ablaze.
A car I maintained, not on fire, as the skies were ablaze.
Photo: Me

A whole lot of you came to the rescue yesterday when I slightly overfilled... or maybe didn’t overfill my engine with oil. My dipstick was resting on the minimum mark, and I had 200 miles to go, so I figured I’d fill it up (as well as my coolant, but nothing went wrong when I poured it in because I could see the minimum and maximum marks on the reserve tank). My dipstick came out either above the dot or on the dot, even so high as up to the curve of my dipstick.

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Holding my dipstick, feeling like a dipsh*t
Holding my dipstick, feeling like a dipsh*t
Photo: Me

My vehicle was eventually deemed safe to drive by experts like Racing Bob and Pip, and literally everyone who commented on my S.O.S. post. Thank you all, truly, for coming in handy.

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Regardless, the whole ordeal made me increasingly nervous about actually doing my oil change. I could’ve easily drove a half a mile to Firestone and let them fix it all up, but where’s the pride in that?

So I churned through the 200 miles from Orlando to Miami to Garage Yourself, a DIY workshop with a lift, all the tools I’d need, and folks the know how to do an oil change and tire rotation.

Todd, the owner, held my hand through the whole thing (while socially distancing, of course). I didn’t feel stupid around him, though I’m sure I looked like an idiot to the other patrons. A couple of guys, maybe a year older than me, were working on their slammed Subaru. An old man pulled up next to me in the cleanest Cadillac Escalade I’d ever seen. Todd owned a Wrangler that looked more like a monster truck (and sounded like one too).

Meanwhile, I drove into the shop with my dented, unwashed station wagon. It was still a conversation starter, hard to find TSX Wagons and all that, but I could tell they didn’t trust me to maintain it well either.

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There were a lot of points where I stood idle, waiting for Todd to not be busy with other patrons, so that he could come over and answer a stupid question of mine, but after 3 hours...

Hard to tell, but the oil is draining.
Hard to tell, but the oil is draining.
Photo: Me
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Was real tired after this... haha... tire...
Was real tired after this... haha... tire...
Photo: Me

I actually, competently, maintained the car! I took the first picture while the oil drain out, not pitch black, but dark enough. The second picture is me removing a tire for the first time. Yes, this was a first too, since my car doesn’t come with a spare or a jack. I also elected to use a breaker bar rather than an impact wrench, because, when I do start buying my own tools, I most likely won’t have a garage or access to electricity.

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However, as I worked on the car, a few worrying discoveries were made.

- The skid tray that protects my car’s inner workings from the ground is typically held in by 6 screws and some plastic clips. My car has 4 of those screws, one of which is totally stripped and rusted, and two of the clips are missing. It’s still snug on installation, the tray slides into the rubber under the bumper, but it’s a bit concerning.

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- The washer used by Firestone had been reused multiple times, rather than replaced on every oil change. That meant the drain bolt was overly tightened, to make sure the washer stayed compressed. Todd had to loosen that one off for me, which leads me to the third concern.

- I’m weak as hell. It took all 125lbs of me to get the breaker bar to budge even a little. Every time I screwed something in by hand until I couldn’t anymore it was too loose. And yeah, I can lift my tires, but my legs were visibly shaking the entire time. It’s the morning after now, and I’m incredibly sore.

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Despite all those little things, I’d never felt more proud of my own work. I feel like I actually had control over my own vehicle, just me and Iris (and Todd who saved my butt on multiple occasions).

Todd also told me that there’s a garage with a very similar service in Kissimmee, which is significantly closer to where I live. There isn’t a Todd there, at least not to my knowledge, but there’s probably someone like him who’d spot me as I destroy my car. (Todd told me this as I was driving out too, which he didn’t have to do and I’d likely go to him again if I ever needed a workspace. He’s honest to customers. What a legend).

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Driving 200 miles home on my own work felt amazing. A bit concerning, yes, since I didn’t know if the car was about to explode or a tire would fall off, but amazing. The ride felt better and the shifts smoother, though maybe that’s because I worked on the car myself.

Me and the Escalade owner got to chatting, briefly. I told him this was my first oil change and tire rotation, to which he said “hey, it’s a start.”

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It’s a start indeed.

Now, one last stupid question before I sign off: the maintenance schedule on openbay says I can run on my oil for about 20,000 miles and my tires for about 10,000. That’s ridiculously high in comparison to Firestone’s service scheduling (every 4,000 miles, maybe less).

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Should I just go off my oil life indicator? Or is there a particular mileage you all, as the experts, tend to go off of?

(I run on 0W-20, synthetic, which is apparently good to last for a while...)

I’m proud, my car is still in one piece, and I got to pet a shop dog (no pictures though, sorry).

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Take care folks, and thanks again.

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