I have had my oil changed by the dealer, a local mechanic and even those jiffy people. They’ve all done a good job, but I like changing my own oil. It’s a bit of a meditative exercise and gives me a chance to see what’s going on with my car. While I enjoy doing the oil change, my least favorite part of changing my oil is getting underneath the car, removing the drain plug and draining the oil. Dealing with the jack, stripping the drain plug every now and again, and spilling the used oil were nearly enough to stop me from changing my oil.
A friend of mine recently had his car serviced at a local dealership and he told me about a new machine that they used to drain the oil without jacking the car or removing the drain plug. The oil change technician inserted a probe into the dipstick tube and used a vacuum to drain the oil. This sounded very interesting and encouraged me to research more about this system and see if it was small enough to be used at home.
My research revealed that there were a number of these systems available for the do-it-yourselfer. After I compared features of the different brands, I settled on the Topsider. Originally designed for the boating market, the Topsider is all-metal. This feature was the one that seemed most important to me. The majority of other vacuum oil changers were made of plastic and I was concerned that the plastic would become brittle over time.
Changing the oil is really simple:
1. Make sure the engine is warm to make the oil flow easily
2. Place tube in dipstick tube
3. Close pinch valve on hose
4. Pump the canister 50 times to build vacuum
5. Release the pinch valve
It takes about 8 minutes for the oil to leave your engine. I usually use this time to remove the oil filter, open oil bottles, etc. Most dipsticks reach all the way to the bottom of the oil pan. I push the hose til I feel the bottom of the pan. When I first got it, I would open my drain plug after vacuuming and very little came out (a few drops) so I suspect the vacuum gets most of the oil out. It will pull sludge out as well up through the tube. The can holds 2 gallons of oil. Once the oil is out of your car you can remove the vacuum pump and suction tube and seal the container for transport to your recycling center.
I think the clincher for me was discovering that this was the technique that Mercedes was using in its dealerships (albeit using a commercial machine).