By on December 15, 2014

drain plug. Shutterstock user Ohms1999

Seth writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I have terrible luck with oil drain plugs. Of the last 4 oil changes I’ve done, only one has been successfully completed in a single day, because I can never get the drain plug loose.

The culprits in these comedies of errors are a 1999 Saab 9-3 and a 2006 Honda Pilot. The first time I came across the stuck plugs, the Saab was a recent acquisition, and the Pilot had had its last oil change done at a local mechanic’s shop down the road. Therefore, I assumed that an overzealous shop jock who got trigger happy with an air gun was to blame. In the process of getting the plugs out, I managed to mangle the Saab’s bad enough to require the purchase of a new one, and should have also bought a new plug for the Pilot, too (but didn’t). When I reinstalled them, I put them in fairly snugly, but with the mindset that I didn’t want to get myself into this mess again.

Fast forward to the next oil change, and the Saab’s plug came out easily. Too easily. In fact, the wrench wasn’t even necessary, which makes me think that I was too cautious when I installed it. The Pilot, on the other hand, is stuck solid and won’t budge.

Like anyone who’s had a few failed relationships, I’m starting to think that “it’s not them, it’s me.” So, what’s the secret to getting the plugs snug enough that they don’t work loose, but so that I can still get them off when the time for the next oil change comes?

A few bits of info you might find useful:
-Both drain plugs that are currently on both the cars have fiber gaskets. The one that initially got stuck on the Saab had a copper gasket, which was theorized by a friend to have contributed to my stuck plug predicament.

-I was recently defeated by an oxygen senor in the Pilot that I also couldn’t budge. After a month of wrenching on it with then engine hot, cold, and everywhere in between, as well as dousing it with multiple varieties of chemicals, I caved and had a shop change it. Therefore, the possibility exists that I’m just a weakling when it comes to these things.

Thanks,
-Seth

Sajeev answers:

Is the oil change guy using air tools on your pan a valid concern?  Granted they do have uber-leverage with the car in the air/underground work area and aren’t necessarily concerned about the next guy who might do the job on their back. The real concern is the condition of the threads on both the pan and the bolt. (And the condition of bolt’s washer/gasket thingie…)

For starters, new oil pan bolts are cheap insurance and readily available online or at a parts store. But–and I did this last night on a T-5 shift knob’s fussy threads–reconditioning threads is a great idea and free…once you buy the tools.

Using a thread chaser set (less aggressive cutting, more like cleaning) or a tap and die set (more aggressive cutting, be careful!) ensures your threads stay healthy and unstripped. Again, while that new oil pan bolt is cheap insurance, running a thread chaser on the pan can’t hurt.

My cars are old enough to need a tap and die set from your local Chinese tool import house. It’s paid for itself after 3 months, fixing radiator mounts, throttle body threads and two shift knobs. I also used it (gently!) like a thread chaser on a recently painted body part, freeing the metal threads of paint. I recommend these tools, practicing on a few throwaway parts before workin’ on your ride.

And no, I wouldn’t try this on seriously loaded/stressed parts like engine internals…research and listen to experts before you go crazy with a tap and die set.

BONUS! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Oh, about your oxygen sensor defeat: get a metal pipe (6+ inches long) from the hardware store and slide it over your wrench. This provides much of the leverage found in a breaker bar without paying for one. Wear gloves so the unfinished metal pipe won’t slice up your pretty hands: break the stuck bolt free, slide off the pipe and resume your normal wrenching to fully remove it.

[Image: Shutterstock user Ohms1999]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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99 Comments on “Piston Slap: It’s not you, Drain Plug…it’s Me?...”


  • avatar

    Six point socket. Replace the copper washer, or if the OE is cheap, at least turn around the aluminum one.

    Torque wrench.

    Check the next day for weeps.

    Six point socket.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      How does a 6 point socket fit onto a square head? They make a oil sucking pump. Don’t recomend it, but many quicky oil change places use them. I aways replace the sealing washer, but not the plug.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The drain plugs on both vehicles should have hex heads.

      • 0 avatar
        lon888

        Those clever German boys, Audi and VW, are already selling cars with no drain plugs. they recommend using suction through the dipstick hole. Goes against everything I was taught in Engineering school.

        …you don’t have to be a plumber or a genius to know that poop goes downhill…

        • 0 avatar
          LeMansteve

          I tend to agree with you, but shouldn’t the oil filter catch the undesirable particles that settle at the bottom of the drain pan?

          In addition, when changing the oil and assuming the car is on ramps and the drain plug is not at the rear of the oil pan, wouldn’t all that bad stuff just settle at the back of the pan and never drain out anyway?

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            .” I tend to agree with you, but shouldn’t the oil filter catch the undesirable particles that settle at the bottom of the drain pan?

            In addition, when changing the oil and assuming the car is on ramps and the drain plug is not at the rear of the oil pan, wouldn’t all that bad stuff just settle at the back of the pan and never drain out anyway?”

            Yes to an extent ~ *IF* you do regular BLISTERING HOT oil and filter changes and use Synthetic oils , the engine will actually clean itself of old paraffin based oil sludge . I am often asked how I keep the inside of my engines so clean .

            The level of the drain plug relative to how you jack the vehicle is important too , this is the difference between the uncaring pimple crusher kid at quickie lube and a Journeyman Auto Mechanic .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            Preludacris

            Don’t all cars have the drain plug at the back of the pan?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            No. Some have them on the s!de, some are located in an angled niche, like on the Pentastar.

          • 0 avatar
            LeMansteve

            @preludacris

            No. I think most transversely-mounted engines do, however, longitudinal engines such as the 2004 Passat and my 2004 BMW have drain plugs NEAR the back but not at the absolute rear of the pan.

          • 0 avatar
            Preludacris

            Huh. I guess that would have just been too obvious!

        • 0 avatar
          Robert Gordon

          Au contrare, it is Dogmaticalness which goes against engineering principles, stating that ways of doing things are ‘wrong’ without considering potential benefits.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ……Six point socket….

      THIS

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    If you can’t remove a drain plug without damaging it then you shouldn’t be allowed to have tools. It’s not that hard. All Hondas us aluminum washers that they recommend replacing each time, although you can get several uses out if them if you’re careful. They’re about 35 cents each. Stop buying your tools at the dollar store.

    • 0 avatar
      klossfam

      jdash1972 – Mostly agree although HF tools for occassional use are fine…I’m a semi-heavy user and have had good luck with a decent portion of my tools being HF. I fight ‘fire with fire’ and if a bolt got impact wrenched on, I impact wrench it off…A good 19.2 volt 1/2″ impact gun will do most jobs without air tools (my 19.2v is a Craftsman, not HF).

      I agree that a new washer – the one called for by the manufacturer – and a drain plug in good condition is the way to go (grab a new one if at all rounded off, threads damaged, etc). I honestly have none of the problem mentioned with drain plugs…

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Six point socket, agreed. One other tip I have found that works magic is to turn clockwise (gently) when addressing a pain in the arse fastener.
    It has worked like magic more than once for me. We can get all too focused on loosening but sometimes that little creep forward gets you enough movement to get whatever it is you are fighting with, off.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    You must get a torque wrench to avoid future problems. Every bolt has a torque spec, including your oil drain plug.

    Harbor Freight has reasonably accurate torque wrenches for $9.99. Just don’t drop it and release the torque setting before storage.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      I tried Harbor Freight torque wrench , kept it in a box to avoid damage , it died after one year , pulling a stud right out of a cylinder block before clicking .

      I’ll never buy another one there .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Yeah, Harbor Freight tools are ok if you’re not doing anything too important. Personal experiences

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        @ Nate – Yikes!

        I am no where close to being as capable a wrench as you, but for light-duty work (tire rotations, oil changes, spark plugs), my HFT wrench has been good so far (knock on wood).

        I have sanity checked it using a vice, measuring tape, and a weight and it is still OK.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          .
          ‘ YIKES ! ‘ wasn’t *quite* the word I used when that occurred , on my very own car no less .

          ” The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price has been forgotten ” .

          That being said , I *do* use a fair amount of Harbor Freight tools , if I can get _one_ job safely done it’s all good .

          My Met’s coil springs are rather dangerous so I bought two coil spring compressors and modified the hook on one , assembled a doubly safe coil spring compressor for that job .

          FWIW , I used the pulled stud as an excuse to do some mods to the block and bought a set of ATP hardened studs so I expect no further issues , I also bought a nice Proto Professional American made Torque Wrench , why not ? .

          -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            nrd515

            I have an HF torque wrench that’s a couple of years old and a Craftsman that’s pushing 40 and was recently checked out and is doing fine. I don’t use either wrench to remove bolts, unlike a friend of mine, who just doesn’t understand why he keeps killing them. He was trying to loosen something up on his truck recently, and killed his HF. His comments are, “Why buy a good one, if they all break anyway?”. I just sigh and show him the Craftsman. About 20 years ago, I thought the ratchet had died, but all it was was some crud had worked it’s way into the mechanism, and kept the ratchet from locking. A little brake cleaner and then some gun oil, and it was back to work. The best part is, I got it brand new, in a deal where some guy who was a customer of mine was told by the Las Vegas Police to leave town and never come back. I bought a whole bunch of stuff, including a new $100+ tire, with the wheel, the wrench, a set of Mac combo wrenches, a set of steak knives, and some 9mm ammo, for what I had in my pocket, $70. I still use the wrenches, the torque wrench, and one of the steak knives, 38 years later. I sold the tire and wheel for $70, so all of it was free! Best deal I ever made. Second best was a brand new police scanner, that a guy paid $280+ tax for, for $40. Another deal was on Ebay for a vacuum desoldering station, pretty much brand new, for $15, plus $10 shipping. I use the hell out of that thing, it makes replacing parts on PC boards almost pleasurable. I was the sole bidder on it. Identical ones were going for well over $100, about half what a used one cost locally. As always when I won something for so low a price, I had to think, “What the hell is wrong with it, what am I missing?”. Nothing, it worked perfectly.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Oil changes are cheap, let someone else do them. Save your DIY efforts for something meaningful. Plus you don’t have to deal with the old oil and filter.

    Oxygen sensors are a female dog to replace, especially if you don’t have a lift. My wife’s Lexus had one go bad under warranty, the standard procedure was to replace the manifold. Glad I didn’t have to pay for that.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      It’s likely that it’s faster (therefore cheaper) for them to replace the manifold with sensor, than simply change the sensor. One of my friends had the Valvetronic unit in his BMW go bad. The dealership replaced his cylinder head instead of the stepper motor, because it took the tech fewer hours to complete the procedure (all under warranty of course)

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The only car of mine that has ever had an oil change done by other than me is my BMW. Because BMW pays for it for the first 4 years. It is less hassle to DIY than to make an appointment, go there, get a ride or hang around, etc. I know the job is done correctly, with the correct materials.

      But in the interest of full disclosure, I have two lifts in my garage. Still DIY’d before I had them though.

      The best way to get out stuck fasteners is heat. At least MAPP gas, if not oxy/acetylene. Heat that sucker until it glows, and it will come right out.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Follow the suggestions given :

    6 point tools on drain plugs _always_

    NEW gasket , the aluminum ones crush easier , myself I prefer the copper ones .

    That tiny big of tightening movement ofhen does the trick on older long stuck fasteners .

    Be *very* happy you’re not working on 50 + year old rusty junk , it gets _much_ worse .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I would add an electric, or air, impact wrench. When a gorilla puts the plug in, it’s a handy way to get it out without any real stress on you or the plug. It will (usually) even get rusty stuff turning, with some Liquid Wrench or other solvent added. The thing I used to hate when I worked on cars was the rust flakes. I seemed to be a magnet for them, especially my nostrils. Not pleasant at all.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Impacts are great , I have both pneumatic and electric , my favorite is a Milwaukee I bought 20 years ago , it’s great for those big old nuts and axles , gland nuts seized in place etc.

        I can’t imagine using one on any drain plug ! .

        I don’t miss working on Down East rust buckets one bit ~ the damn rust flakes always wound up in my eyes ~ back in the 1960’s no Mechanics had safety glasses , I didn’t even know they existed .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I actually had to use my floor jack to apply enough force loosen the drain plug on my Montana after the oil-change shop tightened too severely. It was somewhat terrifying to watch.

    After that, I started doing my own every time, with a torque wrench, and make a point of changing the gasket each time.

    I’ve always been intrigued by the replacement drain plugs that include a little valve (quick-valve, I think they’re called). Anyone have an opinion on these? I’ve thought about it, but been concerned about accidental–and catastrophic–unintended drainage.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      I used those Fumoto drain valves on several cars over the years. I’ve now gone back to drain plugs.

      They work fine, and you probably will never have a problem with them if you drive where it doesn’t snow. The issue I’ve found is that I never was able to get them threaded so that it would tighten with the valve levers up and out of the way of anything that the car could run over. When two different cars of mine were driven in deep snow over recent winters, the valves got opened up during the drives, and I was rewarded with the smell of hot oil and getting to watch the stuff draining down my driveway. Luckily, the valves were reachable and I was able to close them, but ended up having to lay clay absorbent to soak up a liter of oil on a snow covered, inclined driveway. Heaven knows what would have happened to the engines if they had opened much farther from home.

      These need to be redesigned to have a more positive locking mechanism to prevent such unintended openings–the push-up-and-turn action of the valve lever is not IMO fail-safe enough if you are driving in snow, underbrush etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        Fumoto recommends installing a hose clip on theirs for added security. Looking at their design, I think it would be unlikely to accidentally knocked open but you could add the clip for added peace of mind.

        • 0 avatar
          jacob_coulter

          I had a Fumoto on a car, I honestly don’t think I’ll buy another.

          It did exactly what it was supposed to do, but it just sticks out to where I could see some road debris or a good sized speed bump possibly knocking it off and ruining the engine.

          Also, it really didn’t make oil changes less messy, you still had the oil filter to remove that usually makes more of a mess.

          • 0 avatar
            Xafen

            It depends on your car. with the 2012 Impreza, the filter is on top. I don’t get a single drop of oil anywhere and the Fumoto valve is amazing. You can get low profile ones as well. I dab at the valve once I close it, and that drop of oil on a rag is the only bit to get anywhere.

          • 0 avatar
            tekdemon

            Quick trick for filters…put a bag around your hand when you go to remove the filter so that all that mess is caught in the bag along with the removed filter! Then drop off bag with oil filter inside at your local auto parts store.
            Still a little bit messy but definitely helps a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        +1

        I have used them, but only on cars where they end up WAY up underneath, or covered by a belly pan. I really want one for my Rover.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        I’ve driven in the snow belt for almost a decade (Buffalo for many years so I assure you that I don’t mean a little snow shower here and there) and while the underbody fairings got messed up the oil drain pan Fumato valve never was an issue, Of course ghis may vary depending on how your cars oil pan is positioned but I never had an issue.

        The only negative is that not all the oil will completely drain if you have of these valves as they stick into the oil pan a few mm so you’re probably leaving half a quart of old oil in there. Not a big deal if you’re doing regular oil changes but occasionally if I had time I’d end up removing the valve anyway to get a fuller drain which kinda defeats the purpose of the valve lol.

        I would take a look at where your oil pan is positioned to see if this might be an issue. On my car (a Camry) the oil drain bolt is at an angle which helps prevent it from sticking down as much and there’s a fair bit of fairing all over the place so maybe this is why I never had as many issues? I drove up to the mountains to go snowboarding all the time too so I was in some fairly serious snow and often I had to reconnect my underbody fairings lol.

        Anyways I would say that if you’re having difficulty dealing with regular drain bolts that you should learn to properly install them first and then get a Fumato once you know what to check for, assuming your cars oil pan isn’t easily hit. Use only the real OEM drain pan bolts and gaskets until you switch to the Fumato as well since aftermarket parts don’t always work as well.

    • 0 avatar
      TurboX

      I use Fumoto valves on the cars that have enough room to install them. They work well in some cars an not well in others where it sticks out at the bottom. I suggest you search in model specific forums and see if others have successfully installed them before ordering one.

      If you can get that to work it’s wonderful, no mess oil changes. I can connect a hose to collect the oil straight to a recycling container.

      The design is very well done and there’s no way the valve will open by itself. I don’t recommend them for cars with a drain plug at the bottom face where the valve would be sicking out at the bottom though – that would be asking for trouble.

  • avatar
    jberger

    Buy an easy change oil valve for each engine and eliminate the problem forever.
    http://www.amazon.com/Fumoto-F-106-Engine-Drain-Valve/dp/B003OXUPOQ

    Seriously, it’s so simple you will wonder why they just don’t fit them at the factory.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Exactly. Fumoto valve is the best. If it doesn’t tighten with the lever pointing upward, just swap out its included fiber gasket with a thicker one – no problem. Or get the hose clip from them and secure it that way.

      I’m on my third car with them – never a problem. With my GTI’s top-mounted oil filter and a sheet of plastic to lie on so I can reach under to place the pan and open the valve, all I need is a filter wrench and the drain pan to do the job. No jacking, no stands, no ramps. I could literally do the job in office clothes.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    I do most of my own oil changes, so this has never failed me-

    As many have mentioned – make sure you’re using a 6-point socket. I’d have the proper size in both 3/8″ and 1/2″ drive variants, the associated ratchets, and a breaker bar as a last resort.

    For tightening, I use the 3/8″ as tight as I can do it. For loosening, I use the 1/2″ drive and anything I tightened with the 3/8 comes off easy.

    The breaker bar is reserved for use after the more enthusiastic shop employee who decided to use an impact gun on the plug and is only a last resort.

    I’ve never had an issue using this method, never stripped a drain bolt, and never ended up with something stuck that I couldn’t un-stick. it’s not as accurate as doing it with a torque wrench, but the likelihood of over-torquing a bolt that size with a 3/8″ drive should only really apply if you’re built like Arnold in the 80s.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    In that photo, what’s a leaf spring doing anywhere near an oil pan?

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Oxygen sensor – try a propane torch to heat up the manifold around the sensor.

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      Since I got a 1/2″ drive slotted socket and a 24″ flexhandle I have no longer had any removal problems, either exhaust or any other fastener on my cars or bikes. Snap On had a special a few years ago and the wrench was the best $75 I ever spent. Even 250# suspension nuts come off first try. I once had to use a pipe to remove a castellated wheel bearing, but all others were cake.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Did you notice that the guy in the picture is wearing safety glasses? I can’t emphasize this piece of PPE too strongly for anyone crawling under a vehicle to do any sort of work.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I tell my dad this, he won’t listen. He’s got safety glasses but won’t put em on! He rarely is willing to wear gloves either.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        I’ve tried and I can’t stand gloves when I work on a car/truck. I got a set of nice ones as a gift and made it about 15 minutes before they came off. My hands probably wouldn’t be as messed up as they are if I had worn them. I do wear safety glasses though. One speck of rust in my eye when I was 15 was enough for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      I recommend the ones that are like goggles. If you work in Rust Area those are a god send. Rust in your eye is the worst. It seems to know how to work around the gaps as well in regular safety glasses.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’m with everyone else, you gotta be using the wrong tools. A six point socket of the correct size will not mangle the bolt no matter how hard you reef on it. Get some leverage or a breaker bar on that six point and break it loose. Sometimes these plugs get tight from the heat cycling, that’s just the way it is.

    With regards to the O2 sensor, if the sensor is getting replaced, I cut the connector off then slide a deep 7/8″ socket over it and use a breaker bar to get those out. Generous heat and quenching helps ensure the threads don’t come with it.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      Regarding the O2 sensor, that’s precisely what I did: cut the connecting wire, slid a deep socket over it, and used a breaker bar. It was either that or buy one of the special sockets that has a cut-out in the side so that you don’t have to cut the wire, but I read that many of those flex too much and can strip the bolt on the O2 sensor. It took a bit of courage to cut the wires and break off the ceramic end of the O2 sensor (no going back at that point!), but the sensor then came off with very little effort.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Aside from the other tips…

    I have used a box wrench and a 2-pound mallet to loosen stubborn bolts at times.

    I have a deep 17mm socket with a slot for the O2 pigtail, and a 17mm crow’s foot socket with a 3/8 adapter on the side.

    I have a Fumoto drain valve on my daily, and if you buy one made specifically for your car, the threads are cut so the lever is off to the side when installed.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Yes! I have used a small mallet to get a stubborn drain plug to loosen. If you don’t have a lift, you probably don’t have enough room for a longer lever arm. In addition, I’ve damaged more bolts, etc. with a longer lever arm than I ever have by hitting a shorter wrench with a hammer a couple times. Impact in moderation can get things to loosen.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    The secret is not to tighten it so much, then not to worry about it.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Did anyone notice that in the reply, Sajeev jumps right in commenting on “OIL PAN BOLTS”, and doesn’t mention OIL PAN DRAIN PLUGS??? And then goes into tap and die sets, and he never address’s the question asked in the first place? He does mention the oxygen sensor, a notorious difficult part to budge. It’s as if he didn’t read the question at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      He called it an oil pan bolt, but he meant the drain plug…just used the wrong term.

      I did notice that he never answered the original question, though.

      And the length of pipe trick? That’s only for when you don’t have the proper tools. Plus I don’t think a 6+” length of pipe is going to do the trick…you should have that much of the wrench handle up into the pipe, plus an extra foot of pipe on top of that.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    I’ve just always used a standard sized ratchet or box wrench to tighten drain plug bolts. I tighten them to just tight, not eye poppin tight like brake and suspension parts. You have to develop a feeling of how tight bolts need to be. I’m not perfect, but I’ve only used a torque wrench on head bolts, and haven’t had an issue in the last 8 years of wrenching on my own stuff.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    I haven’t used a crush washer the last 12 times I’ve changed my oil… Does that make me a bad person? Just put it on snug…

  • avatar
    skor

    Oil change shops routinely over-tighten everything because they are afraid of the litigation that will ensue if an oil filter or drain plug falls out after it leaves the shop.

    BTW, if you’ve got an oil pan with completely stripped threads, your best choice is to get a new pan, but in many cases a helicoil insert will work.

    • 0 avatar
      mechaman

      Same thing with the damn tire shops. I will eventually have to take the tire off, if only to do brake/suspension work. Went to the ‘chinese tool store’ when they had a sale on 110v 1/2″ impact wrenches. Has saved my ass three times since.

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    If the threads in the Pilot’s oil pan are iffy, using a thread chaser or tap on the aluminum threads will make it worse. More often than not, the chaser will come out with whatever remains of the threads, and leave you with no choice but to thread insert the hole, or replace the pan.

    I often will use a little “Hondabond” sealant (good stuff) on the threads when putting an iffy plug back in to reduce the amount of torque needed to get it to seal. This can delay the need to fix the threads properly…..but you must use good judgement…..if they’re too far gone, the plug may fall out.

    Best insurance is to use the soft Honda aluminum plug washer, and replace it every time. With a fresh washer, it takes relatively little torque on the plug to get a good seal, which preserves the threads in the pan.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I do oil changes all the time and I’ve honestly never had this issue.

    You should NEVER use air tools on it, and also, a $9 torque wrench from Harbor Freight would be a good investment if you have trouble estimating the right amount of force to tighten.

    Also, a longer ratchet or breaker bar is helpful. I don’t think I’ve had a single occasion where I really needed a 12 point socket. All of the right tools can be had for dirt cheap and will pay for themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      DIYer

      Breaker bar will give more leverage. Or use a cheater bar, a 2 foot piece of pipe over the end of a wrench. On occasion, I have used the closed end of a combination wrench, fitted around and over the open end of another combination wrench to gain more leverage.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        There’s something really wrong if you’re using a breaker bar on your oil pan drain plug though, it should never be that tight especially since there’ should be a rubber/fiber washer there.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Another vote for the Fumoto valve. I have one on each of my cars and its worked fine. The only problem I had was when I took one car to get the oil changed at a place, they wouldn’t work on it because I had “some kind of device” on it and they didn’t want to get sued if it failed. The device themselves are fine.

    Another idea is to use a MityVac, people swear by them, if your filter is in a good location you can do the oil change without jacking the car.

  • avatar
    ja-gti

    If you have a floor jack, you have a breaker bar built in!
    Take the handle off the jack and voila, a breaker bar big enough to fit around any ratchet handle.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      You get desperate enough and you’ll be amazed what will work as a cheater. I once used a exhaust manifold with a chunk of tubing still attached. A little awkward to use, but it got the job done. When pulling a truck axle, alway bring your own!

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I have been changing oil and greasing my own cars for 59 years. In those early years it was every 1000 miles. I dont remember ever having a stuck plug. I did have the pan threads get almost stripped out once and that got fixed with an oversize self tapping plug that all the auto parts stores used to sell. I have never used a torque wrench on drain plugs. My torque wrenches are the inexpensive beam type. The cheap clicker type can cause a lot of trouble.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    Doing your best impression of an impact gun in reverse works for me. Using a decent six point socket or box end wrench tap end of tool gently but frequently with heavy mash type hammer until loose (tip: don’t hit your hand holding the wrench :)

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I’ve been changing mine and others oils for about 18 years (got started well before my licence arrived)

    Humorously, the only item I ever had seized was the plastic filter cap on the 2200 ECOTEC. Those long threads need to be really greased. I chipped out the old one and got a new one from a wrecker.

    My brother has the Engine That Shall Not Be Named, with 200,000 kms, and the only issues he has had with it is a chronic leaking PS hose, and the oil plug seized.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Just keep that oil fresh in that 2.xL and it’ll last. Hopefully he’s had no more issues with the PS hoses after we last spoke.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Hey Danio.

        Thanks again for your advice. He is not a car guy, and back in 08 he was just looking for a car that fit his needs and would hopefully get him around reliably. I had no idea to steer him away from the 2.x, and amazingly enough it has been a generally solid vehicle for him, overall. He got a family discount so it was probably worth it in the final analysis.

        The PS hasn’t been a problem since we spoke, but I believe that’s mainly because he has since relocated to Calgary, and isn’t having to deal with Winnipeg winter conditions anymore.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          What 2.xL equipped vehicle does he have?

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            An 08 Avenger SXT. Like I’ve said, the thing is shockingly reliable given its pedigree, and I really can’t reproach it.

            He is the type of guy who diligabntly does recommended maintenance but just wants something for A to B that he likes. The Ur-uConnect system in late 2007 was something that really appealed to him and he still enjoys it today.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My family has been able to get many Chrysler products to 150K without major problems. All except for an Eagle Premier. Even the Renault Alliance GTA we had was better.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    I don’t wrench on cars anymore and only ever did the simple stuff. However, I occasionally have to clean up and refinish some 1/2″ plate fittings on my house – post to foundation bolted with 1″ NC8 studs, rod and nuts. Tedious but doable with a breaker bar and a 5 foot section of pipe. Except one – couldn’t budge it all. One closer inspection, this particular stud had been badly bodgered – the plate hole was enlarged with a cutting torch and the whole mess welded up – bearing plate, stud and and fitting. An hour I’ll never get back.

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    Why are you changing your own oil? My local goodyear store changes my
    oil (semi-synthetic, with a decent filter), rotates my tires, vacuums
    out the front seat area and washes my front and rear windows (outside
    only) for $35. This means that I do not have to go to the parts store,
    get dirty, lay on my back, bust my knuckles, strain my back or neck,
    get cold, leave a mess on the garage floor or driveway, or dispose of
    the old oil. All for $35!

    But if you must DIY, use Honda brand drain plug washers and oil filters.
    The price is right, and you get quality product. I can’t comment on
    the SAAB, other that to ask why you would even own one.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      ^^This^^

      I’m sorry, guys I enjoy minor wrenching on my vehicles as much as the next guy, but changing your own oil, ugh! What a chore, for $30 the local Walmart does it in about 20 minutes while I play around in the auto dept.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I was going to argue with you, but I realized you’re right. If changing your oil is at all difficult or messy, and you don’t get some sort of pleasure out of the process, just get someone else to do it because it shouldn’t be that way and the labor isn’t very expensive.

      It sounds like Seth needs some decent tools. You should have quality six-point sockets and a number of different ratchets of various lengths if you’re going to do any wrenching. Use the long ones to loosen things off, and the short ones for tightening. I like to do most things by feel, but if you use a torque wrench make sure you’re not right at the low end of the range where it’s inaccurate. A 24″ long, 1/2″ drive, 25-250 lb-ft torque wrench should not be used to tighten a drain plug to 25 lb-ft!

      I actually just use the 12-point box end of a regular wrench on drain plugs because they’re never overtightened and wrenches are easy to clean if any oil gets on them. But you still need good wrenches for that. The cheap ones are really short.

      I’ve helped a neighbor with some stripped drain plug issues on a couple of vehicles. I don’t know how anyone manages to do that with well-lubricated large threads requiring low torque, but junior mechanics and quickie oil change employees are not immune so be careful who works on it.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    .
    FWIW ;

    Vacuuming out the old oil leaves behind massive amounts of sludge and dirt .

    Not maybe , not I *think* so , I’m the guy who removes the oil pan and finds 1/2″ of sludgy crap and 1/2 clogged oil intake screens .

    Beam typ torque wrenches are more accurate yes but once you see how much time a *quality* click typ saves , you’ll never go back .

    I managed to wear out my 40 + year old thread chasers and can’t seem to find any new ones ~ I don’t want Chinese made thread chasers .

    Self tapping oil drain plugs used to be a standard item on very Lube Rack , are they obsolete too ? .

    When I was 14 and worked for Atlantic Richfield (now ARCO) I pulled an oil drain plug and it came out with the threads , I thought ” oh boy ~ one day on the job and they’re going to fire me ! ” but they had a big box full of self tapping drain plugs & gaskets ,no problem , just make _sure_ you inserted it 90° to the oil pan so it’d seal O.K. .

    I’ve never had one of them fail . strip out later .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      Snap-on has thread chasers, and surprisingly not expensive.

      Another vote here for Fumoto drain valves, which I have on three cars. Push on a length of vinyl tubing and lead the oil directly into the container of your choice — can’t beat that. I do agree that some kind of integral safety catch would be a worthwhile design upgrade, but on our cars the drain valve locations are sufficiently protected.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    “Vacuuming out the old oil leaves behind massive amounts of sludge and dirt”

    Uh-oh. I’ve done a few ‘top-kill’ oil changes on a Chrysler minivan with the Pentastar and top-mounted filter with a mityvac. It is very nice not to have any spillage at all or to jack the car up.

    Looks like back to draining at the next OCI. There are no good shortcuts it seems.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      .
      Seriously ~

      If you do less than 7,000 mile oil changes and don’t do mostly in town never get fully warmed up driving , you’re prolly going to be fine , it’ll last that 150,000 miles then you can trade it in .

      Me , I rarely ever have to overhaul an engine unless it’s dead when I buy the rig .

      I commented because I was thinking of those Toyota engines that sludge up .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        andrewallen

        What Nate? You never drove your air cooled VW’s more than 160 000KM’s?
        A major service on a split window is when you change the engine ;)

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          .
          I cheated and ran 36HP engines in all but one of my Split Windows VW Beetles , that one was the incredibly battered 1948 , it came to me from England with a ’61 40HP full of sludge m after a few blistering hot oil changes the sump screen always came out clean as a whistle so I never removed the engine , put about 45,000 fun miles on that poor old thing , I don’t remember who bought it but it was incredibly original (sheet metal) so I hope someone who could deal with the rust holes in the original hood got it and did a proper restoration .

          My Son rarely got over 40,000 miles out of his Beetles but then , he always used the maximum speed / gear indicators on the speedo as shift points (!) .

          Noisy and cheap yes but damn good little cars IMO , the took me all across America, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala , only left me afoot once or twice .

          Oil ~ it’s the CHEAP MECHANIC .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    As someone up the line said, a 6 point socket together with a 3/8 or 1/2 ratchet and a short handle 3 lb mechanic hammer always does the trick. Use the hammer with quick “woodpecker” taps and it will break any recalcitrant drain plug loose. Of course, if you crack the socket or don’t hold the ratchet on center to the bolt head, issues could occur. And, it’s never a bad idea to have spare drain plugs/washers available just in case. Good luck to all.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    For decades, I’ve used just a 12-point wrench and a hammer blow on the end to loosen. I use a 16-22 oz hammer (easier to handle under a car), and two sharp strikes usually do it.

    I don’t torque oil plugs with a torque wrench, except on transmissions or aluminum pans. Typically, I run the plug down until it stops, then give it a little snugging by hand with the box wrench.

  • avatar
    spacejunkiehsv

    All I can say is FUMOTO DRAIN VALVES KICK ASS! Look it up.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    This is why NO ONE is allowed to change my oil, unless they do it when: I am too sick or tied up to do it myself – or as a part of other maintenance. The ‘professionals’ at the now closed Ford dealer who changed my oil as part of the buyers ‘special deal’ special, stripped the bolt threads out up to the head of the bolt-it was holding on by a circumferance-and-a-half of thread. Not sure when they did it, but when I got a deal on some Mobil 1, I decided to do the next one myself. And no, I didn’t have a new bolt as back up. So, borrow wifes’ car, go back to parts store, complete job ..

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    Personal rules: Never use a breaker bar or cheater or an oversized tool to remove anything, unless you can live with breaking the damn thing off. I have a history of breaking stuff in ways that are bad. This started with my first plumbing adventure. In that case, I broke every single connection, starting with the washer, all the way back to the wall.

    The philosophy of simply getting a bigger hammer (tool, wrench, etc) is all good. If you can deal with breaking what you are removing. Or stripping threads.

    One man’s experience of using big stuff to remove little stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      True story. One sunny Saturday WAYYYYY back in ’91, I had the opportunity, Nay! The priviledge of buying for $800 a fire engine red ’77 Pontiac Catalina with over 280K miles on the odo. Lovely little small block V8, 3 spd auto on the column and lovely blue mouse-fur velour bench seating that comfortably sat eight people (yes, there were seat belts (lap belts) for all). The car felt sluggish on the kick down and was giving worse MPG than I would expect from such a Malaise era classic, so a friend and I were persuaded to give the old girl a tune up.

      Everything was going swimmingly. The rotted air filter was removed and the pieces of its demise were sucked out, oil and filter changed, whateverthehell that sensor was that lived on the side of the carb cover with its vacuum tube was replaced, and seven spark plugs, all Auotlites, were reomved and replaced. The eighth spark was hiding, nestled sweetly behind the hulking A/C compressor in a location only the escaped Nazi’s residing at the GM engineering division could design. Neither of us could get to it via regular methods and from the look of it from a bendy mirror, it was rusted in there good and tight. Time to spray and pray.

      With the help of two elbow joints, a breaker bar, WD-40, and a f-ton of swearing, we popped that A/C Delco plug out of its rabbit hole. Upon inspection found nothing left of the spark arc; just a nubbin where the electrode used to be. Took a look again into the hole and found no evidence of anything, so according shoved a new plug into it. rehooked the wiring and she started right up. Purrrrrrrrred like a dream. To this day don’t know if that was the original A/C Delco plug from the factory, but my guess was that eight plug was suchapaininthearse to get, mechanics never bothered.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Oh yes ~ there were quite a few GM products that you’re supposed to unbolt the motor mounts & raise the engine to access those rear spark plugs , Dealer ‘ mechanics ‘ usually just skipped it and no one ever noticed until a few years were gone by .

        Don’t they still make those spark plug sockets with the 3/4″ hex on the top so you can get a box wrench in at a 90° angle ? those are real life savers for Line Mechanics .

        -Nate

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