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I'm looking for a step-by-step guide to changing the oil of 2004 Nissan Xterra. I found one a very useful one for my Lexus but I can't find one for my Nissan. Does anyone know of one or would like to write one?

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Changing the oil is very similar from car to car. You just need to get underneath it, remove any covers on the sump, remove the sump nut, drain the oil out, replace sump nut and refill the oil through the filler in the engine bay. Then find the filter and remove and replace that. Also remember to coat the new filter in new oil. –  Sam Jones Nov 22 '12 at 16:58
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1 Answer

For your car? It's going to be tough to find exact instructions. There are plenty of resources on the internet for changing oil in general. It's not a big deal at all, there are only a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Safety: Secure the car in on jackstands/ramps/whatever. Make sure it's not going to fall on you. Side note: I've done Pathfinder oil changes with the car on the ground, not sure if the Xterra is high enough to do that.

  • Don't start a car without oil. That is, before you think you are done, double check that the drain plug is installed, the new filter is installed, you have poured the correct amount of oil in, and that there are no obvious leaks.

Basically, avoid killing yourself and/or your car. I think those two are the only ways to really screw up on an oil change.

Car specific info

If your car is a VG33 Xterra (the 3.3L, that year they switched to a 4.0L), I can tell you that the oil filter is a canister type (the more widespread type). It should be on the driver's side toward the front of the engine, facing straight down. The 4.0L is also a canister, but I can't remember quite where. In the VQ35 Pathfinder, it's right above the crossmember, angled forward and down (45 degrees). You have to remove the plastic cover under the car between the bumper and the crossmember. I imagine it'd be very similar to that. Plus, the VQs have a drip guide (finally!).

The drain plug is toward the rear of the vehicle's engine. The 3.3L Xterra's have a very short lower oil pan section, you can't miss it. The 4.0L... can't remember what side, but it's there and hard to miss.

General info

Steps:

  1. Lift/Raise and secure car (if needed).
  2. Drain oil into container by removing drain plug
  3. Fasten drain plug back in.
  4. Remove oil filter and allow oil from it and mating surface to drain into container.
  5. Attach new oil filter.
  6. Remove oil fill cap on top of engine, add correct amount of new oil.
  7. Replace cap. (Check oil level if you're OCD.)
  8. Check for leaks. Start engine, check for leaks again.
  9. Remove car from jackstands/ramps/whatever.*
  10. Drive 2,500/5000/7,500/15,000 miles or kilometers or whatever and start again at 1.

*You can leave a car on ramps and start it. You can on jackstands too... but if in doubt, swap 8 and 9 around.

Here are some good "how-tos" I found:

http://www.edmunds.com/how-to/how-to-change-your-oil-the-real-down-and-dirty.html

http://www.familyhandyman.com/DIY-Projects/Car---Truck/Oil-Change/how-to-change-car-oil/View-All

I noticed that some guides tell you do warm the car up before draining. Not sure why they would recommend this. You want the oil cool (when it hits your hand, hot oil doesn't feel good), and you want it all drained to the pan (when the car's off, all the oil slowly returns to the pan). Maybe, if you're in northern climates, you don't want molasses coming out, but still...

I change it in the morning when the car is stone cold.

Tips

A few tips that those How-Tos don't mention:

  • When removing the drain plug loosen it with a tool. Then move the tools other stuff away from the landing zone as possible. Remove it by hand the rest of the way. You'll have to kind of learn to gauge how far the drain plug is coming along and then right when it's off move your hand away quickly. The goal here is to avoid the gushing oil going everywhere and keep it off your arm(s). If you end up throwing the drain plug into the oil drain pan you are using, don't worry, I've done it a bunch of times. A magnet on a stick works great to retrieve it.
  • Put a little oil (new or used) on the oil ring of the new filter
  • Be sure that no rubber seal separated from the old filter and is stuck on the engine
  • Have lots of towels/cloths nearby
  • Brake cleaner cleans off oily car surfaces really well. Don't use it on plastic.
  • Wait a minute or two before checking oil after filling up or after shutting the engine off. Oil takes time to recollect in the pan and will give false readings.
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