Saturday, March 22, 2014

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How to change the oil (and oil filter) on a Mazda MX5

As I consider myself a slight motor head and I also like to get my hands dirty (and greasy), I set upon changing the oil and oil filter on my 06' Mazda MX5 (NC) by myself. The process of changing the oil is quite straight forward and can be done at home with just a few simple tools. Here are the steps I took:

Make sure the engine is warmed up. This is very important as it will ensure that the oil is as thin as possible so it will drain easily from the engine. I took it for a 15 min drive after which the engine was at the normal functioning temperature.

Jack the car on the driver's side and secure it with a jack stand. Also make sure that it's in gear.

Unfasten the oil filter. This might be the trickiest step in the whole procedure so do it now to make sure you can complete the whole oil change. In case you cannot unfasten it for whatever reason, you might need professional help, so there is no need to continue the operation.

Let's see how the oil filter can be removed. The position of the oil filter is somehow strange and you will need to get under the car in order to reach it. As reference, you can spot it near the hydraulic clutch pump, just above the front cross member.

View from under the driver's seat

The picture was taken from under the driver's seat and you can see the oil filter's position in the top left side. You don't need to unscrew anything to reach it, I was able to unfasten it using my bare hands (it was a happy scenario) but in case you can't do it, then you will need to use an oil filter wrench.

If you could unfasten it, then you can remove it completely as it will spill a very small amount of oil.

Remove the oil plug (don't forget to take the oil cap off). The oil plug is located somehow in the center of the oil pan's shield. You can access it through a hole in this shield.  If you can remove it without also removing the shield, then go ahead. I found it hard to unfasten the plug, probably because I had the car on a jack and not lifted up. Nevertheless, you can take this shield off by removing five screws (12mm), it's that easy. If you are in my situation then I would recommend taking it off as it gives you more visibility and you have larger freedom of movement with the wrench. 

Also, I found it easier to pull the wrench (my oil plug was tighten quite hard by the previous owner) after I crawled under the car from the front and not from the side. Pay attention to the aluminium washer because at times it can be stretched quite hard and might need replacement. By the way, the oil plug screw requires a 17mm wrench. 

optional - Once the oil started draining, I took the car back on the ground to make sure the oil drains completely and doesn't get caught up due to the inclined position on the jack. I marked this step as optional because I am not sure how much of a concern this actually is.

Put in the new oil filter and the oil plug. When you put in the new oil filter, you need to make sure that the contact area on the engine block is clean and that the rubber gasket of the oil filter is lubricated (you can apply a thin layer of oil with your finger). Then, after tightening the oil filter with your hand, you can use the oil filter wrench to turn it an extra quarter of a turn. After you're done with the oil filter, you can put back the oil plug but take care not to tighten it too hard as it has an aluminium washer. If you removed the oil pan shield too, then it's a good moment too put it back.

Pour in the new oil. Make sure you know the exact quantity you need to pour in for your engine's capacity and whether you changed the filter or not. For my 1.8L with a new oil filter, the manual says it requires 4.3L of 5W-30. For this oil change, I went with Liqui Moly Toptec 4500. It's a German brand not very well known but the few people who tried it were very impressed. Also, I noticed on the canister it says it's a recommended oil for Mazda and Mitsubishi which came in as a surprise. I will come back with impressions after some miles.

Start the engine and then check the oil levels. After you completed the step above, you can start the engine and let it run for a little bit - this should fill your oil filter and move the oil through the entire engine. Then, let it rest for a few minutes and check the oil levels to make sure everything it's ok.

That is it!! If all goes according to plan you should be able to change your Miata's oil in less than an hour. I hope you will enjoy the process as much as I did even if it's a little messy.


  1. Great article, but never tighten the oil filter with a wrench. Hand tight is recomended. I've never had any leaks from just hand tight but just check after a few miles.

    1. Depends how strong your hands are not everyone has strong hands.