The year was 1974, and for the past three years in high school, I had been working part-time at Jim’s Gas Station. Riding my bicycle after school and on weekends to the gas station was a new experience for me since it was my first real job making money. I was saving up to buy my first car and thought the experience I could get from being around cars and a mechanic was the best of both worlds.
For the first few months I was Jim’s shadow, and of course, his gopher (go for this or go for that). Anyways, after I was allowed to work more independently I learned to check the oil level on the engine dipstick of each car needing gas and to check tire pressure. When things were not too busy I also helped doing engine tune-ups, oil changes and repairing flat tires.
Finally, after working three years at the station, I had saved enough money to buy my first car. After looking at several makes and models, I purchased a used blue 1971 Dodge Dart from a local owner. I drove it to the gas station for Jim to take a look, and he said that it was all worth while to see my smile brighter than a chrome bumper.
After driving my car for a few months, it was time for some routine maintenance. I thought my first oil change would be no problem. I had done those before at the gas station, so off I go to the auto parts store. I got the oil drain pan, oil filter and of course 5 quarts of oil. After letting the engine cool down a few hours in the driveway, I started my oil change. I put the oil drain pan under the engine, removed the oil drain plug and then replaced the oil filter after all the old oil drained out. I thought the process seemed way too easy, and later I learned why.
I started pouring the new oil into the engine and heard my next door neighbor yelling at me, “Hey kid what you are doing ?”
Looking at him kind of strange I said, “Changing the oil in my engine. Why?”
He said, “Well the oil goes in the engine not on the driveway.”
The new oil was going straight through the engine and onto the pavement. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten to screw the oil drain plug back in.
It's safe to say I learned the hard way this time around. And after many years, and many more cars, I’ve mastered the basic oil change. One thing is for sure, I’ll always remember the first time I changed the oil in my 1971 Dodge Dart. I kept that car for over ten years and 200K miles and many more oil changes. Those times putting the oil drain plug back in the engine.
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