This guide includes lots of pictures and a detailed step-by-step explanation of how to change the oil and oil filter in a Toyota Corolla, Matrix and Pontiac Vibe.

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Benefits of Changing Your Oil

Changing the oil in your vehicle is one of the quickest and most satisfying maintenance tasks you can do yourself, and is the gateway to more complicated maintenance projects later on. This task involves very few steps, and takes less than 1 hr to complete.

Alright, let’s get started! The vehicle shown here is a 2004 Toyota Corolla CE. I use and recommend 5w-30 synthetic oil for any Corolla built before 2009. For Corollas built in 2009 and onward, I recommend 0w-20 synthetic oil. This procedure and pictures will apply very closely with Corollas, Matrix and Pontiac Vibes. Here is a list of supplies and tools you will need.

List of Supplies:

List of Tools Required to Change Oil in a Toyota Corolla:

How to Change Oil in a Toyota Corolla Steps

  1. Run the car for 15 minutes or longer to warm up the oil.
  2. Remove the oil fill cover so that the oil will drain faster.
  3. Remove the drain plug using a 14mm socket.
  4. Wait for the oil to drain out into a drain pan.
  5. Reinstall the drain plug and torque it to 27 lb-ft.
  6. Remove the old oil filter by unscrewing it.
  7. Screw on the new oil filter and tighten by hand.
  8. Add 3.9 qts of fresh oil (5W-30 or 0W-20).
  9. Put the oil filler cap back on.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Changing Oil and Filter in a Toyota Corolla

This photo shows the supplies and tools used in this guide. Before changing the oil, you may want to check the level to see if your vehicle is burning oil.

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Warm up the oil, so that it will drain out more efficiently

The first step is to drain the oil.  In order to do this, it is best if the oil is warmed up, so try to drain the oil after the vehicle has been running for at least 15 minutes, or take it for a quick spin before you begin. This is not a strictly necessary step, but it will help as much of the old oil as possible drain out of the vehicle. It would be more recommended if you are doing this during the cold winter when your oil acts like molasses!

Corollas are a pretty low vehicle, without a lot of ground clearance. That being said, it is possible to fit under the car to remove the drain plug and the oil filter, if you are very slim and not claustrophobic! This is what I typically do just to save time, but jacking the vehicle up and securing it with some jack-stands will not only give you more clearance to work, but also inclines the vehicle in a way that is beneficial for draining the oil, since it slants toward the drain hole.

Make sure the vehicle is off and well secured with the parking brake.

Remove the drain plug using a 14 mm wrench or socket

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Have a drain pan ready as you loosen the drain plug. After braking the bolt loose, usually you can unscrew it the rest of the way using your fingers. If you need a drain pan, check this link to an inexpensive one.

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Take care not to drop the bolt into the drain pan as you get to the end of the threads. Position the drain pan under the drain hole as you remove the bolt. Then let the oil drain for about 10-15 minutes. Removing the oil filler cap while draining will help speed up the process of draining.

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Replace the drain plug

After the draining oil has slowed to a drip, put on a new oil plug gasket, then replace the drain plug bolt and snug it up (torque it to 27 lb-ft for the 1.8L Corolla). Don’t over do it, you don’t want to strip this bolt!

One of the greatest no-brainer inventions related to oil plugs is the magnetic oil plug! What this is, is the drain plug has a neodymium magnet (those really strong ones) built in to it, so that any ferrous material (metal shavings) that are in your oil from engine wear, will stick to the magnet as the oil circulates through your engine.

Oil filters catch most of the larger particles in your oil, but a magnetic oil plug catches particles down to a micron! Anyway, consider getting one if you want to keep your engine pristine, it is cheap insurance.

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Where is the Oil Filter on a Toyota Corolla?

The oil filter is located above and to the left of the oil drain plug. In the next photo, you can see the oil drain plug in the lower right of the image, and the oil filter (orange) in the upper left. Remove the old oil filter.

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Position the oil pan under the oil filter while you are unscrewing it. It will drip oil when it is removed, and you want to catch as much of the oil as possible. If the oil filter is stuck, not to worry, you may want to get an oil filter removal tool (basically a large pliers). Or, I’ve actually used one of these cup sockets in the past and it worked really slick.

This is a view with the oil filter removed.

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Put some oil on the seal of the new oil filter

Take out the new oil filter. These are the part numbers:

You want to put a little oil on the new oil filter seal, so that it will create a nice seal. Use your finger or a rag to wipe a sheen of oil around the circumference of the new oil filter seal.

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Install the new oil filter

Put the new oil filter on and tighten it. When you feel resistance, go another 1/2-3/4 turn or so.

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You don’t want oil to leak out, but you also don’t want it so tight that you have to remove it by stabbing it with a screwdriver the next time.

Add fresh oil

You’re now ready to move to the engine bay.

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Pop the hood and remove the oil filler cap.

With oil filter change, the vehicle requires 3.9 qts of oil. You can check the specs in your manual to confirm.

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Put the funnel into the oil fill hole.

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Pour in 3.9 qts of oil. The recommended oil for a 2003-2008 Toyota Corolla is 5W-30. For a 2009-2021 Corolla, the recommended oil is 0W-20. At the time of these photos, I was using the wally world brand, but since then I’ve started ordering my oil off of Amazon because the price is comparable or better for Mobil 1 Full-Synthetic:

For more information on this oil, check out this post on the recommended oil for a Toyota Corolla.

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You know when you are at 3.9 when there remains 1.1 qts in a 5 qt jug.

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Put the oil filler cap back on

Replace the oil filler cap. You’re now finished. Good work! You just saved yourself some time and money. Take the old oil to an auto parts store, Walmart, or some other place that takes old oil for recycling.

List of Supplies Used:

List of Tools:

I hope this guide was helpful!

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Video – How to Change Oil in a Toyota Corolla

Watch the Video Tutorial here: