How I change the hard-to-reach POS oil filter on my 2001 Miata SE

Let me begin by saying that this may not work for the first time you take the filter off, or if the last filter was installed by a gorilla. My original filter was on so tight, we tried three different filter grip tools, and ended up drilling a hole through the filter and running a rod through it to get enough leverage to get it off.

Many people like to either remove the front passenger-side wheel (or just turn it all the way to the left) to access the filter. Others jack up the car and remove the filter from below.

I read some posts in the miata.net forum from people who indicated that they were able to reach from the top to access the filter. Some responses indicated that this was not always an option (like when you have a higher end model with more features/doodads under the hood). I believed those responses until I actually tried to reach the filter from the top. It was (is) possible for me, a 30-year-old average-sized male, using just a couple tools.

The tools I use are a 3/8 *swivel head* ratchet and an oil filter socket (I have a plactic/carbon one, but recommend this Lisle filter wrench instead). The filter socket I have actually slips pretty frequently (you can line it with tape or something, but it's better to just get the Lisle one). UPDATE: i BOUGHT THE LISLE ONE LINKED TO ABOVE. IT ALSO SLIPPED QUITE A BIT, SO I GRINDED GROOVES INTO IT WITH A DREMEL TOOL, AND NOW IT GRIPS VERY VERY WELL.

I also purchased, installed, and highly recommend this Fram SD2 SureDrain oil filter plug replacement (valve).

I actually drive the driver's side of the Miata up on the curb instead of jacking it up. This gives enough room for me to get under, feel safe, and do everything quickly and easily.

 

Photos

Here are a series of photos, with captions below.
Click any photo for larger (1200px wide):

The ratchet I use is about 11" long, 3/8 drive.

The plastic filter socket is around $8, but I don't recommend it (see above). I ACTUALLY MANAGED TO BREAK THE PLASTIC SOCKET (the square hole for the ratchet is no longer square...), SO I'M NOW USING A MODIFIED LISLE OIL FILTER SOCKET.

This is how I "jack up" the car. The driveway is immediately behind the car, and I just drove up the curb. There is a milk jug underneath the car, into which the oil is draining, so "yes" there is enough crawl space. *DO NOT* turn your wheels to the left as I have them here! Keep them parallel to the street!

Passenger-side view of the engine compartment.

I put a bright green towel under the oil filter. You can use a diaper, a cut-off two-liter bottle, a plastic bag, or any number of things (search the miata.net forums). I used a bright towel so you could see it well.

This is where I reach in.

reaching down to the filter and putting the filter socket on the oil filter.

I circled where the socket is on the filter (enlarge if you want). I already put the filter socket on, and now I'm reaching in to put the ratchet on it.

I'm pointing at the butt of the ratchet, already connected to the socket. It doesn't move very far to the right from here, but moves far enough to the left (20 degrees?) to loosen the filter. You only need to loosen it with the ratchet, then you can reach in and spin it off by hand.

Pull out the old filter, and put in a brand-new Mobil 1 M1-108 filter. Spin it on by hand, then tighten to spec with the ratchet (I just do it "tight"-- no problems yet).

You've already drained the old oil, reinstalled the drain plug (or closed the valve, if you bought one). Now all that's left is to pour fresh Mobil 1 (or other high-quality synthetic) oil into the crankcase.

Make sure you didn't leave any rags or tools in the engine compartment (you did take out the rag from under the filter, right?).

Close her up, turn her on, check for leaks.

Dispose of old oil and filter appropriately.

Drive away happy.

By the way, I actually stumbled upon this technique after I bought and was about to install an oil filter relocation kit. I decided to return the kit, because 1. cheaper, 2. fewer parts = fewer problems, and 3. It's really just as easy to do it this way. I get a tiny bit of grease on my arm, but that's just something to be proud of.