We all know that you need to get your oil changed every 3,000 – 5,000 miles, but why? You bring your car to the shop and sit there tapping the floor with your foot wondering why it’s taking so long, trying to decide how long you can delay before your next oil change. Then there’s the bill.
They always seem to tack on an extra charge that you weren’t expecting. What’s the big deal anyway? If you look in your car’s manual it’ll suggest how often you should get your oil changed, but it won’t let on to the secret as to why. Luckily, getting your oil changed is one of the least expensive fastestinspection services your car needs. Despite it being relatively inexpensive, having your oil changed regularly and on schedule plays a critical role in preserving your vehicle and saving you money.
Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle. It keeps the many components of the engine working efficiently, and it helps reduce the accumulation of varnish and carbon from collecting on the engine. As you’re aware, the engine can get very hot from the thousands of small explosions taking place every minute; oil helps pull the heat away from the combustion chamber essentially preventing the engine from blowing up. As oil collects heat, varnish, and carbons during protecting and keeping the engine running smoothly, it eventually becomes less like liquid and more like sludge. No matter how good the oil is, eventually, it degrades as the additives get used up. That’s when you should have your oil changed.
How often and what kind of oil should be used? It will depend on the type of oil you choose to use, what kind of car, and how often you drive. This is where your owner’s manual will come in handy. The adage suggests every 3 months or 3,000 miles. The amount of mileage you drive is more important than the amount of time. You may go on a road trip and burn through a few thousand miles in a few weeks, or it may take five months before you reach the recommended mileage. Pay attention to the odometer and how you’ve been driving your vehicle. Driving in extreme weather or towing a lot of weight behind your car will affect your oil too.
How Often Should You Change Engine Oil
Every automobile engine needs an oil, but not just any oil will do. Modern engines are designed and built to exacting standards and require oils that meet very specific industry and automaker specifications to ensure long service life. Failure to use the right type oil, and document its use, could void your new-car warranty.
Most late-model cars require synthetic-blend or full-synthetic, low-viscosity, multi-grade, resource-conserving oils that minimize friction and maximize fuel economy. However, choosing the right oil is not always easy. The proper oil for your make and model of the vehicle must have the correct SAE viscosity grade, meet performance standards set by the API, ILSAC, and/or ACEA, and comply with any unique specifications established by the automaker or engine manufacturer. These requirements are detailed in your vehicle owner’s manual, and just7 auto repair shop can provide information on your vehicle’s recommended oil specifications as well.
Depending on vehicle age, type of oil, and driving conditions, oil change intervals will vary. It used to be normal to change the oil every 3,000 miles, but with modern lubricants, most engines today have recommended oil change intervals of 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Moreover, if your car’s engine requires full-synthetic motor oil, it might go as far as 15,000 miles between services! You cannot judge engine oil condition by color, so follow the factory maintenance schedule for oil changes.
Oil Change Intervals – Older Cars
Older cars typically have oil change intervals based on mileage, and have two maintenance schedules, one for cars driven in “normal” operation and another for those used in “severe service.” The latter category involves operating your car under one or more of the following conditions:
- Primarily short trips (5 miles or less)
- Extremely hot, cold, or dusty climates
- Sustained stop-and-go driving
- Carrying heavy loads or towing a trailer
If your vehicle use falls under the severe service definition in your owner’s manual, maintain your car using a more rigorous schedule. However, if you drive your car under normal conditions, be wary of spending hard-earned money on oil change services and other maintenance work your car may not need or benefit from.
Oil Change Intervals – Newer Cars
Most newer cars are equipped with oil-life monitoring systems that automatically determine when an oil change is needed and notify you with an alert on the instrument panel. Early simple systems are time and mileage-based, but current advanced designs analyze actual vehicle operating conditions to identify when the oil will begin to degrade. The owner’s and maintenance manuals for many newer cars eliminate “severe service” recommendations altogether because the oil-life monitoring system automatically shortens the oil change interval when it detects heavy-duty operation.
Whenever you have your car’s oil changed, the service technician should reset the oil-life monitoring system. If you change your oil, you can reset the system by following the instructions in the vehicle owner’s manual.
Less frequent oil changes on newer engines make it essential that you check the oil level monthly and top it up as needed. While many engines will use less than a quart of oil between changes, others can consume as much as a quart every 600 to 700 miles. Maintaining proper oil levels can help you avoid costly car repairs; engine wear or damage resulting from low oil levels will not be covered by your new-car warranty. Note that if you do not put many miles on your car, most automakers recommend an oil change every 12 months, even if the maintenance reminder has not come on.
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