Why You Change Your Motor Oil & How Often It Should Be Done
Purpose of Oil Changes
To understand the function of engine oil changes, you need to first know what oil does for your car.
First and foremost, oil reduces friction inside an engine. Instead of metal parts grinding on metal parts, the oil creates a protective layer between components. This allows everything to run more smoothly, preventing the engine parts from wearing down prematurely. Also, the reduction in friction also lowers temperatures inside the engine, which also can cause severe damage.
You might think the only coolant helps regulate engine temperatures, but that’s not the case. The oil also helps by spreading around heat as if circulates through the different sections.
But that’s not all engine oil does. It collects and transports carbon deposits, dirt, or any other foreign matter from the engine. As it circulates to the filter, those contaminants are removed from the oil. Otherwise, they reduce how well the oil does its primary job of lubricating parts, as well as keeping the temperature down. When you change your car’s oil, the oil filter is also swapped out. That’s important because old filters can start to partially clog as they collect contaminants from the oil.
As engine oil ages, it loses viscosity, or the ability to smoothly flow into every cramped section of the engine. It’s an inevitable consequence, which is why you can’t just put oil in the engine and leave it. Neglecting to change the oil in your car can lead to serious consequences and a big repair bill. It’s not worth taking the risk, considering how little an oil change costs. As some say, changing the oil is cheap insurance for the engine.
Oil Change Frequency
It used to be that the rule of thumb was to change your oil every 3,000 miles. Some people might still tell you to follow the 3,000-mile oil change rule, but thanks to modern technologies it no longer applies to all vehicles. While this is positive since you don’t spend as much on maintenance with a new car, the change has caused some confusion.
Some repair shops and quick lube stations still put stickers on the inside of your car’s windshield, recommending you return within 3,000 miles. The interval might be longer, but many times it doesn’t adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Changing the oil more often than necessary isn’t a treat for your car since it offers no maintenance benefit. Instead, such a practice is just a waste of your hard-earned cash. Not only are you throwing your money away by coming back for oil changes sooner, but these shops also use the opportunity to upsell you on other services, costing you even more.
Really, what it comes down to with oil changes is that you should follow what car manufacturers recommend. You can find the specific oil change interval for your car in the owner’s manual in the maintenance schedule, on the automaker’s website in the section for car owners, or by contacting the dealership’s service department.
Many newer cars even have an oil change reminder that’s part of the infotainment system. That means you don’t even have to watch the odometer since the car will do that for you. Some of the newer systems even monitor conditions and driving habits, instead of just counting mileage, providing an even more accurate indication of when the oil should be changed. Some automotive maintenance apps available for your smartphone will also help with remembering to change the oil at the recommended intervals.
Some people don’t drive a car enough in a year’s time to even hit the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval. If that’s the case, the best thing to do is have the oil changed once a year. This will prevent the oil from aging out, causing the same maintenance issues the engine would suffer if you went beyond the recommended mileage interval.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is wait until the oil pressure light comes on. When that happens, the oil level in your car’s engine has dwindled to such a point; damage might be imminent. That and the little oil left isn’t doing its job as effectively as it should since it’s too old at that point. In other words, the oil pressure light should only be an emergency measure, not something you use to gauge when it’s time to change the oil.
Instead, check the oil level using the dipstick on a regular basis, preferably about once a month. This will provide an accurate reading of the oil level, helping you to avoid trouble. If you find the oil level has dipped too low, refill it with identical oil to what was originally put into the engine. Then, check the oil level again to ensure it’s at a good place.
You likely have wondered if synthetic oil is a good idea for your car’s engine. Some repair shops and quick lube places promote using it, but synthetic oil sounds weird to many car owners.
The fact is your vehicle’s manufacturer might recommend using synthetic oil. It has a longer life cycle since it maintains viscosity for far longer than conventional oil. On some cars, synthetic oil is required, especially for high-performance models.
Factors Affecting Oil Life
While the manufacture’s recommendation for oil changes is a good guide to go by, you also need to consider how you use your car and the driving conditions. Severe conditions have a big effect on engine oil life.
If you drive in conditions where extreme heat or bitter cold is common, that has an adverse effect. So does start the engine cold frequently, towing or hauling big loads, and constantly taking short trips that last fewer than 4 miles. Driving on dirt roads regularly will also introduce more contaminants to the oil, making more frequent oil changes necessary. If you often travel in stop-and-go traffic, like what’s common in big cities during rush hour, that also breaks down the oil faster.
Driving a car hard constantly also has a negative effect on oil life. If you’re naturally an aggressive driver, keep that in mind.
Getting your car’s oil changed regularly is relatively inexpensive, considering the serious consequences that might follow if you don’t. But, you don’t necessarily need to change the oil more often than the manufacturer’s recommendation, unless you’re operating the car in some extreme conditions.
Viking Motors services all makes and models from Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, and all the other manufacturers in our 26,000 Square Foot facility. Book your next service appointment today online or give our friendly staff a call.