Changing the oil in your car is crucial for proper maintenance. Without it, you will not only void your warranty, you will also damage the car over time. Depending on who you ask, it is recommended that you change your oil either every three or six months, with some experts recommending an oil change every 1,000 miles, while others recommend it every 3,000 miles, every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, or every 10,000 to 15,000 miles.
However, the best way to figure out when you need to change the oil in your car is to check the owner’s manual. It’s hard to go with a rule of thumb based on what experts are saying, or based on previous experiences. The timing for the oil change has evolved over the years, and each car is different.
You also have service reminder monitors on most new cars, SUVs and pickups nowadays, and these monitors will alert you when you need an oil change. The system works by keeping track on how many miles the vehicle has traveled since the last change, along with your driving style. Different driving styles will affect the timing of the oil change – the harder you drive, the more frequently you will need to change the oil.
Checking the oil
You will often have to top off your oil in between changes, so you will need to check your oil levels regularly, at least once a month. Here, you can also rely on the owner’s manual and the automaker’s recommendations. Depending on your car, you might have a dipstick for manual inspection, or an electronic oil monitor that automatically keeps track of the oil levels.
If your car has a dipstick, the process for checking the oil manually is fairly straightforward. Make sure that the car is on level ground, and be careful for hot spots on the engine, if the car has been running before you perform the check. Turn the engine off, open the hood of the car, and pull the dipstick out of the engine. Wipe it clean, and then insert it all the way back into the tube. Your dipstick should have markings that indicate your oil levels, and these markings vary from car to car. They may be two pinholes, the words MIN/MAX, the letters L/H (low/high), or a crosshatched area. When you pull out the dipstick again, the oil will leave a streak and you will have to look where it falls in regards to these markings.
The color of the oil is also important – it should be black or brown. If the oil is lighter, or if it has a milky appearance, it could indicate that there is a coolant leak in the engine. Metal particles can also be an indication that there is internal engine damage, so make sure to check for those as well. If you spot either of these two conditions, visit your mechanic right away.
The right type of oil
There are several different types of oil on the market, and you can find out which one is right for your car by checking the owner’s manual. You do not want to spend extra on synthetic oil, if your car does not need it. Newer car models will have the weight of the oil needed for the engine printed on the cap where you have to add the oil. Having this information handy can help you save money even if you go to a mechanic, because you can ask for the right oil type and avoid being upsold. For older models, or if you do not have an owner’s manual, you can still find out which oil to use by checking with your local dealer, or by sifting through the internet on discussion boards, forums, or various other enthusiast groups for your particular car model.
You may want the best for your car, but going for synthetic oil is not the right approach, unless your car’s manufacturer calls for it. Synthetic oil can be two to four times more expensive than conventional oil, and it is designed to last longer by resisting breakdown and high temperatures. In certain situations, these attributes can prolong the life of your car’s engine. For example, if you make a lot of short trips, standard oil will rarely become warm enough to eliminate impurities and moisture, which can harm your engine. Synthetic oil is also ideal if you live in a region that has very warm summers and very cold winters, or if you use your vehicle to transport heavy loads or towing.
It is also important to keep in mind that even though synthetic oil holds up better over time and can serve your vehicle for more miles, you should still follow the manufacturer’s instructions on oil change frequency. Do not extend the interval beyond what the manufacturer recommends.
Synthetic oil may also be the right choice for vehicles that have a tendency to build up sludge in the engine. Some past models from Toyota and Volkswagen had such issues. The sludge is a form of residue that is generated as oil breaks down, and it can block the circulation of the oil through the engine, leading to a rapid deterioration of the vehicle. Synthetic oil, since it is less prone to breaking down, can be extremely beneficial in this situation, reducing the amount of sludge that is built up in the engine and prolonging the lifespan of the vehicle.
Would you like to know more?
Knowing the right intervals and types of oil for your car can help you save money and ensure that your car runs smoothly for many years to come. If you have any questions regarding oil changes, or if you would like to schedule an oil change for your car, contact us today.