Oil changes are an essential aspect of vehicle maintenance, and they have a significant impact on your car’s performance, longevity, and overall health. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of engine oil and explore all the possible questions that you might hold surrounding this crucial automotive task.
Car engines are marvels of engineering, with numerous moving parts that generate friction and heat during operation. This constant friction can lead to wear and tear on engine components, potentially compromising their performance and longevity. To keep things running smoothly, engine oil plays a crucial role:
In summary, engine oil is a vital fluid for reliable car operation and to ensure vehicle longevity and performance.
Regular oil changes are essential for maintaining a healthy engine and preventing potential problems down the road. Here’s what could happen if you ignore oil changes:
As engine oil ages, it starts to degrade and accumulates impurities such as dust, dirt, and microscopic metal particles. Over time, these impurities can create friction, leading to increased wear and tear on engine components. This accelerated wear can result in reduced engine performance and, in severe cases, engine failure.
When engine oil degrades, it loses its lubricating properties, leading to increased friction between moving parts. This inadequate lubrication can cause components to operate less efficiently, resulting in reduced fuel economy and overall performance.
Potential Damage to Other Components
Dirty oil can lead to sludge buildup in the engine, which can obstruct oil flow and cause blockages. These blockages can negatively impact other engine components, such as the oil pump, leading to costly repairs. Regular oil changes prevent sludge formation and ensure smooth oil flow, protecting vital engine parts.
The frequency of oil changes is a common question among car owners. The answer is not a one-size-fits-all number of miles. Here are the things to keep in mind:
In the past, cars used to undergo an oil change every 3,000 miles. However, things have changed significantly with the evolution of oil chemistry and engine technology.
Many automakers have switched to synthetic oil, which provides better performance and longevity compared to conventional oils.
Thanks to modern advancements, manufacturers are able to recommend longer service intervals typically ranging from 7,500 to 10,000 miles. In some cases, especially when using full-synthetic motor oil, these intervals can even extend up to an impressive 15,000 miles under ideal driving conditions.
The notion of the 3,000-mile oil change has often been used as a marketing tactic by dealers to encourage regular visits to the service bay.
When it comes to oil changes, the golden rule is simple: always turn to your vehicle owner’s manual for the best advice tailored specifically to your car’s needs.
Let us break down the reasons why this little book holds the key to keeping your vehicle running smoothly and efficiently:
Now, you might be wondering where to find this holy grail of automotive wisdom. It’s usually nestled in the maintenance chapter of your car manual.
And if you’ve misplaced it (hey, it happens to the best of us), many automakers have kindly put their manuals online. You can also give Edmunds Maintenance Schedules. They’ve got an extensive database covering vehicles dating back to the ’80s.
Older vehicles generally have two maintenance schedules: one for regular usage and one for “severe service” circumstances. Severe driving conditions can accelerate engine wear and degrade oil faster.
Severe driving conditions may include:
If any of the following sound like a day in the life of your car, you might just belong to this adventurous group and need to adjust your oil change intervals accordingly.
However, regardless of which schedule you fall under or how often you change your oil, here’s a friendly reminder to check your oil level every month. It’s a quick and easy ritual to keep your engine happy. Just top it up if needed, and you’re good to go!
So, you’ve got a weekend car or you just don’t rack up the miles on your odometer as much as others do. It’s tempting to think that your engine doesn’t need as much attention, but that’s where it takes a wrong turn.
Robert Sutherland, the principal scientist at Pennzoil Passenger Car Engine Lubricants, reveals a fascinating fact: over time, oil can get contaminated by gasses that sneak past the pistons. The longer this contaminated oil sits, the more it degrades, losing its effectiveness.
As your oil ages, it becomes less effective at doing its job – protecting your engine and ensuring everything runs smoothly. Plus, if your engine doesn’t get warm enough during those short drives, moisture starts to build up and play havoc under the hood.
So, it’s highly recommended to change the oil at least once a year, regardless of whether you’ve reached the recommended mileage interval or not.
If you’re cruising around in a newer car, chances are it’s equipped with this nifty little system, called the oil life monitor, making your life easier than ever before.
Basic Oil Life Monitors
The simpler versions aren’t much of a breakthrough as they are essentially maintenance reminders tied to mileage. When your car reaches a specific predetermined mileage range, a maintenance light pops up, prompting you to take action.
Advanced Oil Life Monitors
The real stars of the show, however, are the advanced oil life monitors. They boast cutting-edge software and employ various sensors to keep tabs on your driving conditions and behaviors. From drive temperatures to cold starts, driving hours, idling hours, and engine revs, it monitors everything.
Using a complex algorithm, this clever system then assesses the condition of your oil and predicts how much life it has left. To keep you informed, service alerts are conveniently displayed in the instrument cluster. Some systems even show the remaining oil life as a percentage on one of the information screens.
These technologies take the guesswork out of determining when your next oil change is required. The trick is to trust the monitor and not let your preconceived notions dictate otherwise.
Words of caution
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that these systems are calibrated to work with the factory-recommended oil. They aren’t quite savvy enough to recognize if you’ve switched to another blend, so sticking to the factory fill is the wiser choice.
And remember, these oil life monitors are quite different from the alarming red oil-pressure warning light that comes on when you start your engine. If that red light shows up while you’re driving or idling, it’s a sign that something’s seriously wrong – either you’re running out of oil or there’s a significant engine issue.
Not all engine oils are created equal. There are several types of engine oil available, each with its characteristics and recommended applications.
Conventional oil, also known as mineral oil, is the traditional and most common type of engine oil. It is derived from crude oil and then refined.
Conventional oil is affordable and suitable for various driving conditions. However, it tends to break down faster under high temperatures, requiring more frequent oil changes.
Synthetic oil is a high-performance lubricant that is chemically engineered for superior protection and performance. It is created through a complex process that involves the synthesis of base oils and additives, resulting in a highly refined and pure product.
Synthetic oils offer several advantages, including better performance in extreme temperatures, reduced engine wear, longer oil change intervals, and increased engine cleanliness. However, synthetic oils are much more expensive than conventional oils.
Synthetic blends, also known as semi-synthetic oils, are a mixture of conventional and synthetic base oils. It provides improved resistance to breakdown compared to conventional oil, without the higher cost of full synthetic oils.
High mileage oil is a specialized blend tailored to cater to older vehicles or those with a substantial number of miles on the clock, usually exceeding 75,000 miles.
As a car ages, its engine may experience additional wear and may develop issues like oil leaks and increased oil consumption. High mileage oils not only offer enhanced protection for older engines but also contain additives that can help rejuvenate gaskets and seals to help avoid oil leaks.
Now that you know the various oil types, it’s time to find the perfect match for your ride.
Before you go wild and pick any oil, take a peek into your owner’s manual. It will guide you on the recommended oil type and viscosity for your specific vehicle.
Refrain from going all artistic when choosing your engine oil. Remember, the automaker invested a fortune to craft your engine, and they picked the recommended oil with good reason. So, stick to their choice.
Moreover, when it’s oil-changing time, splurge on an original equipment or premium-grade oil filter – ditch the budget filters.
According to the Automotive Oil Change Association, synthetic oil is all the rage in newer vehicles, with over 50% of drivers opting for it. So, if your carmaker specifies synthetic oil, just go for it!
For older vehicles that were raised on conventional petroleum-based oil, you have a decision to make.
Don’t let anyone sweet-talk you into synthetic oil if it’s not required – save your bucks!
For most drivers, sticking to conventional oil is a wiser wallet choice. Synthetic oil may cost two to four times more, and the benefits might not outweigh the expense, considering their specific usage.
Here’s the thing, synthetic oil is meant to offer superior performance at extreme conditions and avoid engine damage. Because standard motor oil may never get hot enough to fend off moisture and impurities, leaving your engine unprotected.
So, if you live in bone-chilling winters or sweltering summers, or if you love towing hefty loads, synthetic oil is worth the upgrade. Synthetic oil also comes to the rescue for engines that have a knack for sludge buildup, a problem experienced by certain Volkswagen and Toyota models in the past.
But remember, even though synthetic goes the distance, don’t stretch those oil change intervals beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Also Read: Maintaining a Used Car
Unfortunately, apart from the previously mentioned myths, there are numerous other myths and misconceptions surrounding oil changes. Let’s debunk some common oil change myths and get our facts straight:
Fact: Darker oil doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for an oil change. Oil color can darken due to additives and engine heat, and that’s normal. It doesn’t automatically indicate dirty or ineffective oil. Follow your vehicle’s oil-change guidelines to know when it’s truly time for fresh oil.
Fact: The “W” in engine oil grades like 10W-40 stands for “winter,” not “weight.” The number preceding the “W” indicates the oil’s viscosity at low temperatures, while the number after the “W” indicates its viscosity at high temperatures.
For example, a 10W-40 oil has a lower viscosity (flows more easily) at low temperatures than a 20W-40 oil.
Fact: Avoid adding commercially available oil additives to your engine oil. Reputable motor oils are already formulated with the right additives for optimal engine performance. Additional additives may dilute the effectiveness of the oil or upset the oil chemistry. Stick to your owner’s manual for guidance on oil additives.
Fact: This myth has been haunting the automotive world since the 1970s, and it mainly concerns older, poorly maintained engines. But it’s far from the truth.
Synthetic oil doesn’t cause leaks in older engines. High-quality synthetics are seal-friendly and may even reduce risks. If leaks occur after switching, it’s pre-existing, not the oil’s fault. Stay confident with synthetic oil!
Fact: You can switch between synthetic and conventional oil without harming your engine. The two are compatible and can be used interchangeably. You can also opt for a synthetic blend oil.
Oil changes, a seemingly mundane part of car care, actually hold immense significance for vehicle performance, the automotive industry, and the environment. These regular oil swaps are no small matter, as they hold the key to extending your vehicle’s life, enhancing its performance, and minimizing our impact on the environment.
Now, if you’re in the market for some well-maintained used cars, why not take a peek at Schumacher Used? We might just have the perfect ride waiting for you!