Every vehicle needs oil and every vehicle needs that oil changed from time to time. Since our vehicles need oil, not just any engine oil will do. Modern engines are designed with specific standards. Those engines require oils that should fulfill specific requirements for optimum performance. If a driver fails to ensure the correct oil for his or her vehicle, that owner could see issues arise with his/her vehicle- over time. So, how often should you change your oil? And what oil is right for your car? We’ll answer these questions as well as a host more!
What is an Oil Change?
An oil change is the is a specific task that involves replacing the engine oil of a vehicle and the oil filter. Since oil has a specific life span, it should be changed frequently and according to the guidelines set for the vehicle. Oil is a fluid that can also be recycled, as it only gets dirty. In a junk car, the engine oil can be extracted from the vehicle, cleaned and then reused in another newer vehicle. Oil changes are relatively inexpensive and should be performed during certain intervals during a car’s life- depending on the vehicle, the engine and the driving habits of the vehicle owner.
Modern Vehicles and Oil Changes
Many late-model vehicles demand resource-conserving, multi-grade, full-synthetic, synthetic-blend or low-viscosity oils that help to keep friction at bay and also boost fuel economy. But choosing the correct oil can be a task in itself. The correct engine oil for your vehicle’s particular make must have meet performance standards set by the ACEA and/or the API and ILSAC, and have compliance with additional specifications and requirements established by the engine manufacturer and the vehicle maker. You can find these exact requirements in your vehicle owner's manual, or your local mechanic at your favorite auto repair shop.
The kind of oil that is required for your car will depend on the engine you have, your driving conditions and your vehicle. Back in the day, there was a standard of an oil changes for every 3,000 miles driven. Thanks to modern technologies coupled with modern lubricants- most oil changes can take place every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If you have a car that requires a full-synthetic oil, you may only need an oil change every 15,000 miles! You should look at your manual, visit your dealership or take your car to a trusted mechanic to see what intervals you need your engine oil changed. Lots of cars are equipped with computers (and even mobile applications!) that can track your mileage and tell you when an oil change is needed.
Oil Changes and Older Cars
Generally speaking, older vehicles have oil change intervals that depend on the mileage. There are also two maintenance schedules for older vehicles too. There’s service for cars that are driven during “normal operation” and then there is service for cars that are driven under “severe conditions.” For cars that are receiving oil changes for “severe conditions”, those conditions may include:
- Transporting heavy loads or hauling a trailer
- Extreme temperatures outside (severe hot or severe cold)
- Stop and go driving that’s sustained
- A large number of short trips (lots of driving that is 5 miles or less)
For vehicles that meet those requirements, you may want to look at your manual and adopt a more rigorous schedule for oil changes. But if you drive your car under “normal” conditions, make sure that you don’t spend hard-earned funds on oil changes and related services- and other maintenance- that your vehicle just may not need.
Oil Changes and New Cars
Many newer cars have advanced technologies are outfitted with oil-life monitoring computer programs that alert car owners regarding oil changes. Those systems can determine when an oil change is needed. Lots of car owners can view their oil life in their cars and even on mobile applications. When it’s time for an oil change, the driver will be alerted either in the car, on the app or even both.
Earlier and more simpler systems were based on a vehicle’s mileage. Thanks to modern technologies, a computer can now assess a vehicle’s operating conditions and then identify when the engine oil will begin to become degradable. For many of these modern cars, the vehicle manuals even eliminate the “severe maintenance service” suggestions, because the computerized oil-life monitoring systems will shorten the oil change intervals, while detecting any heavy-duty driving or operations.
Additionally, with these modern cars, the service technician will then view the computer system and reset the computerized oil-life monitoring system- after the oil change. If you choose to change your own oil, be sure to read your manual so that you can reset your system successfully. Because the conventional “oil change every 3,000 miles” is just about a thing of the past, the less frequent oil changes on newer engines require drivers now evaluate oil levels on a monthly or a more regular basis. Lots of engines don’t even require an entire quart of oil- but some do require that full quart. When you maintain your proper oil levels you keep costly fixes and repairs at bay. Engine damage and wear resulting from low oil levels may not be covered under your new-vehicle warranty. So, make sure that you maintain those levels.
How Long Can You Go Without Getting Your Oil Changed?
Depending on your vehicle, you may be able to drive up to 7,500 miles and not need an oil change. We all find ourselves in a financial pinch and may have to miss an oil change right when one is required-due to lack of money. While this may be suitable some of the time, try not to make it a habit of foregoing your oil changes. With improved engine technology many vehicles can generally go thousands of miles before needing an oil change. Furthermore, if you have a car that requires synthetic oil, you may be able to drive your car up to 15,000 miles before it’s time for an oil change. But you certainly want to ensure that you have a vehicle that can withstand the high mileage, before you decide not to get an oil change. If you have an older car and you hit high mileage marks and miss those oil changes, prepare for issues later down the road… literally. The bottom line: know your car, and keep that oil changed!
Can You Change Your Oil Too Often?
According to experts, there is really no harm in changing your oil frequently. Too frequent oil changes are not going to make your car last longer, run faster or better. But consider sticking to the requirements for your car, regarding oil changes. Why spend unnecessary money on weekly or monthly oil changes when they are not needed?
Can I Just Add Oil To My Car Instead Of Getting An Oil Change?
Here are a few things to consider if you just want to add oil and skip the oil change.
- Just adding oil to a car instead of getting an oil change, may do more damage than good.
- When you mix old and new oil, your newer oil will become diluted or “watered down.” That new oil will not be able to perform optimally.
- There is a difference in topping off oil and just adding oil to avoid spending money on an oil change. You want to make sure that you check your oil levels and add oil as needed.
- Adding oil instead of going to get a proper oil change could cause some engine problems. Your used oil will eventually have to be removed and new oil placed in the car- so that your engine can be properly lubricated.
How Do I Check My Oil?
In order to check your car’s oil, you can follow the following steps:
- Be sure that your is turned off and your engine is cold.
- Lift your hood and locate the oil dipstick and pull it out. Grab a paper towel or a towel and wipe it clean.
- Then place the dipstick back into its place and pull it out again, and see what level and color your oil is.
- Look at your dipstick and see the “story” that your oil is sharing with you.
- If your vehicle’s current oil level is low on the marker on the dipstick, it’s time to add oil.
- Also, you want to look at the color of your oil. Newer and fresh oil is “honey” colored. While old and dirty oil is darker in color.
- For assistance, you may want to take your car to a mechanic and have him or her perform an oil level check.
What if I pull out my dipstick and my oil level is high?
If you see that your dipstick indicates that your oil is beyond the required limit, there may be possible:
- Accidental oil over-filling
- Combustion due to water
- Fuel that’s condensed
- Coolant that is leaking into the engine (check and see if your oil is “milky” and “foggy” in color)
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