When was the last time you had an oil change? Oil changes might be the most basic aspect of the auto maintenance process but it’s a good way to ensure that your vehicle stays in good condition. While your car depends on many fluids, motor oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle and without sufficient oil, the engine will be rendered useless.
Don’t worry. Keeping up with regular oil changes is fast, easy, and inexpensive. If you’re ready to take a hands-on approach in maintaining your vehicle you can even perform your own oil changes.
What Is Motor Oil And What Does It Do?
Motor oil also commonly referred to as engine oil is
made up of two additives; base stock and additives. The base stock is made up of synthetic chemicals, petroleum, or a mixture of the two substances. The base stock is made up of 95% of the solution and is responsible for reducing the heat that builds up through the engine.
On the other hand, the additives which make up 5% of the oil control the viscosity and lubricity. The viscosity refers to how the substance flows over the surface of the parts. These additives also protect the engine from wear. They contain magnesium sulphonates which break down engine sludge and impurities.
The engine is designed with thousands of parts. Motor oil lubricates each and every component within your engine that works together to make your vehicle operational. As the oil circulates through the engine it also cools down the heat generated by the engine before it’s cooled via air in the sump and recirculated back into the engine.
Common chemical additives that are in motor oil include:
- Antifreeze to improve the fluidity of oil during the winter months or when temperatures are cold
- Foam inhibitors that keep the oil from foaming and producing bubbles
- Antioxidants that prevents impurities from accumulating and forming in critical parts of the engine
- Anti-wear agents that aid in lubrication when the engine turns over and reduces wear on parts of the engine that are most vulnerable to damage
- Viscosity index boosters to enhance motor oil performance during operation in extreme temperatures
Oil is able to circulate through your vehicle’s oil system which consists of:
Oil Pump – This part keeps the oil moving under pressure to the rotating bearings, sliding pistons, and camshaft
Oil Sump – Stores the oil
Oil Filter – Removes particles and impurities from the motor oil before its pumped through the engine
Why Are Regular Oil Changes Important?
If it’s one thing that most drivers know whether they are mechanically inclined or not is that oil changes are necessary. As the oil moves throughout the engine, it picks up all kinds of particles including dirt, debris, and other types of contaminants. While removing these agents from the engine is important, over time the oil gets so dirty that it stops being effective.
Also, as the oil is subjected to heat, carbons, and varnish while protecting the engine it starts to turn into sludge which can clog up the engine. Even top-shelf premium quality motor oils start to degrade as the additives are used up. You’ll need to have an oil change to replace the soiled motor oil that can no longer properly do its job. Regular oil changes ensure that it is always healthy oil lubricating the internal components and regulating the temperature in the engine.
Keeping up with regular oil changes offers several benefits. This maintenance service will improve your vehicle’s overall performance. The main benefits of an oil change are:
Improves Fuel Economy
If you’re looking to save on gas by improving your car’s fuel economy then you’ll know that oil goes hand in hand with gas mileage. When you don’t regularly change your oil the engine will have to work harder and this requires that it consumes more fuel. You’ll find that when you skip oil changes you will have to gas up your car more often than usual.
Increases Engine Longevity
Consistent oil changes ensure proper lubrication, prevent the build-up of sludge and contaminants that can be harmful to your engine. Therefore, regular oil changes extend the life of the engine which means you can expect your vehicle to last for several years.
Reduces engine wear
A clean engine is a well-functioning engine. If you are regularly having your car’s oil changed it removes excess debris and improves its vitality. Therefore the engine doesn’t have to work harder to produce power making it much more efficient.
Well Lubricated Engine
The engine generates a lot of heat which can produce friction that can damage the different parts of the engine. Without regular oil changes, the engine is susceptible to overheating. Keeping good oil in your engine ensures that it's well-lubricated and keeps it from drying out.
What Happens To My Car If I Don’t Get An Oil Change?
When you’re pressed for time and money you might consider skipping out on an oil change and putting it off until another time. Repeatedly skipping oil changes can throw off your whole maintenance schedule. Neglecting your oil changes can be detrimental to the health of your vehicle and leads to expensive repairs.
Motor oil is able to keep the engine clean by picking up debris and other particles. When you don’t get an oil change the entire engine will become contaminated with carbon and varnish deposits. Other contaminants are filtered through the oil filter. However, when the oil becomes old the oil filter becomes clogged and all of the particles it has trapped flows right back into the engine.
Contaminated oil creates a sludgy mess that’s hard to clean without a thorough manual cleaning by a professional technician which can be costly. When the oil in the engine turns into sludge it stops drawing heat from the engine. This will cause the engine to overheat damaging all of the internal components.
All cars consume oil. Yet, older cars can sometimes consume oil at a significantly faster rate. As you put more miles on the vehicle and it starts to wear, oil consumption can become an issue. If you are not changing the oil, your engine can end up as dry as a desert increasing the risk of overheating. This could also cause you to blow the head gasket which is the seal between the engine block and the cylinder head. The average cost of a head gasket replacement is $1400-$1600. If you don’t get your oil change the engine will seize and the car will be useless.
How Often Should I Have The Oil Changed?
How often should you get an oil change? This is a common question that often gets answered in so many different ways which can leave you confused. Some people recommend performing an oil change every three months while others warn against such frequent oil changes.
It's always a good idea to check the owner’s manual for detailed information on how to properly maintain your car. You can never go wrong when you follow the instructions in the owner’s manual which is written by the manufacturer of the vehicle.
Years ago the standard was to change the oil in your vehicle every 3,000 miles. However, modern cars are equipped with sophisticated engines and systems that are ultra-durable. Here is the suggested oil change regimen for some of the best-selling vehicles in the United States:
Honda CRV – Perform an oil change every three months or 7500 miles
Toyota Camry – Perform an oil change every six months or 5000 miles
Honda Civic – Perform an oil change every three months or 7500 miles
Toyota Rav4 – Perform an oil change every six months or 5000 miles
Chevy Malibu – Perform an oil change every three months or 7500 miles
Contrary to popular belief even if you have modest driving habits and you drive fewer miles than what the manufacturer recommends for changing the oil you should still keep up with the oil change intervals. Motor oil degrades even when your vehicle isn't being operated regularly. The longer you leave old motor oil in your car the more it will break down diminishing its cooling and lubricating properties. As a general rule of thumb, most drivers should have their oil changed in their vehicle at least twice a year.
What Kind of Oil Does My Car Need?
Does it really matter what type of oil you put into your car? The oil you put in your vehicle should comply with the quality standard set for your specific car. However, the brand of motor oil you use doesn’t necessarily matter. Yes, some automotive experts swear by specific motor oil brands but it is more important to use the correct weight of oil.
For maximum efficiency, you will need to use motor oil that’s the correct viscosity for your type of engine. Check the owner’s manual to find out the specific type of oil you will need to use in your car. This information can also be found online at the Society of Automotive Engineers. Failing to use the appropriate motor oil in your car can result in costly damage.
When you pick up a bottle of motor oil at your local auto parts store you’ll notice that the bottle is labeled with a series of numbers and letters. For example, 5W-30 is a popular motor oil you’ll find on the shelf. The 5W means that the motor oil has a viscosity rating of 5 when the engine is cold typically when you first start it. The 30 refers to the viscosity of the oil when the engine is warmed up.
There are four main types of engine oils on the market:
Conventional oil is the most basic engine oil and it’s the industry standard. Originated from crude oil that has been refined for different viscosity grades it's commonly used in older cars that don’t require any special protection.
Fully Synthetic Oil
Fully synthetic engine oil is a chemically engineered solution that was made with uniform molecules. This is the highest quality of oil and typically the most expensive. It has significantly higher viscosity levels and is highly resistant to oxidation and corrosion. It has fewer impurities than conventional oil. Fully synthetic oil is ideal for high-performance engines.
High Mileage Oil
If you have more than 75,000 miles on the odometer then you may benefit from a high mileage oil. This type of engine oil is formulated with unique additives that protect the seals in the engine, reduces emissions, engine smoke, and oil consumption. It also helps prevent oil leaks which can be detrimental to the engine.
Synthetic Blend Oil
Synthetic blend motor oil is a combination of conventional and fully synthetic oil. It offers improved resistance to oxidation. Synthetic blend motor oil is ideal for drivers who desire extra protection from conventional oil without having to pay steep prices on fully synthetic oil.
Q: What are some of the top signs that your car needs an oil change?
Of course, the most obvious sign that your car needs an oil change is that the “Low Oil Level” or the “Oil Change” light will illuminate on the dashboard. You may also experience poor fuel economy, increased engine noise, and in some cases, your check engine light may be triggered.
Q: Does your car run better after an oil change?
Regular oil changes will improve your vehicle’s overall performance. As the fresh oil circulates through the engine it can lubricate all of its internal parts which helps it run more efficiently. This helps improve gas mileage and it provides several other noticeable benefits.
Q: Can I just add oil to my car?
Unfortunately, simply adding oil to your car isn’t an alternative to having the oil changed. Although you should never let your car run out of oil, adding fresh oil on top of the dirty oil will create mechanical problems and you’ll still need to replace the oil filter.