Changing your oil is the single most important maintenance you can do for your car’s engine. It also can be the most confusing. Manufacturers and oil companies keep lengthening the periods between service, but your local shop doesn’t always agree with them. So how do you decide when it is best to have your car serviced.
Let’s start with the basics. What does the engine oil do? Your engine oil reduces the friction between moving parts, transfers the heat generated in your engine and suspends the residue left by the combustion process. The last job is the one that turns your oil dark and is the most critical to the length between your oil changes. Dirty oil, no matter what kind, does not protect as well as fresh clean oil.
The weight of the oil used in vehicles varies by manufacturer and type of engine. Back in the day oil was much thicker, but todays vehicles use thinner blends to obtain peak efficiency. Using the correct weight oil is imperative to protect your engine. Most vehicles will use 5w30, 5w20, or 0w20 oil. These oils allow for quicker flow on startup, thus providing protection faster to vital parts and reduce friction which improves performance and fuel mileage. These oils are almost always a synthetic or at least a synthetic blend.
The manufacturers and oil companies have made great improvements in their products to extend the oils life. There are recommendations for 10,000, 15,000 and even 20,000 mile oil change intervals, but if you read the fine print there are limitations to these claims. The most important fact to consider is the length of time you plan on owning your vehicle. You own the car, they don’t. Manufacturers give minimum requirements they feel will keep your vehicle running through their warranty period and the oil companies are not very specific when it comes to their warranties. So if a problem occurs, it is you who has to pay for the repair.
Bottom line is, changing your oil more often is in your best interest. The better you take care of your engine when it is new, the less repairs it will require in the future, and here is why. The longer the oil runs in your engine, the more contaminants it collects. All engines consume a small amount of oil and if not checked regularly, can lead to oil deprivation. Engine sludge is real and causes expensive damage.
A pure conventional oil should be changed every 3,000 miles. Oils with at least some additional protective properties or a synthetic blend should be changed at 4,000 miles. All full synthetic oils are recommended at 5,000 miles. Oil changes are relatively inexpensive compared to repairs caused by oil contamination and breakdown. The slogan of a well-known filter company back in the 80’s still rings true “you can pay me now, or you can pay me later”