What You Need to Know about Oil Changes
Two of the most common automotive questions are “How often should I change my oil?” and “When should I change my oil?” To take the guess work out of your oil maintenance, and to avoid potential damage to your engine, here are eight best practices for oil changing and maintenance
1. Mind the Service Reminder
Many new model vehicles have internal monitors that let you know when it’s time for an oil change. If the light is on, it’s time for an oil change. Even if you have a light, there may be more to worry about, so read on for more helpful oil change tips.
2. “How often should oil be changed?”
The old adage is that oil should be changed every three months or every 3,000-5,000 miles. Some newer model vehicles may have longer spans, though, even up to 12,000 miles and/or 12 months. Always check your owner’s manual for the most accurate information for your particular automobile.
3. How to Check Your Dipstick
While not all new models have a dipstick, instead of relying on computer monitors, many still do. If yours does, it’s best to check your dipstick once a month.
Here’s a handy guide for checking your oil yourself. Make sure the car is off. Open the hood, avoiding any potential hot spots. Locate the dipstick, which often has a looped handle. Pull it out and wipe off the oil from the stick. Reinsert it, and pull it out to see the oil level. It should be within the low-high or min-max range. If it’s below the range, it’s time for a refill.
The ASE-certified mechanics at HEART Certified Auto Care will guide you on whether you need an oil change, if you’re not sure.
4. What Color Should the Oil Be?
Optimally, the oil should be brown or black. If it’s milky, that means there’s likely a coolant leak, and if it’s too thin, rather than viscous, that means it’s taking on water. Also, look for any metal particles, which could indicate an internal breakdown. If you see any of these symptoms, come to HEART for complete diagnostics ASAP.
5. Which Oil Is Right for Me?
Not all car oils are the same, and there are dozens of options. While many cars will clearly label the one that works best for your engine, not all do. If you have any questions, HEART’s ASE-certified mechanics can recommend great options. Be warned, though, some repair shops may try to upsell you on synthetic oil. Don’t buy it if it’s not necessary. See our explanation below.
6. Should I Use Synthetic Oil?
Yes, synthetic oil is better for your engine than conventional oil. Although conventional oil (i.e., mineral oil) can provide adequate lubrication performance, it can’t compete with the overall engine performance and protection provided by synthetic.
Synthetics use higher quality base oils as compared to the less-refined base oils used in conventional oils which make conventional oils:
- Less chemically stable
- Oxidize and acidify more easily
- Quicker to break down and lose protective qualities
Yes, generally, synthetic oil can provide longer oil change intervals than conventional oil. But this is often dependent upon the brand of motor oil and several other factors, such as driving style and driving conditions. Please follow the recommendations in your owner’s manual.
7. Stop and Go Driving
One of the most strenuous wear on engines and oil is repetitive stop and go motion, which is common in heavy traffic, moving from red light to red light, gunning the engine and stopping suddenly. These actions put a tremendous strain on your car. Try to ease into starts and stops to avoid costly repairs down the road.
8. Keep the Speed
Another no-no for your engine is driving at slow speeds for long distances. This pattern puts too much strain on your engine and the oil.