The Best Way to Change Oil: Eight Tips and Insights
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Should I Use Synthetic Oil? — Most often not, but there are cases when synthetic oil, which is more durable than standard oil, is best. For example, people who live in extremely hot or extremely cold climates could benefit from synthetic oil’s added resistance.
Also, if you do a lot of stop and go driving, or short, 5-10 mile trips — this type of driving pattern can heat up the engine, burning up moisture in standard oil. As always, consult your owner’s manual or ask the experts at HEART if you’re not sure.
- 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.
- 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.