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How Often Should I Change My Oil?

Find out how often you need to change the oil in your car and what signs to look for should it need changing.

It seems that an oil change is the equivalent of heading to the dentist for a biannual cleaning. It’s inconvenient on the one hand but necessary on the other.

Today’s newer-tech engines using synthetic oil are engineered to go anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 between oil changes. While more exacting standards in engine-building technology are now in play, the quality of the synthetic oils has also improved. And there’s another factor: the addition of oil-use monitoring systems in more than half of today’s new cars that will give you a heads-up when it’s time to change the oil.

There are also general recommendations as to your specific driving style and needs. For example, if you drive around town for most of your excursions, putting around 6,000 miles on the odometer every six months or so, it might be a good idea to change it twice a year. If you do a lot of highway or long-distance running or operate your vehicle in sandy or dusty surroundings like the deserts of Nevada or Arizona, you might be a candidate for more frequent changes.

Once upon a time, local service stations and oil change franchisees recommended changing traditional oil every 3,000 miles and replacing the oil filters simultaneously. To a large degree, that was mostly a marketing ploy. Lately, with the use of synthetic blends and full synthetic oils, owners are now able to push out or extend the vehicle’s oil life further to 7,500 miles and even 10,000 on certain models, depending on your driving habits.

Why is Changing Oil Important?
Engines have made quantum leaps in technology, but the one thing that has remained a constant is the way we lubricate them. And the need to keep that oil clean to ensure long engine life. That entails draining the oil, replacing the filter, and refilling the engine with new lubricant.

High-compression engines, auto start and stop technology, turbocharging, and more have put increasing demands on oil and lubricant technology. Conventional oils are derived directly from crude oil. Newer synthetic oils blend traditional oil with lubricants and other additives that enhance its performance but come at a higher price, on average, than regular oils.

Should I Use Synthetic Oil?
To decide what type of lubricant is suitable for your vehicle’s engine, it’s always a good idea to consult your owner’s manual. Inside you will find the type, grade, and frequency of change for your engine’s oil.

Cost Factors
Did you know you can see how much an oil change costs for your vehicle here at Kelley Blue Book?

Even so, a typical conventional oil and filter change will run in the neighborhood of $25 to $55, depending on which neighborhood you live in, of course. Using synthetic oils will up those prices to anywhere from $45 to $75, give or take. Although many vendors, whether a dealership express lane or quick-lube shop, will advertise “in and out in 30 minutes or less,” our experience tells us to set aside an hour for the procedure.

Doing it yourself will save a considerable amount of money. Five quarts of conventional motor oil and a new filter will cost around $27, depending on your location. The same amount of synthetic motor oil and a new filter will cost around $37 plus tax.

Check local auto parts suppliers for such specials.

Types of Motor Oils for Your Vehicle
There are several types of motor oils offered today. Widely available, either at your dealership or the local auto parts and big box stores, they are tailor-made for the type of driving you do.

Traditional motor oil has always been a safe choice but requires replacement at a much more frequent interval. The same applies to the filters that trap as many impurities from the oil flow as possible during its lifetime. Traditional motor oils should be changed after approximately 5,000-miles of service.

Semi-Synthetic motor oil combines traditional and synthetic blends and is a good choice for vehicles that operate under heavier loads and extended driving sessions. Semi-Synthetics last longer than traditional oils and could safely provide proper lubrication to around 8,000 miles.

Synthetic motor oil is the perfect choice for today’s high-tech engines, whether high performance or high efficiency. They offer better performance from a viscosity standpoint (the ability to flow through engine parts) and increased protection from foreign deposits. Good all the way out to 10,000 in some usages, it is the perfect choice to protect your investment whether it’s a pickup truck or a plug-in hybrid.

How Heat Affects Motor Oil in Your Car
Regional temperature fluctuations have always been a moving target. And they can affect the duration of your motor oil’s effectiveness. But care in selecting the proper grade of oil for your vehicle should be at the fore to make sure it gets just what it needs for years of uninterrupted service. Where you live and how you use your vehicle are just as important as how much you drive it.

The introduction of higher temperatures can cause oil to break down sooner than expected, while at the same time, wind-blown sand and grit can be introduced into the engine, especially under extreme conditions.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), all vehicles can benefit from the use of synthetic oil.

What’s Involved in an Oil Change?
Nobody knows your vehicle better than your local dealership service department, which has undergone factory training to properly maintain and repair your car, truck, or SUV. While traditional oils are still in widespread use and were most likely what your vehicle was using when it came from the factory, your dealership service department stocks a wide variety of brands and types of oil that will suit the needs of your specific vehicle and its type of usage.

Consult your owner’s manual for oil type, oil amount, oil pan location, drain plug, and oil filter sizes and locations.

Do It Yourself Tips
Park on a flat, level surface. Apply your vehicle’s parking brake and turn the engine off. If needed, raise the front end of your vehicle with a pair of jack stands. Open your hood and remove the oil dipstick to allow complete drainage of oil from your crankcase.
Make sure to wear safety glasses. Once your vehicle is secure on the jack stands, crawl under and move to the engine’s oil pan. (Consult with manual for directions)
Locate the drain plug at the bottom of the plan.
Position a catch pan under the drain plug. Make sure it is large enough to capture all the oil draining from your engine. (Consult with manual for capacity)
Using the proper socket wrench or box-end wrench, loosen the drain plug over the catch pan to flow the draining oil into the pan. CAUTION: The oil may still be hot!
Inspect the drain plug for any stripping of the threads or the bolt itself. If it is okay, replace it once the oil has completely stopped draining. If in need of a replacement, hopefully, you will have already acquired it. Retighten with the wrench used to remove it.
Locate your oil filter. Have your oil catch pan ready in case of any residual oil remaining. Loosen the oil filter with an oil filter wrench. Check the gasket to make sure it was removed with the filter. Replace with a new filter after applying a coat of oil to the new filter’s gasket.
Remove the oil filler cap and pour the proper amount of fresh synthetic or conventional oil back into the engine, using a funnel to avoid spillage. Replace the cap.
Start the engine, letting it idle for at least a minute. Check underneath for any leakage. If all is good, turn off the engine, and lower the vehicle by using the jack and removing the jack stands.
Check the oil level using the dipstick once on solid ground. Use the oil dipstick as a gauge. Add additional oil if necessary.
Properly dispose of old oil by taking it to your local dealership service department or auto service center to be recycled.

Easy Does It
You will now= longer have to change your car’s oil every three thousand miles or so– those days are in the past. However, it remains a critical aspect of vehicle maintenance to ensure long engine life.

Whether you do it yourself or use a professional, it’s important to not only stay on schedule but keep records of the changes. It will help enhance the resale value of your vehicle if the subsequent owner knows that you’ve been diligent in maintaining it.

And by keeping the oil fresh and clean, you can rest assured that your vehicle will be ready to go when you are.

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