First, your car’s engine needs oil. Drain all the oil out and start it up and in seconds the engine will be a smoking, distorted, melted mess. Just about every moving part in your car’s engine is lubricated by oil, some in ways you may never of heard before. Engineers calls it Hydrodynamic Lubrication and what it means is that many parts, particularly the crankshaft, ride a thin layer of oil that, in the case of the crankshaft keeps it spinning just above and not in contact with the engine block (journals). That oil is constantly replenished to these critical wear parts, and need a supply of clean, high-quality motor oil — what you car manufacturer recommends — in order to live a long and happy life.
- Coupons. Virtually every national and regional oil change chain offers discount coupons on oil changes. Not only do national and regional chains except each others’ coupons, but many independent shops do so as well. So clip the coupon from the next mailer or from your Sunday paper and ask to use it at your next oil change. You’ll be surprised when they say yes!
- Oil Change Intervals: The oil industry has done an excellent job in convincing consumers that if they don’t change their car’s oil every 3000 miles it will cause excessive wear and engine damage. Here you need to go by what’s in your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual. The car manufacturer designed and built the engine, and they carry the responsibility of the warranty, so it’s perfectly safe to go by the Owner’s Manual rather by what an oil company tells you. Besides, if everyone followed their Owner’s Manual we’d reduced oil imports by 8 million gallons, and reduce the amount of waste oil by an equal amount.
- Manufacturer’s Specified Oil: Your car manufacturer will list in the Owner’s Manual the exact type and weight of oil they recommend for your vehicle. In some repair facilities an attempt might be made to sell you up to a more premium or a synthetic oil. Unless your Owner’s Manual specifically calls for that type of oil, stick with what’s listed for your car.
- Oil Filters: Some vehicle manufacturers now specify that the oil filter is replaced with only every other oil change. This reduces the cost of vehicle maintenance as well as keeps oil-soaked filter canisters out of landfills. So again, go with what your Owner’s Manual recommends. The company that wrote it designed and built your car, and it’s not going to take any short-cuts that could prematurely damage engine
- Severe Duty: Many repair facilities will ask a series of questions to determine whether your car is under “heavy duty use” which, as you might have guessed, calls for more frequent oil changes and other services. The intent of the original recommendations wasn’t to sell-up normal consumers, but rather identify vehicles that require more frequent service like taxi cabs and police cars. So just because you drive for a few minutes in bad traffic to get to work, pull a camping trailer twice a year, or drive down a dusty road once in a while doesn’t mean your vehicle is operating under severe conditions. If you have any questions as to whether your vehicle qualifies, call the manufacturer.
- Filters: As you’re sitting in the waiting room, many oil change operations will have the mechanic show you your air filter (filters the air going into the engine) and your cabin air filer (which blocks dirt and pollen from getting inside your car). These will usually look dirty and many are sold on looks alone. Let your owners manual determine whether you need a new engine air filter or cabin air filter as looks can be deceiving. An air filter with only a few hundred miles on it will look grungy, but the manufacturer’s recommendation might not call for a replacement anywhere from 15,000 to 75,0000 miles. And again, remember who wrote your Owner’s Manual.
- Tire Pressures: Ask the shop to check and adjust your tire pressures. It has nothing to do with oil changes, but you’ll be safer, your tires will last longer, and may even get better fuel economy.
- Home Oil Change: Think really, really hard about doing an oil change at home. You’ll need a specialty tools like an oil filter wrench and/or a oil filter cap. You’ll need a jack to raise the car, and jack stands and chocks to hold it safely, a drain pan for the oil, and eye protection and gloves for you (did you know there were heavy metals in used oil?). You’ll have to remember that you’ll probably need a new crush washer for the oil pan drain plug and make certain you’ve removed the old oil filter gasket before you put the new one on. And, believe it or not, on an almost daily basis around the country there’s at least one professional shop that forgets to refill the customer’s car with oil, so I can’t imagine how many home mechanics do the same (at least if the pro shop makes they error, they pay for it).
For the $38 that an oil filter and five quarts of oil will cost you at a local auto parts chain, isn’t it better to let someone else do the work?
Car Oil Changing
Here are some helpful tips on how to know when it is time for an oil change. This video contains no audio, just visuals.
Scheduled Oil Changes can Save Oil
If American consumers did nothing more than to follow the oil change interval recommendations of the manufacturer who designed and built their car, the US would reduce it’s dependency on oil by 6 million gallons per year.
Know What Severe Duty Means
While the vehicles of many consumers don’t qualify for severe duty status, a truck running up and down dusty roads all day would most likely meet that requirement.