5 Things You Should Know About Oil Changes for Your Car
1. When to Change the Oil
If you are not sure when to change the oil of your car, then check your owner’s manual. The owner’s manual is like a bible for your car's maintenance and operation.
Many vehicles, pickups, and SUVs have reminder monitors which alert the driver when to change the oil. Typically, this system monitors how many miles your vehicle has, and it also adjusts accordingly how hard the car is being driven.
If you receive such an alert, then change the oil as soon as possible.
2. How Often to Check the Oil Level
Check often your car’s oil level. It is recommended to check the oil level at least once a month. If you noticed a leak somewhere, try to fix it immediately.
Always follow the owner’s manual, there you can find recommendations from the automakers. Some newer cars have electronic oil monitors and don't have traditional dipsticks for manual inspection.
Here is a guide on how to check the oil levels if you do have a dipstick, and you’re checking it yourself.
Some manufacturers recommend checking engine oil levels when the oil is still cold, but some manufacturers will recommend checking the oil after you've warmed up the engine, so check your owner's manual to find the specific recommendations for your vehicle. There you will find a detailed description of where your dipstick is located.
2.1. Make sure the car is parked on level ground to get an accurate reading.
2.2. Turn off your vehicle and open the car’s hood. Pull the handle located on the inside of your vehicle, usually on the side of the driver side door, and then press the lever located underneath the center of the hood. Make sure that the hood of your car is securely propped.
2.3. Find the dipstick. On most models, the dipstick is located on the left side of the engine. The dipstick usually has a red, orange, or yellow handle. It's a circular or rectangular shape and should be pointing out directly from the engine block to one side or the other. When you pull this handle, a long piece of metal will slide out of the engine.
Most automatic transmission vehicles will have two dipsticks under the hood, one for the oil and one for the transmission fluid.
2.4. Prepare a paper towel or an old rag. Paper towels give you a nice white backdrop contrast to examine the color.
2.5. Pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe any oil off from its end. Then insert the dipstick back into its tube and push it back in.
2.6. Examine the color of the oil. The color and the consistency of engine oil indicates its age, and possibly other engine efficiency issues. As soon as you remove the dipstick, you can get a good sense of the quality of the oil in your engine. Engine oil that's in good condition should look slightly yellow-greenish on the rag, and shouldn't be super-dark. Wipe the oil off the end of the dipstick and examine it on the cloth.
2.7. Dry off the dipstick and insert it into its tube once more and push it back in. Pull it back out, and this time quickly look at both sides of the dipstick to see where the oil is on the end. Every dipstick has some way of indicating the proper oil level, whether it be two pinholes, the letters L and H (low and high), the words MIN and MAX. If the top of the oil “streak” is between the two marks or within the crosshatched area, the level is fine. But if the oil is below the minimum mark, you need to add oil.
If everything looks good, wipe off the dipstick again and insert it back into its tube, making sure it’s fully seated. Close the hood, and the job is done.
3. How Often to Change the Oil
Usually, it is recommended to change the car’s oil every 3,000 miles or every three months. But nowadays because of advanced technologies and advances in engines, many automakers recommend the oil change every 7,500 miles or even 10,000 miles and every 6-12 months. You can find more detailed information in your owner’s manual. Follow the manual to keep your car’s engine well-lubricated. Even if you don’t drive your car a lot, you still need to follow the oil change intervals as recommended for your car’s model. Because oil becomes less effective as it ages. If your engine is not getting warm enough, it won’t last long.
4. Choosing the Right Oil for Your Car
Again, check the owner’s manual to select the right oil for your car. Some newer models have the type of oil printed on the cap where you add oil. You always need to know what’s recommended or required by your automaker before you visit your mechanic so you can control the cost of the oil they’re putting in.
If you drive an old car and you don’t have an owner’s manual, then check with your trusted mechanic to find what oil you should be using.
5. Do You Need Synthetic Oil?
You can use synthetic oil only if your manufacturer recommends it. And it can cost you from two or four times more than standard oil.
Synthetic oil is designed to be more effective at resisting breakdown and withstanding high temperatures. It can help you to prolong your car’s life. For example, if you drive short distances, standard motor oil may never get warm enough to burn off moisture and impurities, which means it may not be doing enough to protect your engine. Or if you live in a region with very cold winters or very hot summers, or if you use your vehicle for towing or carrying heavy material, then the synthetic oil is the best option. The synthetic oil change interval is the same as the standard one. It’s important not to extend oil changes beyond the time interval recommended by the manufacturer.
One of the benefits of synthetic oil is that it helps to reduce sludge buildup, helping to extend the engine’s lifespan.