How Often Should You Change Your Car Oil?
Do you change your car’s motor oil every 5,000 kilometers? This has been the standard interval for oil changes since cars were cars, and many mechanics and dealerships still swear by this ‘engine oil golden rule.’ But here’s a little secret that can save you significant bucks: Modern motor oil can go for much longer than that.
True, the 5,000-kilometer oil change interval was necessary in the past (more specifically, the 1970s) when 10W-40 oil ruled the roost. This type of oil normally lost its viscosity within 5,000 kilometers, that’s why it made perfect sense to have an oil change done when that much mileage has elapsed.
However, lubricant technology has made great strides since then. In addition, today’s combustion engines run more efficiently than ever, and when paired with modern lubricants, can work smoother and longer on one oil change than what people have been accustomed to.
As such, the 5,000-kilometer ceases to be relevant today. In fact, many car manufacturers recommend that a change engine oil be done every 10,000, 15,000, or 24,000 kilometers under ideal driving conditions. It can even be further than that in vehicles with automated oil change reminder systems.
Still, you’ll find plenty of service shops—from dealerships to independents—tell you that you need to have your motor oil changed every 5,000 kilometers (or every four months, whichever comes first). With car makers reasoning that their products require less maintenance and your favorite mechanic recommending more frequent visits, who should you believe? Before we get to the answer, it pays to know the importance of an oil change and what it does to the lifespan of your car.
Why do I need to change my motor oil?
Automobile engines have many moving parts that rub against each other and produce heat. Engine oil lubricates these moving parts and absorbs the heat, allowing them to work together smoothly while preventing the danger of overheating.
Eventually, the oil will break down, get contaminated, and wear out, and when this happens, the oil becomes less effective at its job. Over time, the contaminants in the dirty oil will start to corrode the metal in the engine, causing it to malfunction.
As a car owner, you are responsible for making sure the oil in your engine is replaced before it breaks down and causes major problems.
So how often should I change my motor oil?
The short answer is, it depends. Many factors dictate how often you should get a motor oil change done including how old your engine is, how you use your car, where you live, etc.
If you have an old car that you use heavily, you may want to play it safe and stick to the 5,000-kilometer commandment. That said, many car experts are quick to point out that the 5,000-kilometer rule no longer applies to vehicles made from the year 2000 onwards.
If your car is fairly new and it endures minimal use, you may opt for the one recommended by your car manufacturer.
What is considered heavy use?
Heavy car use includes lengthy idling, frequent stop-and-go driving, frequent travel on rough and uneven terrain, long travels, driving in extreme temperatures, excessive humidity, and hauling heavy materials.
If you drive in any of these conditions with some regularity, then you will need to change your oil more often. Heavy driving conditions can cause more wear and tear on your vehicle, and this needs to be taken into consideration when deciding how often to change the oil and which type of oil to choose.
How do I know which type of motor oil is best for my car?
Normally, you’ll have four types of engine oils to choose from: conventional, synthetic, synthetic blend, and high-mileage. So how do you know which type works best for your vehicle and driving style? Consider the information below:
- Conventional oil – consists of 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30 oil grades, and is recommended for cars with basic engine designs and endures regular driving styles.
- Synthetic oil – is an engine oil that has underwent a chemically engineered process, and because of this, synthetic oil contains fewer impurities and better lubricating properties than their conventional counterparts. They are also generally formulated with high performance additives, which lends them better extreme high and low temperature performance.
- Synthetic blend – is a mixture of conventional and synthetic base oils specifically formulated for higher loads and high temperatures, which makes this oil type ideal for use in SUVs and trucks.
- High-mileage oil – specially formulated for vehicles that have logged over 120,000 kilometers in mileage. With its unique formulation, high-mileage motor oil helps prevent oil leaks and burn-off that may occur in older engines.
You can shift to another engine oil type on your next oil change, but make sure to refer to your vehicle owner’s manual first. Using another type of oil other than what’s recommend may cause a decrease in fuel economy, higher engine stress, and eventually, shorter engine life.
For optimum engine performance, stick to the recommended engine oil viscosity. If the information isn’t available in your owner’s manual, you may consult your car manufacturer by visiting an authorized service shop and talking to a service advisor.
Can I change my car’s motor oil by myself?
Yes, you can. However, you are going to need certain tools and supplies to do so, including a wrench, funnel, oil pan, and of course, a fresh batch of engine oil.
You may also need a jack to raise the car up to a certain point so you can fit underneath. Likewise, you will also need to know how to do an oil change for your specific car.
How long does a car oil change take?
An oil change is not a difficult process, but it can take time, and things can get messy if you’re not careful. If you don’t want to take on the task yourself, you can take your vehicle to a service shop to have it done professionally which normally last 30 minutes.
In addition, look to have certain regular maintenance steps done along with your oil change, such as tire rotation and wheel alignment. These added precautions can help to keep sizeable repair bills at bay.