There are many myths and confusion floating around regarding when to change the oil in your car. You know that you have to change the oil at some point but to decide when can be a cumbersome task. Moreover, some might think that topping up old oil with fresh oil could be the same as changing oil which is not true at all. In fact, changing the oil in your car is one of the easiest maintenance jobs that you can perform regularly to extend the life and health of your car engine. Let us see what happens if you do not change the oil.
Why is it Necessary to Change the Oil in the Car
All kinds of oil are used as lubricants in your cars and vehicles to keep your car engine running smoothly. However, the car oil tends to lose its efficiency as a lubricant over time because the chemical structures of the oil decompose at the molecular level, altering the nature of the oil. The purpose of the oil is to reduce friction which prevents over-heating of the car engine. So, when the oil gets old, it cannot reduce the friction that well, and the car gets heated up faster. The contaminants in the dirty oil also come with a corrosive action and they end up eroding the very metallic parts of the car that the oil was supposed to protect.
The vehicle will become less efficient in turn and eventually, this over-heating and corrosion will completely destroy the car engine. It will add up to a huge cost and bring to you the trouble of replacing the car engine fully.
So, if you decide to change the oil in your car frequently, you are actually saving your own money by preserving the car engine quality. Changing oils not only lengthens your car life, it also helps you with better fuel economy. Not changing the car oil is an expensive way to reduce the life of your car.
Why is Adding Fresh Oil not the same as Changing Oil
Some people might want to top up the car oil with fresh oil, hoping to revive the car quality. However, adding fresh oil is not at all the same as changing oil.
Your car oil should not be reducing fast on its own so you should ideally not have the scope of adding fresh oil. In fact, if you see your oil level reducing fast, it is a big sign for you to immediately check for a leak somewhere.
When you do not change the car oil, you do not get rid of the dirt and grime build up in your car engine. Adding fresh oil will not help to remove the deposits so you would have to replace the oil and not just add new oil.
Ideal Oil-Change Frequency
Your vehicle will need an oil change depending on two factors, time and mileage. However, all cars are not the same and before you make a decision you need to take a look at the brand and the type of the car you are using.
Traditionally it is said that you should change your car oil every 6 months or after 3000 miles of usage, whichever comes first.
However, the standards have changed so nowadays with a new car you can change the oil after 5000 miles of usage without any worries. But there are preconditions attached to this clause. Your car has to be a new one and operating under optimal conditions. Let us take a look at the oil change frequency based on whether your car is a new one within the warranty period or if it has come out of the warranty period.
Oil-Change Frequency for a New Car in Warranty Period
If you are driving a new car which is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, you need to be careful about just one thing. Do not do anything to void that warranty. Follow all the steps and instructions given by the manufacturer so that you can get all the help you can if you run into any issue in the warranty period.
Keep your user manual safe and in case you cannot find it, refer to the online manual provided by the manufacturer. The oil change frequency will certainly be mentioned in it.
Also, in the warranty period, you are probably going to take it to the dealer for routine maintenance. Make sure that they include an oil examination and/or replacement in the service routine.
There are some cars which come with a built-in oil-life monitor. The device uses sensors and software to track driving hours, idling hours, cold starts, temperatures, etc. It then uses the collected data to effectively calculate the remaining oil-life as a percentage. This system will help you to monitor the condition of your oil and to change it in a way to preserve the warranty.
However, if the red oil-pressure light starts to glow, it tells you that there is something wrong with your car that needs your immediate attention.
Oil-Change Frequency for an Old Car Beyond Warranty Period
If you are driving an old car that is past its warranty period then you need to check whether your vehicle operates under normal conditions or under severe condition before you make a decision.
When you drive your vehicle under severe conditions, your car engine cannot evaporate the water forming in the crankcase and this leads to a quicker build-up of sludge. So, you will certainly need to change the oil more frequently. The following are some of the conditions which qualify as extreme conditions.
- If you drive your car in extremely hot temperatures in a stop and go format
- If you drive at very slow speed for prolonged distances
- If you drive for long miles on dusty, sandy, salty, muddy or gravel roads
- If you drive for multiple smaller trips of 5 miles or even less in normal temperatures
- If you drive for multiple smaller trips of 10 miles or less in freezing temperatures
- If you are into track driving
- If you have to tow trailers for long distances
If your car does not come with an oil-life monitor then you have to take an educated guess to change the oil. When your car is old and operates under the harsh conditions mentioned above, you have to change oil after as less as 1000 miles to 3000 miles. While this might seem to be a costly affair, it will prove to be cost-effective for you in the long run by preserving your car engine health.
On the other hand, if your old car operates under optimum conditions and is in good condition then you can change the oil after 5000 miles of usage unless it is a very old model. In case of older models, you can have to change after 3000 miles of usage.
Whenever you or the technician is changing the car oil, make sure that the car oil-life monitor system is reset as well. Also, make sure that even if you have changed your oil recently, you are monitoring the oil levels. If your car is one that consumes oil fast, then you need to top it up at certain frequencies.
In most cases, sticking to the manufacturer’s recommendations on oil change is the best thing to do, if your vehicle is not plying under extreme conditions. It is better to get the oil-filter changed too when you replace your car oil. And the best thing would be to follow the car oil-life monitor if your car comes with one.
What if you use Longer-life Synthetic Oils
Some premium quality synthetic oils come with the tag of being longer-life oils. These car oils claim to have extended lives and can run your car perfectly well for up to 10000-12000 miles without any need of replacement.
One thing about these synthetic oils is that they cost you much more as they are not manufactured from traditional petroleum-based fuels. Usually, manufacturers, these days make it compulsory to use synthetic oils on the newer cars. But if you own an older car then there is a good possibility of you having the choice between using synthetic or petroleum-based oil.
It is true that these high-priced synthetic oils come with longer lives and are often approved by the car manufacturers too. The synthetic oils are chemically enhanced and have additive components which help to elongate the time between oil changes. These oils can also keep the dust particles and contaminations suspended for longer, giving the oil filter better chance at removing them. The synthetic oils also do not decompose as fast as the regular oils at higher temperatures. So, they stay clean for longer and hold on to their lubricating properties as well. This is why they come with longer lives and you can trust them to keep your car in better condition for longer. But, keep in mind the additional cost of the synthetic oil itself. So, do a basic calculation to figure out which one is cheaper, buying a synthetic longer-life oil or replacing a regular oil at higher frequency.
One crucial point to note is that no matter what kind of oil you are using, you must never keep the car oil unchanged for more than 12 months irrespective of the mileage.
Recycle the old Oil
The world is at a stage when no one can afford to be careless about waste material anymore. Proper recycling of the old oil is very important when you go out to replace it. If you are getting it replaced at a service station enquire about the recycling steps they take. And, if you are changing it yourself, then you can take it back to the store from where you bought it. Most dealers and oil-change business owners agree to take the used oil back at no cost so that it can be sent for proper recycling.
In conclusion, no matter what kind of vehicle you are driving and no matter how new it is, changing the oil in the car is an activity of utmost importance. Make sure that you are following the prescribed standards and changing the lubricating oil frequently. It will keep your car engine healthy and will bring down your maintenance costs in the long run.