This is the age old question is it not? “How often do I really need to change my oil?”
Well, the truth is that almost all of the car companies out there and all of the oil change companies agree that you should get your oil changed every 5,000 kilometers / 3,000 miles. It might seem silly to you that this number would be so low because it is possible for a car to run on a tank of oil for much longer. However, there are a couple of reasons why these companies have set the mark at around 5,000 km / 3,000 miles. Well, for starters the more you drive your car without an oil change the more there is the likelihood that you oil is becoming contaminated with dirt/other elements. If your oil gets “dirty” it can lead to engine damage as the dirt/other elements make the oil abrasive and, in turn, this abrasive oil can damage your cylinder heads, pistons, etc. The dirtier the oil gets, the more damage it can inflict on your engine. Research points to the 5,000 km / 3,000 miles mark as a good time to inspect the vehicles oil for elements such as dirt/metals, etc. On the majority by this point the “dirt” or built up of other material would only be in the beginning stages and would do minimal damage if caught early.
Another important thing to look at is the fact that oil is the lifeblood of your car’s engine. The oil can tell you what is wrong with certain aspects of your vehicle. By getting your car in for an oil change every 5,000 km / 3,000 miles you can catch things that are going wrong before they really damage your engine. For example, if coolant is leaking into your oil it can cause serious damage to your engine and by bringing your car in for an oil change a mechanic can easily discover a problem like this by examining your oil. So by bringing your car in every 5,000 km / 3,000 miles you will be able to stay on top of possible repair problems.
Also by bringing in your car every 5,000 km / 3,000 miles it will give a mechanic a chance to take a look at your car and the engine. When this occurs they, being experts on vehicles, could easily spot problems or potential problems with your vehicle that you would never even notice. So this visit could save you even more time and money by allowing you to stay on top of all repair issues.
And let’s be honest when people see 3,000 miles they often only start thinking about an oil change when this number comes up. They usually do not actually make it in until 5,500 or 6,000 km. I also would be a liar if I said that some cars do not drive fine and survive easily without having an oil change for 7,000 km or even more. But the longer you wait the more problems you could run into. It is definitely worth the check up. And with fresh oil in your engine your car runs better (changing every 5,000 km provides maximum possible mileage and performance from your engine) and by maintaining clean oil in your vehicle it will help with your vehicles overall upkeep. So it might seem like a good idea to save some cash and push your vehicle for longer than 5,000 km without an oil change but in the long run this could cost you big time.
It is also important to note that the research may point to engines driving longer than 5,000 km without needing an oil change. However, it is also important to realize that when these situations happen the car being driven is usually doing so in “normal driving conditions” which are actually the ideal or optimal driving circumstances. One rarely ever drives their car under such conditions but are rather more likely to encounter “severe service” driving. This type of driving includes short trips (especially in colder weather), city driving (stop and go), driving on gravel/dirt roads, and driving at highway speeds during hot conditions. Under these conditions your oil takes the biggest pounding and also it leads to the creation of a gaseous blob that can eat away at your cars engine and other elements. So it is very important to get your car into have the oil changed on regular intervals if you are driving under any of these conditions.
Why and how does oil break down?
The biggest reason oil breaks down is because of HEAT. Although there are many other factors which lead to the breakdown of oil, heat is the most important. Each type of oil that you put in your car has a certain amount of heat tolerance. The temperature to which this oil first gives off vapors is known as the “Flash Point”. This flash point differs between different types and brands of oils. A lower flash point means that that certain type of oil will suffer vaporization loss sooner when exposed to high temperatures and this will lead to oil burn off by hot pistons and cylinders; therefore, reducing the amount of oil in your engine.
Today’s engines are smaller in size and fed less oil than the engines of the past, while they are still expected to put out the same amount of power. This makes the engines run a lot hotter and it puts an increased burden on the oil, causing it to burn up and break down quicker.
Heat breaks down the smaller, lighter molecules of oil first. This can lead to deposits and sludge being left behind and coating your engine that can cause damage. This also only leaves the larger, heavier oil molecules behind to protect your engine. These particles do not flow as well and they tend to blanket your engine’s components, which only increases the heat problem and leads to further oil burn off.
As oil breaks down chemically over time it loses its lubrication properties. Oil thins out over time as it’s certain elements are lost to HEAT and other chemical changes. Oil, therefore, lasts longer in a more moderate climate zone than a hot one.
Summer and Winter Oil Types…
By consulting your car’s owners manual you will see that there are different types of oil that are better in certain conditions. There should even be a climate zone map that would point you in the correct direction as to which oil to use.
There are two basic types of oil:
- 5W30 (for winter conditions)
- 2) 10W30 (for summer conditions)
10W30 is intended for very hot conditions, as this is when oil burns up the fastest. 10W30 does not thin out as easily as the 5W30 and it provides ones engine with more lubrication in hot conditions.
For most of Canada it is ok to just use 5W30 all year round if you like. The reason behind this is the fact that you car would never really be exposed to extremely hot conditions that often, except for maybe the odd day in the summer.
It is also a good idea to use 10W30 on older vehicles as it will give them a little more lubrication, especially in the winter. But don’t be surprised if you feel a few more knocks in your engine if you do so in the winter months.
Costs of an Oil Change…
When it comes to the cost of an oil change it is really quite an affordable venture. A lot of the shops where most of their business comes from oil changes, including quick-lube places, can change your oil for as cheap as $20 or $25. However, usually with these low prices there are also some hidden fees/extra costs that are tagged on so make sure you are careful before having one done at these places if you are not willing to pay more than the advertised price. Beware of some of these places as well because sometimes they do not have the best trained mechanics.
At a normal car repair shop including a place such as Canadian Tire you would be looking to spend anywhere between $30 and $35 for your oil change. This is including the cost of the filter and all of the additional taxes, labour, etc. This is relatively cheap considering that it is being done quickly and by a professional mechanic who would keep their eye open for any other car problems. When I recently went to Canadian Tire for an oil change they offered me a deal where I could purchase a discount card that would save me 10% on any car work I needed done in the future year. This card only cost me $30 and it came with a free oil change. Hence, I basically got a free discount card with my oil change.
Advantages of getting oil changed in a shop…
The number one reason why getting your oil changed in a shop is the way to go, has got to be the TIME factor. By taking your car to a shop to have your oil changed by a professional mechanic will save you a lot of time. These shops are all set up and ready to go. They have all of the necessary containers, drip trays, clean up elements, and the hydraulic lifts or the car pits that are necessary for changing your oil. In other words they have all of the proper tools and facilities for getting the job done quickly and efficiently. Is it really worth it to you to save a couple of bucks and be crawling around under your car and changing the oil yourself? Not even sure if you are doing everything exactly right and with this maybe taking you two to three times as long to complete as a regular mechanic?
You would also avoid getting yourself all dirty and it would also be a lot safer for you because you would not be lying under a 2000 to 6000 pound metal beast, with probably no one else around.
At home you would have to some how get rid of old used oil and filters. While at the shops they take care of this for you. And they would also be more environmentally friendly this way too, than your average “Back yard mechanic” would be.
Also it is important to remember that the mechanics at these shops are the EXPERTS and you are not; unless you are a mechanic but then why would you be reading this. They know about cars, they know about your oil, not only how to change it but also how to look at it, examine it and make sure there are no other signs in it or from it that would point to problems with your vehicle. They also have your car jacked up in the air and can take a good look at it and inspect it in a way you never could. They might notice things that you wouldn’t or things that you wouldn’t even know to look for. This mechanic will also grease up your front suspension, something that is often forgotten about by “backyard mechanics”. Would you want a mechanic to come into your workplace and attempt to set up a new computer network for your office? No, of course not, you want your IT guys to do that. Why because they are the best at what they do. Not you and not the mechanic. You see what I am getting at?
What to do with old oil…
It used to be that people would often just “throw out” their oil so to speak. Or often farmers and other back-yard mechanics would burn their oil somewhere on their property. However, in today’s environmentally friendly world this is not the way to go. You can’t just throw it out any more.
The nice thing again about having your oil changed by a shop is the fact that they would take care of this for you. However, if you are stuck on changing your oil yourself there are a few things you need to know. You must take your old oil and old filter to a disposal place where they “environmentally treat” such hazardous material. Often old oil will be either re-refined into other lubricants or it will be burned as fuel, or it is disposed of by other means. An example of this is a company called “Clean Harbors”. Or you could even take this oil to your local service station or quick lube shop and have them dispose of it for you.
Whatever you do, do not dump your old oil down a drain, into a storm sewer, on the ground, or throw it into the trash. As little as a pint of oil could cause an oil slick the size of a football field. Also one gallon of oil could contaminate one million gallons of drinking water. Most landfills will not accept used motor oil even if it is sealed in a container as this will eventually leak out into the ground.
It used to be at one point too that farmers/back-yard mechanics would “recycle” their oil or “re-use” it if you will. They would do this by using their old oil to undercoat their cars. They would do this by lifting up the car and then spraying the underneath with oil, therefore, coating the metallic parts and helping to protect the bottom of the car from salt in the winter and other elements that would lead to rusting or corroding of the car.
What happens if you don’t’ change oil often…
If you do not change your oil often you are risking possible internal damage to your engine. You are also risking premature failure to components of your vehicle.
If your oil is changed on a regular basis you will be able to accumulate a lot of mileage / kilometers on your engine before any major damage surfaces.
It is also important to note that as an engine wears there are small pieces of metal, plastic, and rubber that show up in the oil pan. So by changing your oil often a mechanic would be aware of such incidences and would discover the source and fix the problem.
By waiting a long time to have your oil change done, even if you are simply making short trips to the grocery store in the winter time, may leave your oil being fine and dandy but this sort of driving pattern leads to a build up of gaseous acid that can damage your engine greatly by corroding its components.
Quick Oil Tip:
Tech 2000, the Walmart brand of oil, and similar brands to it, are all made by the major oil refineries such as Shell or Esso. However, they are just sold under Walmart’s own brand name. These brands of oil are often much cheaper than major brand names of oil and yet they have the exact same specifications as the major brands. So check them out.