Oil changes are preventative maintenance that’s critical to the longevity of a car. It’s also the least expensive routine maintenance task. Unfortunately most people pay little attention to it, but reap the expensive aftermath with high repair costs on what seems to be unrelated parts.
The oil provides three functions in an internal combustion engine. It keeps all engine related parts working smoothly together. It draws heat away from the engine block where thousands of controlled detonations happen every minute. And, it helps keep carbon and varnishes from accumulating in the engine.
Confusion sets in when a person has to determine the viscosity of their oil. The owner’s manual simplifies the decision of what oil to use under specific conditions. The viscosity is also many times stamped on the oil reserve cap.
The larger the number or weight of the oil, the thicker it is. Some vehicles require thinner oil in winter and thick in summer. This viscosity of honey versus water helps us understand the difference in movement based on how thick an oil is rated at.
Due to its importance in protecting engines from early wear, the American Petroleum Institute certifies oil based on performance criteria determined by auto manufacturers, engine builders and oil companies. Qualifying oils receive the API Certification Mark found on all oil containers.
Over time oil collects dirt and gets sluggish. To keep an engine running well, oil needs to be changed according to manufacturer specifications. Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists likes to change oil every 3,000 miles for standard oils and 5,000 miles for synthetic blends.
Some mechanics suggest changing the oil in three months, but experts recommend trusting the odometer over a span of time. The more a car is driven, the more often the oil needs to be changed. They also believe a car sitting in storage has no need for an oil change, however, the oil coating internal metals will drip off within six months, exposing the metal to develop rust.
For those who don’t pay attention to the mileage required for oil changes will eventually see issues develop in other areas of their vehicle. Buildup will occur in the cooler parts of the engine like the crankcase, and around the valves and camshafts. This leads to carbon deposits, or sludge, coming out of the old oil. To fix this type of problem, an expensive engine cleaning or worse yet, the worn-out piston rings may need to be replaced.
For those who gamble against the odds may even find the pistons seizing or the camshafts being damaged. These repair bills are far more costly than regular oil changes over a decade. The only “insurance” to avoiding these costly repairs are regular oil changes based on the manufacturer’s specifications.