Ah, car maintenance. It’s one of those favorite pastimes that drivers know well in the United States, costing an average of $1,000 a year for every car owner.
Well, did you know that by keeping up with your routine oil changes, you can save a fortune on overall car maintenance and even postpone buying a new car?
It all starts with the right care for our engines. Let’s talk about the most important car maintenance tip, the oil change!
How Engines Work
To understand why oil changes are so important, we quickly have to discuss how engines function.
Combustion engines work by a perfectly timed rhythm that takes place in 4 steps. First, your battery generates enough power to start an initial spark while a small amount of gasoline enters your engine.
Then, energy will be sent to your spark plug to generate a spark and ignite the fuel, causing an explosion within the engine due to filtered air being forced in through a vacuum.
From there, large pins known as pistons will shoot outward and come back in to catch the next explosion, and the system repeats. Spark, explosion, expansion, contraction.
This process takes place thousands of times per minute, as displayed on your dashboard in RPMs (revolutions per minute). So, where does oil come into play? Let’s talk about that.
Why a Routine Oil Change Is So Important
For the last two steps in that process, your piston rings need to be able to expand and contract within their tracks. For this to happen, they need to be lubricated.
Otherwise, the metal piston rings will scrape on the metal track, which will inevitably lead to wear, which will destroy your engine.
Before you ask, no, they cannot feasibly create this type of engine without the use of metal on metal. Therefore, oil is essential.
One of the biggest concerns with older oil is condensation. The reason oil is used to lubricate metal is that water will cause the engine to rust, which will quickly destroy the delicate firing process.
Over time, condensation will build within your engine, but this isn’t a problem if you drive for long distances. If you drive to work daily for more than 10 or 15 minutes, then your engine should have no trouble evaporating and removing any condensation.
However, if you’re used to driving within your town, condensation can cause serious issues within your engine. If that’s the case, we recommend opting for more frequent oil changes or at least taking regular drives for longer distances.
If you rarely drive your car, even if it’s under 1,000 miles, changing your oil every six months (at most) is essential to preventing water damage.
One of the biggest issue with oil is debris, which is why it’s also important to change your engine oil filter along with your oil.
In addition, you engine uses a vacuum system to force large amounts of air into your firing chambers to limit the use of fuel. When it does this, it relies entirely on the air filter, which is not a perfect system, and we will go in to more detail on the air filter in another section.
If you look at new oil compared to oil that’s been in an engine for a few thousand miles, it’s night and day. New oil is translucent, while used oil is sludgy, opaque, and jet black.
That’s why it’s important to change both your oil and oil filter along with the air regularly to prevent debris buildups from destroying your engine. So, how often should you change them?
How Often Do I Need an Oil Change?
While it depends on the model of the car, the majority of cars require oil & oil filter changes every 5,000 miles. For older models using standard oil, we would recommend changing the oil every 3,000 miles.
Now, some European models will say they can last for 10,000 miles without an oil change, but we would recommend going to 6,000 at most.
If your car dealer recommends changing your oil every 6,000 or more miles, double-check with your vehicle’s handbook, as it will have more accurate information. Remember, your dealer has a slight incentive for your engine to fail, as they’ll be happy to sell you another car in a year.
Take a look at the sticker and reset your trips when you get an oil change, so you have two reminders of your mileage at your last oil change. Don’t rely on the oil light or monitor in your car, as they aren’t always accurate.
If you drive in a city, idle for long periods, or notice any difficulty with your engine, it’s always better to get an oil change sooner than later.
Remember, a $20, $40, or even $100 oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles at your local mechanic shop is nothing compared to the cost of a new engine or new car.
What About My Air Filter?
Regarding your air filter, we recommend changing it at least every other time you change your oil or whenever visably dirty. Doing so will keep your engine performing well and even improve fuel economy.
Consequently, spending $20 on an air filter could save you $50 in fuel between every oil change, so why not?
Also, while you’re at the mechanic, feel free to check your brakes and tires, as rotations and adjustments can be done with tune-ups for a low cost.
Get an Oil Change Today
Now that you know why an oil change is so important, try to avoid going over your mileage limit at all costs. Early oil changes are always better than late ones, and it pays to keep your car for the long haul!
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