All About Oil Change Service

All About Oil Change Service

A vehicle is a big investment. Other than homes, vehicles are often the most expensive thing a person owns. For many people, a vehicle is also a vital piece of machinery that’s needed to get to work, school, the grocery store and everywhere else outside of the house.

Oil changes are one of the most important vehicle maintenance measures you can take to protect your engine - plus it’s simple and affordable. Changing the oil ensures all the moving engine parts are performing like they should so you can safely travel down the road.

Why is Motor Oil So Important?

You’ve probably heard that motor oil is the lifeblood of an engine. That’s because an engine can’t operate without it. Engines need oil to:

  • Keep the internal parts lubricated
  • Reduce heat in the engine
  • Minimize friction between components
  • Form seals between the pistons
  • Seal around rings
  • Provide a seal around cylinder walls
  • Dampen shock in moving parts

An engine with no oil is kind of like the human body without water. It’s critical for basically every function and has to be replenished regularly or catastrophic failure will occur.

How Oil Works in the Engine

A vehicle’s engine is built with an oil pan at the bottom where the oil is kept. From there it gets pumped around the engine via an oil pump that sucks the oil up from the pan. The pump sends the oil through a circuit that first goes to the oil filter. Oil filters are installed to help catch debris as the oil passes through so that its free of contaminants and clean as it goes through the rest of the engine.

Like other lubricants, engine oil degrades over time, and oil filters can become clogged as it filters out contaminants. When that happens carbon toxins can build up and compromise performance. If it gets really bad the old oil can damage the engine. The solution is an oil change service.

Regular oil changes:

  • Improve vehicle performance
  • Increase the longevity of mechanical components
  • Prevent wear and tear
  • Keep the engine at an ideal temperature
  • Decrease the likelihood of engine failure
  • Keep contaminants under control
  • Protect against corrosion

The one exception is electric engines. The engines in electric vehicles (EVs) don’t need motor oil for lubrication because there are only a few moving parts that have to be greased.

How to Check Your Car’s Engine Oil Level

Any driver can check their oil in a matter of minutes, and it’s probably the easiest preventative maintenance. Every other time you get gas, lift the hood and do a quick check. Here’s how:

  • Park the vehicle on a level surface and let the engine cool down for at least a few minutes.
  • Locate the oil dipstick. In rear-wheel drive vehicles it’s usually located toward the center of the engine. In front-wheel drive vehicles it’s typically in the front of the engine.
  • Pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean. Use either a paper towel or a clean, lint-free cloth.
  • Put the dipstick back in its holder. It’s important to make sure it goes all the way down. If it sticks give the dipstick a half turn so that it goes down the curved pipe.
  • Pull the dipstick back out again. Carefully look at the oil on the dipstick to check out the level as well as its appearance and condition before putting it back in its holder.

What to watch out for:

  • Level that is at or below the “add”, “min” or “low” line indicates oil needs to be added.
  • If the oil smells like gasoline it needs to be changed.
  • Dirty contaminants are a sign the oil needs to be changed.
  • Milky color, which could mean coolant has leaked into the engine oil and needs to be addressed.
  • Shiny metal flakes that suggest damage inside the engine that needs diagnosis.

When in doubt, check the owners manual for guidance on checking the oil. Some newer models and European vehicles won’t have a traditional dipstick. There are also models that need to have the engine warmed up before the oil can be checked.

Basic Steps of an Oil Change

Does your vehicle need an oil change? Even after driving for years, many people don’t know what happens during an oil change. Here’s what oil change service entails:

  1. Drain the old oil. The motor oil will need to be safely contained in a bucket or drain pan. If oil gets on the ground it will need to be soaked up with an oil absorbent powder. Oil stains can be treated with a degreaser.
  2. Add new oil. Be careful to use the right type of oil for your engine.
  3. Replace the oil filter. It’s always a good idea to replace the oil filter when you change the oil. If the filter is clogged it can’t do its job and the new oil will quickly become contaminated.
  4. Visual safety inspection. If you take your vehicle to a shop for an oil change, the technician should visually inspect everything to make sure all the engine components are working correctly. The inspection should also include checking different fluid levels such as coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, etc.
  5. Look for leaks. Finally, turn the vehicle on and let it run for a few minutes to look for leaks.

The old oil will also need to be disposed of, but you can’t just pour it down a drain. The EPA estimates that the oil from a single oil change can pollute up to 1 million gallons of water.

The used motor oil has to be poured into a plastic or metal container with a tight sealing lid. The original oil container can also work. It then has to be taken to an oil change center like Jack Williams Tire or a recycling center that accepts automotive fluids.

Don’t want to bother with a trip to the recycling center and possible spills on your upholstery? One of the benefits of oil change service at Jack Williams Tire is we handle safe oil disposable for you.

How Long Can You Go Without Getting an Oil Change?

Rather than thinking about how long you can go without an oil change, it’s better to ask yourself how frequently you need oil changes to protect your engine and maximize performance. How often do you need an oil change? It’s always important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for oil changes. The owner’s manual will note how often an oil change is needed, usually in terms of miles traveled as well as time between oil changes. For instance, it may say every 7,000 miles or every six months.

Some newer vehicles also come equipped with an oil life monitor. It tells you the oil level (100-0%) and indicates when a change may be needed. The general recommendation is to get an oil change when the monitor is at 15%.

A good rule of thumb is to get an oil change every 5,000-7,500 miles or at least once every six months. If the check oil light comes on it needs to be changed immediately. Erring on the side of caution is smart. Changing the oil sooner than needed is never bad because it won’t harm the vehicle in any way, but waiting too long could cause damage.

Have a vehicle with a lot of miles? Higher mileage engines have more wear and seals become hard and degraded. Using a high mileage specifically designed oil will help soften seals and provide advanced protection for wearing parts.

Hybrid Vehicles

What if you have a hybrid vehicle? Many drivers aren’t sure how oil changes work when they have an engine that’s part electric. Hybrid engines do need regular oil changes, but they may not need to be as frequent because the gas engine doesn’t run as much. Take a look at the owner’s manual and you’ll probably find that there are variable oil change intervals. Hybrid vehicles that are primarily driven on the highway when the gas engine is engaged will need a change around every 5,000 miles. If you primarily do city driving the recommendation may be every 10,000 miles.

Diesel Vehicles

Diesel engines are known for their longevity, but oil doesn’t last as long compared to gas engines. Many diesel engines produce more heat and pressure. As a result, the oil will need to be changed more frequently. Usually the recommendation is every 3,000-5,000 miles.

It’s tempting to stretch out an oil change since it’s an added expense of car ownership. But oil changes are a service that essentially pays for itself. Regular oil changes will help you get more miles out of the engine, which can save you money in the long run.

Think of it this way. If three oil changes at $115 a piece help you get an additional 3,500 miles out of the engine that’s 3 months worth of driving for the average person. If your vehicle is paid off that’s three months of not having an auto loan payment. In the end the oil changes cost you less money.

Reduced gas mileage is another consideration. You could stretch an oil change out an extra 1,000-2,000 miles, but efficiency is going to be reduced. The extra money you pay in gas could negate the cost of doing an oil change on schedule.

There’s also the issue of wear and tear. Regular oil changes prevent premature wear, which can help you avoid costly repairs. They also reduce the chance of sediment buildup that can clog injectors. An engine replacement can cost thousands of dollars, which is an even harder pill to swallow when you realize a $100 oil change service could have prevented it.

Want to save money on essential maintenance? Check our website for oil change coupons that make service even more cost effective.

Different Types of Oil and Oil Change Service

There’s not a one-size-fits-all motor oil. If you go into an auto parts store, you’ll see an entire wall filled with dozens of different oils. It can be overwhelming for those who aren’t familiar with motor oil options, particularly given that oil influences performance and how often changes are needed. 

Common types of motor oil include:

  • Multi-grade Oil - This oil has two numbers like 5W-20 and are made to work in both hot and cold weather conditions.
  • Standard/Conventional Oil - Conventional oil used to be the norm before synthetic oil was developed. It’s petroleum based and is more susceptible to heat degradation.
  • Full Synthetic Oil - This type of oil isn’t primarily petroleum. Instead it’s made of chemically compounded lubricants. Full synthetic oil can extend the time between oil changes and has a higher viscosity in a wider range of temperatures, which is why it’s a popular choice.
  • Semi-Synthetic Oil - Semi-synthetic oil is a blend of standard and full-synthetic oil. It has some of the same benefits of synthetic oil but typically costs less.
  • High-mileage Oil - This oil is formulated for use in engines that have lower tolerance levels.
  • High-Performance Oil - High-performance oil is made to withstand the extreme friction of a hard charging engine.
  • Diesel Oil - It’s a lubrication oil specifically designed for use in diesel engines. Diesel oils have a different classification system of their own.

Which motor oil is right for your vehicle? Switching from one brand to another isn’t a big deal, but it’s best to stick to the type of motor oil that’s recommended for your make and model. Many of the vehicles on the road today use either 5W-20 or 5W-30. Keep reading to learn what those numbers mean.

What Oil Numbers Mean

At first glance, all the motor oil numbers can be confusing. What they mean isn’t readily apparent, but those numbers are part of a classification system. The numbers indicate viscosity (thickness), which tells you how much friction it reduces and the flow.

The first set of numbers tells you how the oil will flow in cold temperatures. It’s a measurement of the oil weight at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower it is the lighter it is and the better it will flow in the cold. That means the oil will reach different engine parts more quickly when the vehicle is started and reduce friction better.

The second set of numbers refers to flow in hot temperatures. It’s the oil weight at 210 degrees Fahrenheit.

So an oil with the classification of 5W-20 has a flow of 5-weight in temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit and 30-weight if it were to ever get to be over 200 degrees.

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November 12, 2019
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