The simple reason you need to change your oil regularly is that oil breaks down and becomes contaminated over time. This reduces the oils ability to properly protect your engine – in fact it can cause damage.
There are several factors to consider when it comes to the lifespan of your vehicle’s oil. Depending on the age of your vehicle, driving conditions and how you use your vehicle you could benefit from changing your oil sooner than the typically recommended 3 to 5 thousand miles. It is always best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance plan, but here are a few things to factor in on how often to get the oil changed:
Driving short distances
Making regular trips of less than 3 to 4 miles, with each followed by several hours of inactivity, can be tough on your engine. The short trip is harder on your engine than longer trips because there is not enough time for the engine to completely warm up and burn off condensation and fuel vapors that form in the crankcase. Over time, these contaminants will accumulate and result in the formation of corrosive acids and sludge, making the oil less effective at doing its job.
The age of your vehicle
Older vehicles or vehicles with higher mileage may require more frequent oil changes. Many new vehicles will have an oil life indicator but older vehicles may not have this feature. Older vehicles tend to use oil less efficiently and will contaminate new oil faster than a new engine. This is because older engines have more build-up, metal filings, and other debris that have accumulated over the life of the vehicle. This is especially true if the vehicle has not been very well maintained. In some cases, this can be mitigated with an “engine flush” performed by a professional automotive service center.
If you are driving in extreme weather conditions you should be aware of the effects this can have on your oil. Consider using a synthetic oil to add some extra protection. In addition to the weather, making trips where you are stopping and starting frequently – such as city driving or bumper to bumper traffic – can do a number on your engine. Sticking to your maintenance plan is even more important if your daily commute includes frequent stopping-and-starting. If you are this type of driver you may benefit from more frequent oil changes – especially if you have an older vehicle.
Most experts and many drivers will agree – the most important maintenance item for your vehicle is the oil change. Regular oil changes using quality, preferably synthetic, motor oils, often leads to an engine surpassing 150 or even 200 thousand miles, with no major repairs. Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle’s engine.
Following a maintenance routine is very simple but skipping your oil change intervals will cause irrevocable damage to vital engine parts. Once this damage is done, the only remedies may be a major engine overhaul or complete replacement. As some in the car repair business have said “Pay me a little now or a lot later”.