What Needs To Be Known Before Doing Your Own Oil Change
If there’s one thing most drivers think they know a great deal about, it has to be the conventional oil change. There are a few pieces of wisdom that everyone seems to have internalized rather easily and readily: Oil should be changed every 3,000 miles, oil should only be a bit warm when it’s checked, and oil changes represent one of the most common and important components of great vehicle care and maintenance. While the last of these things is certainly true, it’s worth noting that many things have changed about oil changes in terms of the distance traveled between changes and the routine used to check the oil level currently in the engine.
The 3,000-Mile Myth: Modern Vehicles Aren’t Nearly as Needy
In an earlier era of car design and ownership, there was a really good reason for recommending an oil change after every 3,000 miles of driving. The oil produced at the time did tend to become less useful by the time 3,000 miles had been put on the engine. Furthermore, most engines of the time were a bit more “needy” in terms of their regular maintenance needs and the way that they used oil during regular driving. Today, however, things have changed a great deal. In addition to new engine technologies and more efficient operating behavior, synthetic oils have been designed to last a great deal longer than their non-synthetic predecessors.
Modern vehicles, therefore, often go anywhere between 4,500 and 13,000 miles on a single oil change before the “maintenance light” illuminates on the driver’s dashboard. While it’s not recommended that drivers wait 13,000 miles between oil changes, it’s at least worth noting that going a bit above and beyond 3,000 miles between an oil change will not do any real damage to today’s most recent makes and models on the road.
Checking the Oil Level: The Split Between Pre-2000 Models and Newer Cars
For decades, it was common knowledge that vehicle oil only had to be a bit warm when checking whether or not a sufficient amount of oil was currently in the engine. Around the year 2000, however, that changed quite a bit. Thanks to newer engine technologies, improved engine designs, and new oil types, today’s drivers actually have to proceed with an oil check in a slightly different way.
With pre-2000 models, it’s possible to check the oil up to an hour after the vehicle has been turned off and it has begun to cool down from regular driving. In a post-2000 vehicle, however, the car must be turned on and the engine must be warmed up in order for oil to be accurately checked. Once the engine is hot and the oil is reduced in its overall viscosity, a proper oil check can proceed.
Of course, the method for actually checking oil levels is the same no matter how new or old the vehicle is. Upon removing the dipstick from the engine, car owners can simply check whether or not their oil level meets the line indicated for proper oil levels and best engine operation. If it does, the car can continue running without any addition oil and without an oil change. If the oil does not meet the line indicated on the dipstick, it’s time for a quick addition of oil or a routine oil change to keep the car running in top shape throughout its journeys on the road.
Great Oil Maintenance is the Key to Engine Longevity
Even with longer periods between oil changes, and slightly different methods of checking oil in newer vehicles, car owners should remember that regular oil changes and proper oil fill levels are two of the best way to keep an engine running efficiently and well into the future!
This article was written by Andrew Handley. Andrew is writing a series of articles dealing with basic car maintenance covering topics such as oil changes, tires and cleaning. You can find out more if you visit his
At AAMCO Colorado, we love cars as much as you do. But we also want your vehicle to drive in a safe and properly operating condition. If you live in Colorado, and need a Transmission Service, Radiator Repair, Brake Repair, or any other Automotive Repair, please contact your local AAMCO Colorado Locationto schedule an appointment. Because those who know, go to AAMCO!
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