Simple Tips for Checking and Changing Your Oil
Keeping your car in tip-top shape can help prevent unnecessary repair bills and unexpected trips to the mechanic. One often-neglected car maintenance item is the oil change. Oil changes can be easy, relatively inexpensive and are a must-do item for proper vehicle care.
Why Do It?
Your car’s engine is complex and contains numerous moving parts. Oil is what lubricates these moving parts and keeps everything moving smoothly, says Popular Mechanics. In addition, motor oil contains additives that can break down over time, and changing the oil helps ensure that the engine continues to work as expected. According to Cars.com, here are some of the reasons why you should change your car’s oil:
- Oil cools, lubricates and cleans moving parts. Without oil, your engine would stop working.
- Oil can become dirty and break down, likely reducing engine efficiency and longevity.
- Regular oil changes may help you save money in the long run by potentially lowering the frequency of engine problems and maintaining its performance.
Which Oil and How Often?
One factor to take into consideration when changing your oil is which type of oil you should use. You can choose synthetic oil, conventional oil or high-mileage oil, depending on your engine’s needs. Also, you’ll need to choose the right viscosity for your engine — that information is often found on your engine’s oil cap or in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. For more information about motor oil, visit Eric the Car Guy’s blog post, What Motor Oil Should You Use in Your Vehicle?
Every car manufacturer has a slightly different recommended oil change schedule. Consult your owner’s manual to find your car manufacturer’s suggested oil change interval. Also, when your dealership or service center changes your oil, they will typically put a sticker on your window to tell you at what date or at what mileage — whichever comes first — you will be due for another oil change.
How to Check Your Oil
Consumer Reports suggests that drivers check their oil at each gas fill up. Once your car is parked on level ground, here’s how to check the oil:
- Pop the hood. Locate the oil dipstick and remove it. A graphic of an oil can usually marks its location.
- Wipe off the dipstick and reinsert it. You want to make sure to clean the oil off the dipstick with a rag, put it back in and remove it again.
- Determine the oil level. The dipstick is marked to show at what level the oil is full. If the level of the oil is at or below the “min” or “add” marks, add a little bit of oil (a half-quart) at a time. Then wipe, reinsert and remove the dipstick again for another check.
- Check oil color. Look for brown or black color. If the oil is a light, milky color, or if you notice tiny metal particles, take your vehicle to a mechanic for further diagnosis.
- Be careful not to overfill. Too much oil may create an oil froth, making it more difficult for the oil to properly function.
When a dealership or service center changes your vehicle’s oil, it’s a good opportunity to change the oil filter and check the air filter, brakes, transmission, headlights, brake lights, reverse lights, belts and windshield wiper fluid. Most of these establishments have a set protocol to inspect these items during an oil and filter change, but it never hurts to ask to make sure. Should you decide to change your own oil, make sure you’re aware of the six most important things you need to know when changing your own oil.