The First-time Car Owner’s Guide to Oil Changes
Regular oil changes are essential for your car’s health. Its engine contains many moving parts that grind against one another. This produces friction and releases heat. Lubricating oil helps reduce friction and prevents your engine from overheating.
The oil that keeps your engine lubricated doesn’t stay useful forever. Over time, oil loses its viscosity (thickness) which is important in controlling friction. Oil that has become too thin performs poorly in keeping an engine’s parts from grinding. It can get polluted with grime and metal shavings. Contaminated oil can affect the internal components of your engine, resulting in reduced performance.
One of the responsibilities of a car owner is to ensure that the oil is replaced regularly. This helps you avoid issues that could ultimately damage your engine and decrease the value of your vehicle.
If you’re a first-time car owner, here’s everything you need to know about oil changes.
How do I know it’s time for an oil change?
Your owner’s manual should be your primary basis for car operation and maintenance information. These signs should tell you when it’s time to give your engine a much-needed oil change:
- Unusual sounds – Listen to your vehicle. If you can hear a clicking, clapping, or knocking noise, that could mean that your cylinder head is not adequately lubricated, either due to dirty oil or too little oil. The sound would be either the lifters or the valves clacking. Introducing fresh oil will lessen the friction between the noisy rods.
If the knocking persists, consult a mechanic to eliminate other possible causes, like carbon deposits or poor spark plugs.
- Black-coloured oil – Fresh oil is honey-brown and turns darker with use. Check the colour of the oil using the dipstick. If the oil is dark or contains dark particles, then you need to change your oil. Oil that has turned black can damage your engine, so it’s best to change the oil right away.
- Foamy oil – If your oil is frothy, it could be due to condensation (not a worry; take your car for a drive to burn it off) or to contamination by engine coolants (a big worry). If you see foam on the oil cap or the dipstick, take your car to a professional mechanic for assessment.
- Burning smell – A pungent odour from your car’s interior can indicate low oil levels, an overheated engine, or an oil leak. Whatever the case may be, take your vehicle to the nearest mechanic as soon as possible to prevent engine damage.
How often should I check my oil levels?
You should check your oil at least once a month. Some newer cars come with electronic oil monitors which makes it easier for owners to track their oil level without having to use the dipstick. For specific recommendations from your automaker, refer to your car’s manual.
How to manually check your oil using a traditional dipstick:
- Park your vehicle on a level surface and switch it off. Wait for the engine to cool down, if possible.
- Remove the dipstick and wipe it off using a clean, dry cloth.
- Take note where the high and low oil level marks are located on the dipstick. You should see clear markings (a cross-hatched area, two pinholes, L and H, or ‘MIN’ and ‘MAX’) indicating the recommended oil level.
- Dip and remove the dipstick from the engine. Note the oil level and colour.
- If the oil level is between the two marks or within the crosshatched area, your oil level is good. If the oil is below the minimum, you need to add oil. If the oil is dark or dirty, it needs to be changed.
How often should I change oil?
The majority of car manufacturers suggest oil changes at 5,000 mile (8,000 km) intervals. However, the age of the vehicle, your driving habits, and the type of oil all factor into this decision. 2008 cars and up should change oil every six months or 7,500 miles (12,000 km). Earlier models should change their oil every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) or six months.
If you regularly drive under the following conditions, you should change the oil every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) or every six months 2008 or newer vehicles, and every 3,000 miles (4,800 km) or every three months for older cars:
- Driving off-road or in dusty conditions
- Carrying or towing heavy loads
- Driving at low speeds
- Short or infrequent trips
Frequent oil changes provide an opportunity for automotive checkups. This can help you detect possible engine issues early on and prevent unexpected breakdowns.
When in doubt, check your owner’s manual or consult a trusted mechanic to determine if your vehicle needs an oil change.
How do I choose the right oil for my car?
Before visiting your mechanic for an oil change, know what your automaker recommends. Typically, the oil you need depends on these factors:
- Age – A new engine requires advanced oils to match its performance
- Engine type – Higher performance engines need superior-quality oil
- Driving environment – When you’re continually driving in high traffic, your engine needs a high-performing oil to protect your engine from excess wear-and-tear.
Manufacturers often recommend two differing viscosity levels for engine oil. Viscosity is rated “XW-YY.”
The first number (beside the “W”) indicates its viscosity at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -17.8 C. The lower the number, the slower it thickens during a cold temperature — a 5W-30 oil is less likely to thicken in the cold than a 10W-30 oil. The second number represents the oil’s viscosity at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 C). The higher the number, the more resistant it is to breaking down at high temperatures — a 10W-30 oil will thin out faster than a 10W-40 oil.
Common Types of Oil:
- Conventional – Ideal for drivers who have engines with low mileage and who adhere to frequent oil changes.
- Synthetic – Synthetic oils can sustain lubrication levels at very high temperatures. These are often used for high-performance engines.
- Synthetic-blend – A common choice among SUV car owners because of its high level of protection. The synthetic-blend is best for heavy engine loads and high temperatures.
- High-mileage – Contains seal conditioners which boost the flexibility of seals and gaskets. High-mileage oils frequently cost more than standard lubricants.
Download The Oil Change App at Google Play or the App Store to access a convenient and reliable oil change service in Toronto, Ontario. Send an oil change request to an auto servicing specialist and have your car serviced right away.