“Why Change Your Oil?”
If you drive a car, there is no doubt you have heard that you need to change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. But do you know why?
Cars today are absolute engineering marvels. In recent years we have learned to squeeze more and more performance from engines by utilizing technologies such as variable valve timing and lift, cylinder deactivation, direct fuel injection and turbochargers. As consumers we have demanded more performance and more fuel economy for our dollar.
Parts inside the engine move incredibly fast, generating friction and heat. Engine oil provides lubrication and cooling, allowing the parts to work together smoothly without overheating or seizing. Additionally, advanced engine technologies such as variable valve timing, employ oil pressure to activate, providing fuel economy when you want it and engine power when you need it!
Driving too long between oil changes can be risky business. Fast-moving parts break down engine oil over time. Left alone, oil eventually thickens and turns into sludge, losing its lubricating and cooling properties.
Some vehicles (certain Subaru and Audi models come to mind) consume more oil than others while driving. Seals, gaskets, piston rings, or poor quality oil will cause the vehicle to run low on oil, even before the next oil change is due. When this happens, engines can again overheat or seize, resulting in an expensive repair proposition.
It is important to check your engine oil level and condition frequently, and change it on a regular schedule. As the father of five children, and having seen more than one engine ruined due to improper oil maintenance (good stories for another time!), advice I have given my children is “If it’s not blizzarding, check your dipstick each time you gas up!”
As engine technologies have advanced, so have oil and filters. Thirty years ago just about every vehicle would run with 10W30 engine oil. Now we have weights ranging all the way down to 0W16 and 0W20, for oils designed to increase engine efficiency and reduce engine warm-up time.
Recent years have also seen the widespread adoption of synthetic and synthetic-blend motor oil, which are chemically engineered to provide molecules that are more uniform in shape with fewer impurities.
It is important to understand what your vehicle requires. If you are uncertain as to the proper oil type, quantity, and oil change frequency, consult your owner’s manual or your local automotive service professional.
Finally, it is important to realize that all oil filters are not created equal. Design differences and material quality vary widely; the old adage “you get what you pay for” may be applied here. Do not skimp on your engine oil filter!