You know when you take your car into an automotive shop to get a typical oil change and come out spending way more money than you anticipated? Do the sales representatives try to convince you that you need a new fuel filter? What about a tire rotation? And then when they FINALLY get to the service you came in for, they say something like this:
“We recommend using a more specialty oil because the conventional oil runs the risk of damaging your engine, especially with this model of car.”
Do not let yourself get taken advantage of, especially when it comes to a standard oil change.
After reading this article, you’ll be able to hold your hand up in the mountain bikers’ stop motion at your representative (as seen in the left image) when they are spewing nonsense about your car and tell them exactly what you want.
(Side note: I have never actually done this in a conversation, but I imagine getting cutoff in mid-sentence by a firm, lifted hand would be pretty irritating.)
When do I change my oil?
If you’re a football fan, does the name Barry Sanders ring a bell? He is arguably the greatest running back to ever put on a pair of cleats, obtaining 15,269 rushing yards and 99 rushing touchdowns in his NFL career. We were all left scratching our heads when he made the decision to retire early after he was seemingly still at his apex in terms of production. (He was only 1,457 yards away from tying Walter Payton for second place on the NFL all-time rushing list.)
It can be assumed Barry Sanders would have easily passed Walter Payton on the all-time list if he would have played 1-2 more years because he was still healthy and his production had not fallen. Regardless, he made the decision to retire even though there was a lot left in the tank.
Likewise, are you going to retire your oil early when it still has something “left in the tank”? (Pun intended)
In ancient history (just kidding—not that long ago), there was a rule to change your oil every 3,000 miles, however, this article from consumerreports.org states, “advances in engines and oil have made that [3,000 mile] guidance obsolete. Many automakers have oil-change intervals at 7,500 or even 10,000 miles and 6 or 12 months for time.”
Obviously, every vehicle is different, so you should refer to its owner’s manual to see what the recommended mileage is for getting an oil change. (If a mechanic or representative claim to know more about your car than the manual, then you should ask them if they also know exactly where the Lost City of Atlantis is since they seemingly know everything.)
But what if I don’t drive a lot? I’m not using my oil, so I don’t have to change it, right?
Let’s say you buy a gallon of milk at the grocery store and stick it in the refrigerator when you get home. The milk remains unopened for the next 3 months until you stumble upon the movie Rocky IV (the one where Rocky runs up a humongous snowy mountain and beats a Russian fighter twice his size) on TV that night.
The next morning, you undoubtedly are feeling like a champion, so you choose to start your day with a wholesome bowl of Wheaties.
When you open the fridge, you are out of luck — the milk is spoiled. You can't just expect the milk to have remained fresh all those months, waiting on you to watch Rocky IV. It probably makes sense to go and invest in another gallon of milk so you can indulge in the bowl of Wheaties you poured yourself.
Similarly, oil also goes bad if it is not used. In fact, oil that sits a long time in your car is actually very bad for the engine, especially when it is not being warmed up from driving.
The moisture (water vapor) that forms in a car’s engine will continue to build up if the engine is not hot enough to burn it off, which can then lead to engine damage and a shorter life; “the vapor will mix into your oil and form a milky sludge,” according to this article from The Globe and Mail.
The BIG question: Should I use conventional or synthetic oil?
In most facets of life, there is almost always an upgraded or premium alternative when it comes to a product — Do you want the upgraded stainless steel or standard version microwave oven for your home?
Are you interested in just buying the standard model car or the upgraded model with built-in GPS, automatic windows, touchscreen, etc.?
There are two types of iPhones available: the standard and the plus. The iPhone Plus is bigger and can hold more memory; which one would you like?
You can expect the same type of questions when you go in to change your oil — Do you want the conventional oil or the synthetic oil which will last you longer and is better for your engine?
Although synthetic oil has a few more advantages over conventional oil and is overall better for your engine, you could still be paying twice as much money. As always, refer to your manual. If your owner’s manual does not clearly state you must use synthetic oil, then you can decide if you need it or not.
Consumer Reports mentions the 3 advantages of using synthetic oil:
- Longer-lasting oil
- Being able to endure high temperatures
- Flows in cold temperatures, which reduces engine wear when the car is started in cold weather
If you live in a climate or environment which experiences very extreme temperatures, then you may consider spending the money to keep your engine safe. However, it is still recommended and very important that you remain consistent with oil change intervals even when using synthetic oil.
This is your money and car
Hopefully this gives you some valuable information to consider the next time you are in need of an oil change.
Try to keep your car happy (cars have feelings, too…I think?) by always monitoring its oil life and using your money wisely when choosing which type of oil to use.