Everyone knows that buying a car is a big financial responsibility. Those financial implications far surpass the sticker price you agreed to pay when you signed on the dotted line, and while buying a new car is exciting, it can also be a major burden on your wallet if you aren’t careful. Choosing a vehicle that is known for its dependability and reliability is a good starting point, but it is also important to follow up on regularly scheduled maintenance to ensure the long term health of your vehicle. Despite what you may have heard, vehicle maintenance does not have to cost a fortune. Finding a quality service center with a cheap oil change option is just one way you can minimize cost and keep your car running as if it were brand new.
Why Oil Matters to a Vehicle
If gasoline is considered food to a car, then an engine’s oil can be viewed as the blood that is essential to keeping the car alive. The engine of a car is the heart, and without the oil coursing through its internal components, it will begin to function poorly before stopping altogether.
To put it simply, oil doesn’t just matter to a vehicle, it is essential to the life of it. There are three key roles that oil plays in the function of a gasoline powered vehicle. Let’s take a look at exactly what oil does in the engine of your vehicle to make its presence so vital.
- Keeps engine components working smoothly
- Helps draw heat away from the inside of the car engine. Thousands of mini detonations are taking place every minute inside the engine of a vehicle, and oil controls the heat that those controlled “explosions” cause.
- Prevents accumulation of varnish and carbon from sticking to engine parts and components.
These three roles that oil plays inside a vehicle’s engine are key to keeping it running smoothly, and for as long as possible.
How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
Following the manufacturer’s recommendation for routine oil changes on your particular vehicle is imperative. There have been different opinions regarding how often oil changes need to take place, and with new vehicle technology emerging, these recommendations and opinions are constantly changing. Certain vehicles require that oil is changed every 3,000 miles, while other vehicles only require an oil change twice a year.
In other words, there is no arbitrary set of guidelines that can reliably be followed for every make and model vehicle. Even the same vehicle from a different model year can have altered oil change recommendations.
Bottom line: Read the owner’s manual that came with your vehicle. Don’t rely on the advice of your grandfather, or what you hear at the checkout counter at your local grocery store.
When You Don’t Change Your Oil
One of the reasons why we put so much emphasis on getting your oil changed when it is appropriate for your particular vehicle, is that the repercussions for missed oil changes can be devastating.
As we mentioned, oil is like the blood that your engine needs to properly run. If you don’t change the oil in your car when it needs it, unwanted buildup can occur on engine components that are cooler. This buildup may seem harmless at first, but it can lead to sludge and carbon deposits leaking into other parts of the engine. In order to fix this build up, an expensive engine cleaning is likely required, and you may even need to replace piston rings that have been damaged.
If you are one of the unlucky ones, neglecting oil changes can cause your engine’s pistons to completely seize, leading to camshaft damage. Your local mechanic will likely welcome this engine problem with open arms, right as you are opening your wallet.
The absolute worst case that can lead to ignored oil changes, is your engine shutting down. We don’t need to tell you that engine replacements are costly, so we won’t. But at the risk of sounding like a parrot, we will once again say – change your oil!
On the flip side, changing your oil too much is unlikely to cause your engine any harm, but your wallet may be silently weeping in your back pocket.
Whether you don’t change your oil enough, or change it too much, there really is no winner (except for maybe that mechanic you are single-handedly supporting).
A Routine Oil Change: What to Expect
If you are new to vehicle ownership, then you may have never had the experience of taking your vehicle in for a routine oil change. Despite regular oil changes being such a big deal to the overall health and well being of your vehicle, they are simple to have done, and tend to be considered cheap.
Before you head out, be sure to find a reputable service center for your oil change. Having a mechanic you can trust is important, especially if you plan to maintain that relationship over the years of your vehicle. Finding a certified service center for the type of vehicle you drive can also be beneficial. These service centers are most often located inside dealerships, and their expertise on the particular brand of car you drive can prove extremely beneficial to the overall health of your vehicle. Read reviews on different centers, choosing one that has overall positive customer feedback and prices that fit within your budget.
After you find a service center you know you can trust, call to make an appointment. Most service centers don’t require it, but driving to a location just to wait an hour is never any fun. Once you arrive, the representative at the front desk will ask you basic questions about your vehicle, before taking the keys for service.
Most oil changes will take between twenty minutes to one hour in length, depending on the service center you take it to and what their routine procedure is. Some garages will change the oil and send you on your way, while certified service centers will run a full point inspection on your vehicle to make sure everything else is in proper working order. At every other oil change appointment, expect to stay a few minutes longer for a tire rotation. This quick, five-minute procedure will help keep your tire tread even, allowing for maximum life expectancy on all four tires.
While the technician is servicing your vehicle, you can either wait the small amount of time, or leave and return later in the day. Most dealerships have amply stocked waiting areas with televisions, free wireless internet, and vending machines. While this certainly is no deal breaker, it does help to have a comfortable space to wait while your car is being worked on.
Don’t Forget! Remind Yourself to Keep Up with Maintenance
On older vehicles, it can be easy to forget to change your oil. Most newer models have an oil-life indicator, which will alert you when an oil change is needed. If your vehicle does not offer this technology, be sure to keep track of when your next oil change should take place.
Keeping a small spiral notebook in your glove box can be a great way to keep track of all maintenance your vehicle receives, which will also come in handy if you ever sell your vehicle. Meticulous maintenance records are always a positive, especially when it comes to the long term health of your car!