A Change for the Better

By Frank Canna
engine03Okay, thanks to a downturn in the economy, it looks like many of us will be keeping our cars a little longer than we once thought. That’s why, now more than ever, it pays to take care
of your ride by focusing on routine preventative maintenance. Let’s start with what you need to do in order to prolong the life of your engine. Of course, frequent oil changes should be at the top of your list. By changing your oil often, you can actually keep your engine running smoothly and repair free for a long time.

Yes it’s true. The primary function of motor oil is to lubricate the engine’s internal moving parts. Did you know that motor oil also serves another useful purpose? One that is equally important and yet sometimes overlooked. That function is its ability to carry away dirty, abrasive contaminants. It’s a fact, Motor oil is actually engineered to pick up and suspend particles of contamination that can slowly damage your engine. And here’s the best part. With frequent oil changes, you basically eliminate the majority of harmful contamination with each change.

Think about it this way. New motor oil is almost clear in color, while oil that’s been in your engine for thousands of miles slowly becomes very dark. And when the oil hasn’t been changed for a long time, it can actually begin to take on a deep black color. Basically, the longer you leave that dirty oil in your car, the less capacity the oil has for picking up and carrying away contaminated residue. Of course, every time you change your oil and replace it with fresh new motor oil, the process of collecting more and more particles of contamination is allowed to begin all over again until the next oil change. Remember, the oil in your engine is constantly working to help keep your engine trouble free. And the best way to save money and avoid costly repairs is to simply change your oil at regularly scheduled intervals. That’s the key. Frequent oil changes. It’s clearly the single most important thing you can do to protect your engine.

engine02Should the oil be changed every 3,000 Miles or 5,000 Miles?

Well, that depends on how often your car is driven in dirty dusty conditions and whether or not you spend a lot of time driving in stop and go traffic. Another sometimes forgotten consideration is how often you drive your vehicle. In many cases, engine contamination can actually increase when your car is driven infrequently. This is something to consider, especially when you make a lot of short trips. You see, short trips around town do not allow enough time for your engine to get up to full operating temperature. When this happens, moisture begins to accumulate, which normally would have been burned off at normal operating temperature. The residue from this moisture can further contaminate your oil. These types of conditions all play a part in your consideration of how often you should change your oil. To be on the safe side, the best advice is to change your oil every 3,000 miles. At the very minimum, 5,000 miles between changes would be the next best thing. Waiting any longer than 5,000 miles between oil changes is not recommended.

Should the filter also be changed with each oil change?

Yes, a new filter should always be installed with each oil change. Why? Simply because the old filter actually contains dirty contaminated oil, which will eventually mix in with the new oil. By installing a new oil filter at every oil change, you are guaranteed that all of the oil circulating in your engine is fresh clean motor oil. Now that’s peace of mind.

What about SAE oil viscosity ratings?

For the person who changes their own oil, your choice of motor oil is all about buying your favorite brand and checking your owner’s manual to make sure you’ve got the correct type of oil. It is a safe bet that your car probably uses multi-weight 5W-30 motor oil. According to the specifications set by the Society of Automotive Engineers, 5W refers to how thin the oil is when the oil is cold and 30 refers to how thick the oil becomes once it is heated up to operating temperature. Yes, the viscosity of motor oil actually changes as the temperature of the oil changes. There is a reason why motor oil has been engineered this way. And that’s because, thinner oil is better during cold start ups, as it allows for quicker, easier flow, while thicker oil works better once the engine heats up. The key for anyone changing their own oil is to simply follow the manufacturer’s advice by always using the correct multi-weight oil specified for your vehicle.

When should the oil level be checked?

Between oil changes you should get into the routine of checking your oil at least once a month. Of course, you may need to check your oil more often depending on the age and condition of your vehicle. A good time to check your oil is at each gas fill up, especially during extensive high speed road trips. Always check your oil after your car has been driven and the engine has had time to warm up. Once the engine has been turned off, wait a few minutes to allow the circulated oil to drain back into the oil pan. Lift the hood and locate the oil dipstick. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean using a paper towel and then reinsert it. Pull the dipstick out a second time. Be sure to hold the dipstick in an upright position similar to the way it was removed. Look closely at the oil level as it shows up on the dipstick. The upper hash mark on the dipstick indicates the full level. The lower hash mark identifies the add level. Ideally, your oil level should fall somewhere between the two hash marks. You can figure the space between the full and add hash marks is equal to about one quart of oil. Of course, when the oil level drops below the add mark, you will usually need about one quart of oil to bring the level back up to full. Be careful and do not overfill. It is always better to add a portion of the quart first, recheck your oil level and then add more oil to bring it up to full. Doing it this way will avoid any chance of overfilling.

What about Oil Life Monitors?

engine01So your new car has an oil life monitor. Now, what should you do? It’s true, many of today’s new cars are now coming through with an oil life monitor. These devices basically give you a snapshot of the percentage of life expectancy of your oil that’s remaining until your next change. This is very valuable information. However, there is something you need to know. Since this neat little monitor basically relies on your vehicle mileage, it really has no way of taking into consideration anything about the driving conditions your car has been exposed to during those recorded miles. So even with the help of these new gadgets, it still comes down to you being the judge as to whether you should change your oil at 3,000 miles or 5,000 miles.

So, is it time to make a change for the better? You bet it is!

Happy Motoring!

Frank Canna has been in the detailing business for more than 20 years and is the owner of Mirror Finish Detailing, Williamstown, NJ.
Visit his website at mysite.verizon.net/canna He can be reached at canna@verizon.net
Twitter: @mirrorfinish

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