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What You Need to Know About Changing Your Oil, That Your Car Manufacturer Will Never Tell You!

Sep 8, 2008
An oil change is an oil change right? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Don't get another Oil change until you read this report.

Q: Do I really need to change my oil every 3,000 to 3,500 miles? My owner's manual says I can go 5,000, 7,000 or even 10,000 miles doesn't it?

A: Technically yes it does say that, but read the not so fine print. You can only do that if you drive under light service. Guess what, 95% or more of us drive under the 'Severe' or 'Extreme' conditions as described in most owners manuals. Yep, that's everyday stop and go driving, commuting, quick trips to the store, etc.
If you drive like that, as 95% of us do, you need to change your oil every 3,000 to 3,500 miles OR every 3 months.

Q: If I only drive a few hundred miles a month can I stick to the 3,000 or 3,500 mile guideline?
A: No! You need to change your oil at least every 3 months. Remember oil isn't just for lubricating it's also for cleaning and has what are called, 'detergents' and 'additives' in the oil that suspend all the bad crud, dirt, sludge, etc. in the oil so it doesn't stick inside your engine and gum up the works, so to speak.

If oil is left in the engine to long the 'detergents' and 'additive' break down then the dirt and sludge will stick to the metal and clog the tiny oil lubricating passages in your engine.

It's just like how cholesterol in your body clogs up your veins then you don't get enough blood where you need it. When the oil passages clog in your engine the oil doesn't get where it needs to be. It can cause thousands of dollars in engine repairs. You gotta get that crud out of there to make your engine run right and last longer.

Q: What are some of the problems you have seen from people not changing oil often enough?
A: BMW, says change your oil with synthetic every 10,000 miles. But I've found when you do this the normal moisture from the engine running does not get out of the engines oil.

In winter that moisture can freeze the passage closed that vents excess pressure out of the engine. When the pressure builds up too high it has to escape somewhere. I've seen it make engine seals leak or even pop out completely loosing almost all the engines oil, valve covers warp the oil can get in the catalytic converter destroying it causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Toyota has had major problems with oil gelling in oil pans (just like Jell-O). When that happens, it starves the engine for oil. VW, Audi & Saab have major problems with the tube that sucks the oil from the oil pan into the oil pump clogging. Once clogged it also starves the engine of oil. Volvo piston rings get stuck scraping cylinder walls and seizing the engine solid, and on and on. They don't tell you about these problems because they want to sell more cars!

Q: Is there a difference in types of oil and brands?

A: Yes, to some degree. But a lot of it is just 'marketing hype'. Each manufacturer has their own blend of additive packages and detergents that they add, but today most cars use a blended oil with a weight of 5-30 for cold weather driving, and 10-30 for warm weather driving. The 5-30 lets the oil get thinner and flow at colder temperatures than the 10-30. No matter what type of oil you use the most important thing to do is change it often.

Q: What about 'Synthetic Oil', is it worth the extra cost?

A: Yes if you drive a high performance import car or drive a race car, but even then you'd change the oil after each race. Generally the answer's No, you pay more but as I said the 2nd role of oil is to clean your engine and trap or suspend the dirt and crud. That means you still must clean out the oil regularly even synthetic oil.

Synthetic oil does flow better in extreme cold. But, is it worth the extra cost when most manufacturers and mechanics still suggest you change synthetic oil every 5,000 miles at the most? Let me put it this way, if you bought expensive toothpaste would you brush your teeth less often?

Q: What problems do you see and hear about most often with the Fast or Quick Oil Change places?
A: I'll just list a few, there are the obvious horror stories of wrong filters put on, loose leaking or stripped drain plugs, putting too much or not enough oil in or adding the wrong fluids.

1. Take a look at who's doing the work. How much experience do think they have working on cars.

2. Take a look at their tools, are they SAE? Metric? Or more likely just a vise grip, screwdriver, and an oil filter wrench?

3. These places almost NEVER replace the oil drain plug gasket. This can cause leaks of oil onto your garage floor or even worse you could loose all your oil. Yes this really does happen!

4. Since they're not technicians how much of a total vehicle inspection can they really do? Sure they can check the fluid levels and tire pressures. Let's face it, typically it takes about 30-45 minutes to properly inspect your car and perform an Oil Change with all the right parts, tools, gaskets, filters, etc.

They have to do it in under 10 minutes to make money, how much time can they take with your car? Sure they'll do it fast but is that what you really want? If you got a checkup from a doctor would you want the fastest one or the most thorough, even if it took a little longer?

5. Don't fall for all those extra things they often try to sell you. I'm talking about - higher quality oil, synthetic oil, additives, wiper blades, PCV valves, air filters. And additional charges for import car filters and oil if you need over 4 or 5 quarts.
About the Author
An auto repair expert for over 24 years, ASE Master Technician and AMA Graduate. He also owns Uptown Imports, an import auto repair shop specializing in Audi, BMW, SAAB and VW serving Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Twin Cities area of Minnesota for 20 years. Learn more at
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