If you are still one of those motorists that changes your oil every 3,000 miles, you may be spending a lot more on auto service than you need to. With the advancement of engine technology, most manufacturers have extended their oil-change intervals to 7,500- 10,000 miles, and some models can go even as high as 15,000 miles! This means that you could be changing your oil up to 5 times more than is actually necessary.
Over-servicing is common, especially among motorists that know little about the cars they own. However, you can break the habit by learning a few things about your car's engine and oil system, and it's as simple as the steps described below:
1. Your manual is your friend
Every car comes with a manual. If you bought a used or old model, you can still get a manual from the manufacturer's website. The manual is the single greatest resource you have to help you maintain your car. Read your manual and find out when your recommended oil change intervals are. More importantly, pay attention to the caveats: manuals have intervals for various auto and driving conditions and special indications for unique systems. Ensure that you adhere to the schedule that best describes your own driving and car conditions.
2. Use the oil life monitoring system
A more recent inclusion in vehicles, manufacturers have various systems to monitor oil quality and to notify you when you're due for a change. Simpler systems use the mileage to turn on the 'Check oil' light, while more advanced systems use multiple sensors in the vehicle to predict lifespan based on driving habits and car condition.
Read your manual to find out how your system works: you may see a number showing the percentage of usage left so you can schedule your service appointment. If you ignore that marker, you may see a negative number showing how overdue you are for a change. Following service, the mechanic will reset the monitoring system.
Only use manufacturer-recommended oils, as these monitoring systems are specifically calibrated to work with those. Upgrading to better quality oil may be wasteful unless the monitoring system is recalibrated based on the new oil (this can only be done by the manufacturer).
3. Consider your vehicle usage
Cars that are seldom used don't have the same maintenance needs as frequently used cars, but not in the way you think. For instance, engine oil is degraded by heat and gases being blown by the pistons. When these gases sit long in the oil, such as when the car is stationary, degradation actually occurs faster. This is why manufacturers prescribe both mileage and time intervals for their oil change schedules.
Do not simply wait until you clock the next 10,000 miles (for instance) before scheduling your oil change. For low-mileage cars, switch your intervals to the calendar ones recommended. Alternatively, you can get oil analysis from your auto-mechanic. This will also reveal any early-stage problems with your engine and give you a recommendation on how much longer/further you can go before your next oil change.