When it comes to proper vehicle maintenance, if there’s one thing you should never neglect, it’s routine oil changes. Most vehicle owners are good about having their oil changed at regular intervals, but unfortunately, many have limited understanding of the when and why behind the procedure.
While you can always rely on a qualified auto mechanic to take care of your oil changes, it’s never a bad idea to learn a bit more about your vehicle beyond how to operate it. Below, our AA Auto Tech team outlines basic oil change knowledge every vehicle owner should understand.
Routine Oil Changes: What’s the Appropriate Time Interval?
When should you change your oil? Is there a designated time interval? Should you base oil changes on the number of miles driven? Or should you just rely on your vehicle’s monitor to alert you? The answer to each of these questions is always the same: Rely on your owner’s manual for vehicle-specific oil change recommendations.
Over the years, oil change guidelines and timelines have evolved, and they can vary considerably from vehicle to vehicle. Though relying on past experience or auto mechanic recommendations might be a good starting point, ultimately, your owner’s manual is the most reliable source of information regarding routine maintenance schedules.
That said, if your vehicle features service reminder alerts, follow them. Modern alert systems are designed to monitor and adjust recommended oil change intervals based on driving distance and operator handling. If you’re hard on your vehicle — even if you haven’t driven the designated number of miles according to your owner’s manual — you may require oil changes at more frequent intervals.
Infrequent Drivers: How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
What if you rarely drive your vehicle? Do you still need routine oil changes? Absolutely. Even if your vehicle sits in your driveway most of the year, the oil still needs to be kept fresh to provide proper engine lubrication. Why?
As oil sits unused, it becomes less and less effective over time. Whether that means failing to remove excess moisture from the engine, or failing to reach appropriate operating temperature, ultimately, old oil can shorten the life of your engine. To maintain long-term engine performance, infrequent drivers should have routine oil changes twice per year.
Checking Your Oil Level: How Often Is Necessary?
As a vehicle owner, it’s your responsibility to check your vehicle’s oil levels at routine intervals. Checking your oil is your first line of defense against an engine-damaging oil leak, since this super-simple technique will immediately alert you to inadequate oil levels. And, even if you don’t have a leak, many vehicles may require periodic oil top-ups, which are impossible to detect if you never (or very rarely) check your oil levels. Here’s how to perform a quick and simple oil check:
● Park your vehicle on level ground to ensure the oil is evenly distributed within the reservoir.
● If you’ve been driving, give your vehicle plenty of time to cool down before checking the oil. Removing the dipstick while the engine is hot can result in severe burns, so never check your oil until the engine cools.
● With the engine off, open the hood and locate the oil dipstick.
● Pull the dipstick out and wipe away any oil residue with a clean, lint-free cloth.
● Reinsert the clean dipstick into its tube and push it all the way in.
● Pull the dipstick out and quickly observe where the oil level sits at the end of the stick.
● If the oil level is below the recommended minimum according to the dipstick crosshatches, you need to add oil for safe operation.
If you’re missing a considerable amount of oil, you may be dealing with an oil leak, so take your vehicle to a licensed auto mechanic for a full inspection and diagnosis.
Looking for a Twin Cities Auto Mechanic? Contact AA Auto Tech Today
At AA Auto Tech, we’ve been providing full-service auto repair and preventative vehicle maintenance since 1979. From routine oil changes and tire replacements to comprehensive engine repair and transmission repair, we have the equipment, experience, and technical know-how to remedy any vehicle issue you may be facing.
To learn more about our auto repair services or to schedule your appointment, give our team a call at 651-437-2218 or send us a message on our contact page, and we’ll be in touch promptly.