Changing your oil is one of those things that most people just take for granted and don't really consider anything more than the fact that they have to do it every few months. While I'll never been on an pit team, most of us "have a guy" that can do it and a few of us even have actually done it themselves. But most of us really have never considered why we do it and what that oil actually does for us. For me, the first time I saw the difference between clean engine oil and the dirty stuff on my dipstick, I was amazed.
How Often Do You Need to Change Your Oil?
The simple answer is that "it depends" and your best bet is to check your owner’s manual. However, while conventional wisdom suggests changing your oil every 3,000 miles - modern engines and synthetic motor oils can last much longer. Equally important though is to make sure you change your oil regularly, even if you aren't driving long distances.
Why is My Oil Dark?
When the oil first goes into your engine it is generally clean looking and a translucent yellowish liquid. After time circulating in the engine it picks up dirt and grime. Just because it's dark though doesn't necessarily mean that it's time to change your oil immediately. It simply means that the oil is working and that it's holding the contaminants rather than leaving them in the engine where it could cause damage.
Does Oil Expire?
Motor oil generally doesn't expire and it can be recycled. The shelf life of a high-quality motor oil like Mobil 1™ is up to five years.
Why Can't I Just Dump the Used Oil Down the Drain?
Oil may have come from the Earth but that doesn't mean you should return it there. Instead, most auto parts stores (including Advance Auto Parts) offer oil recycling. Oil from one oil change can contaminate one million gallons of water if it isn't properly recycled!
What Does Motor Oil Actually Do For The Engine?
The simple answer is that it keeps things lubricated, but that's only part of the answer. Motor oil helps keep the engine cool (by reducing friction), clean (by carrying contaminants away from sensitive parts), and can help transfer power so that the engine continues to work to its maximum efficiency. Each engine is slightly different and so you want to make sure to use the oil that is correct for your car. Typically, you will find that oil type listed in the owner’s manual or on the oil cap.
What Do the Oil Types Mean?
In my case the oil is 5W-20 for my 2013 Kia Soul. The first number is the highest viscosity rating in winter (W) and the second number is the designed weight of the oil when it is hot. Most people should follow the recommended oil type from the manufacturer. However, if you live in extreme climate such as Alaska in the winter, or Arizona in the summer you may want to adjust your type of oil to maintain the proper viscosity in those temperatures. Mobil 1 is engineered for extremes. Mobil 1 delivers performance and protection down to -40 degrees and keeps working up to 500 degree Fahrenheit. For instance, a 5W-30 oil will be thicker under general conditions in an active engine but under extreme heat will become more thin and closer to a 5W-20. Oil that is too thick or too thin could damage your engine at worst and cause lower engine efficiency (and lower gas mileage) at best, so it's always best to follow your manufacturers recommendations.
What is Synthetic Motor Oil?
The first important thing here is that both synthetic and conventional oil start in the ground. However, synthetic oil is refined then distilled, purified and broken down to its basic molecules. This extra processing goes further towards reducing impurities than conventional oil and then helps the engine by inserting key additives such as those found in Mobil 1™. These additives help the engine stay cleaner, offer greater engine wear protection, maintains a better flow at low temperatures and protects better at high temperatures. For those with turbochargers, synthetic oils are also designed to work well in that style of engine where turbocharger shafts can spin upwards of 200,000 revolutions per minute. Just a reminder to anyone thinking that turbos are just for race cars - think again! Many modern cars today include a small engine with a turbocharger designed to seek out maximum gas mileage performance.
What is High Mileage Oil?
Just like any machine (including your own body!) needs change as parts begin to wear down. With high-mileage vehicles (more than 75,000 miles) you'll want to make sure there is extra protection to help reduce engine sludge as well as help to protect worn seals and reduce the chances of leaking.
Why Do I Need an Oil Filter?
The oil filter is designed to eliminate those particles that the oil recovers from the engine so that it doesn't cause damage. Choosing the correct oil filter is just as important as making the correct choice with oil since without a filter you are simply going to be recirculating dirty oil (or not enough) back through the engine.
Where Can I go for Help to Learn More?
I'm not the most mechanically inclined guy but I like to learn when I can. So during the process of this post I went in and talked with a representative from Advance Auto Parts and asked a few questions. Honestly I felt pretty stupid initially not enough knowing the basic answers to the questions above. However, he was super nice and understanding - I think he was actually excited to help share some of his knowledge with someone like myself. Even online, Advance Auto Parts has a great blog with tons of tips in their DIY Garage Blog. This experience was hugely informative for me and it opened my eyes to both the possibility of doing my own oil changes (it's really not that difficult if you have space and basic equipment) and also the right things to ask my mechanic should I choose to have him do the job for me. For instance, I used to scoff at the "up sell" when someone asked me if I wanted a premium oil such as Mobil 1™ ... but now I understand the importance of treating your engine right and that maybe it is worth the extra money to potentially make the car last longer and maintain fuel efficiency.
Starting September 20 – November 30, 2016 when you buy any 5 quarts of Mobil 1 in one transaction at Advance Auto Parts, you will receive one free Fandango movie ticket, offer for in store purchases only, online purchases are not eligible. Click here for more information.