Know Your Equation: No More Missed Oil Changes

Who or what tells you when to get oil changes? Is it your car’s manufacturer, the guy who did your last oil change, a trusty relative? Is it a sensor in your car, a light on its dashboard, or—let’s hope not—a clicking noise in your engine? There are lots of ways to determine when oil changes are due (or, in the last case, overdue). Yet it’s still wise to nail down the equation behind the schedule that’s best for you in particular. Simply put:

your car’s manufacturer’s schedule + your driving habits + environmental conditions = the magic number

The manufacturer’s recommended oil change schedule establishes your minimum interval. That is, don’t wait any longer than that interval but don’t hang your hat on it either. If you do a lot of stop-and-go driving or towing, if you’re often in dusty conditions or extreme temps, or if you carry many heavy loads or use a top carrier—these are all conditions that warrant more frequent oil changes. Skip them to save a few bucks, and you’re actually costing yourself money over the long-term.

Too many skipped oil changes decrease fuel efficiency and shorten your car’s life. Hot spots in the engine cause oil to gradually burn off over time. Water from normal condensation accumulates in the oil. Impurities build up, and so can carbon and varnish. The combined effect is thickened oil. Now, instead of gliding smoothly, your engine has to slog through sludge. It’s hard work. That’s why oil changes can improve gas mileage by a few cents per gallon, on average. Those savings and, more important, the longevity of a literally well-oiled machine amount to real dollars in your pocket.

Keeping your engine oil and oil filter fresh is one of the simplest, cheapest, most effective ways to have a healthy car that lives a good, long life. So, yes, remember your manufacturer’s recommendations, but also take a good, honest look at how and where you drive. Know the equation that tells you when to get oil changes for your car.