Regular oil changes are critical for proper vehicle maintenance. To the untrained eye, changing the oil may seem like a ho-hum, no-brainer task but in reality, performing this service correctly can extend the life of your car and improve fuel efficiency.
All about car motor oil
Modern oil products are engineered to optimize the functioning of your car by:
— Facilitating engine starts
— Reducing friction, wear, rust and corrosion
— Lubricating, cleaning and cooling engine parts
— Minimizing deposits in the combustion chamber, and
— Protecting the emission system.
Motor oil is definitely not “one size fits all”. Manufacturers define the quantity and type of oil to be used in each model of car or truck. Specifications include a service standard index rating from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and a viscosity grade by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Viscosity measures oil’s ability to flow at certain temperatures. The viscosity grade recommended for a particular vehicle may vary, depending upon the weather in the vehicle’s location. For example, a car driving through Minneapolis in January might use a thinner, less viscous oil than it would when driving through Phoenix in August.
If you’ve shopped around, you’ve probably seen a wide range in prices for oil service. Why is that? There are several possible explanations.
A shop may advertise an eye-catching low price to attract new customers. This tactic can be mutually beneficial — the car owner saves money and discovers a new shop; the shop expands its business.
Another shop may charge less because it uses an inferior grade of oil or oil filter. Or its employees may be inexperienced and earn lower wages. The lower price reflects the shop’s lower cost of operations, and potentially, the lower quality of its work.
A third scenario is that a shop may draw customers in with low pricing and then systematically up-sell. Employees may be rewarded with hefty bonuses for selling additional services. One company, for example, promotes a $29.95 oil change while its typical out-the-door ticket is $109.00, three to four times higher.
We’re all cost-conscious nowadays. But as tempting as it may be to save a few dollars, don’t risk your vehicle’s warranty or wellbeing. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when changing the oil in your car. Using low quality or non-specified products may void your warranty and result in increased fuel consumption or costly engine repairs.
Is it time for an oil change?
Motor oil has a limited useful life. Over time, oil loses viscosity and becomes contaminated with dirt or metal shavings. Eventually, it won’t be able to properly cool the engine or protect parts from grinding against each other.
Pay attention to your car’s oil-life monitor. When the monitor says it’s time for an oil change, it’s time.
If your car doesn’t have an oil-life monitor, follow the recommended schedule in the owner’s manual. Consider if driving conditions necessitate more frequent oil changes.
Learn about which driving conditions that are rough on motor oil.
If you are in the Torrance area, check out Specials page for our latest oil change discount coupon.
Tips for DIY’ers
Motor oil is stored in an oil pan bolted beneath the engine block of your vehicle. The pan is designed to hold a certain amount of oil. Periodically check the oil level to make sure it’s within the proper range. Do this by looking at the dipstick. Is the oil level between the MIN and MAX lines?
If it’s below MIN, add oil as explained in the owner’s manual or consider changing the oil. Insufficient oil may lead to dangerously high temperatures as the engine isn’t able to dissipate excess heat.
Too much oil — above the MAX line— is also a problem. Parts of the crankshaft may dip into the oil and churn air into it. This can cause the oil to foam and fluctuate in pressure, so the engine isn’t adequately lubricated. Overfilling may cause oil to leak from seals and gaskets.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the type of motor oil (performance level and viscosity grade) to use in your car. This information is contained in the owner’s manual.
Don’t forget the oil filter
Change the oil filter every time you change the oil. There are two types of oil filters — cartridges and enclosed (or “spin-on”) canisters. Be sure to use the filter that is specified for your vehicle. Using the wrong filter can result in leaks, improper filtration and low oil pressure,
Protect the planet
Recycle or dispose of used motor oil and oil filters in an environmentally-responsible manner. Your local independent repair shop, auto parts retailer or dealership may be able to help you. Or get more information from the LA County Department of Public Works.
Schedule an appointment to have your car's oil changed in Torrance or call (310) 373-7676.