Remember the 5,000-kilometer rule when it comes to changing your engine oil? Guess what, experts say it’s a thing of the past now. Truth is, modern engine oil can actually last longer than that. We’re looking at around 10,000 km to 24,000 km mileage, while some oil can even go beyond that. Regardless, it is an important aspect of general vehicle maintenance that shouldn't be overlooked.
Different figures found online can indeed cause some people confusion. With varying information and opinions scattered around, you might wonder—how often do I really need to change my car’s oil? We may have some answers for you, so sit back and continue reading.
Types of engine oils
Before we dive into the main topic, it is best if you’re well aware of the different types of engine oil. Oils differ in viscosity, or its resistance to flow. This is indicated on the label and follows the 0W-00 format. The ‘0’ before the ‘W’ is the fluid’s flow rate in -17.8 degrees Celsius, while W, on the other hand, refers to winter. The lower the number that precedes W, the less the fluid thickens in colder weather. 10W-00 thickens less in cold temperatures compared to 20W-00.
The numbers following the dash (-) rate the fluid’s resistance to thinning at high temperatures (measured at 100 degrees Celsius). Here, the higher the number, the longer the oil thins out when heated. Therefore, 10W-20 thins out faster than 10W-30. Now that you know how to read the viscosity indication on your oil’s label, let’s proceed to the different types of engine oil.
Conventional oil – this is usually the cheapest type of engine fluid that you can find at auto shops. They come with fewer additives compared to synthetic and fully-synthetic. Nowadays, premium conventional oils are more apparent than conventional oils. Conventional oils are good for brand new cars, as brand new engines require breaking in at at least 7,000 km so it’s only wise to opt for a conventional oil during the first 7,000 to 10,000 km – you’ll also benefit from the fact that it’s inexpensive.
Fully-Synthetic oil – artificially designed for high-tech engines, this type of oil is said to flow better even with cold temperature and remains highly-functional despite high temperatures. Basically, it is crude oil with laboratory modifications that vary from one manufacturer to the other. The additives are a well-kept secret, though their advantages over conventional oils are very much spoken off.
Synthetic-blend oil – a combination of conventional and synthetic oils. This is formulated exclusively for heavy engine loads, which is why it is sought after by SUVs and pickups owners.
High-mileage oil – this can either be a synthetic or a conventional oil but with a twist; high-mileage oils contain seal conditioners to extend the flexibility of the engine seals. This is highly-recommendable for vehicles which already clocked in over 100,000 km.
Factors you need to consider
If you’re wondering how frequent you should change your engine oil, you’ll need to look at varying factors. If you use your car every day, it will accumulate more mileage at a faster pace. So, changing the engine oil of your daily driver and your weekend car will not fall on the same calendar page. Obviously, the car you use the most will have more mileage in a shorter period of time, which means you’ll need to replace the oil in it more frequently.
Another factor that concerns oil changing is the model of your car. It turns out that modern cars have modern-day engines, which are more efficient than generations before (obviously). Older cars are more likely to follow the 5,000-km rule, while modern cars follow longer schedules than that. Then, there are the types of engine oils, as mentioned earlier as another factor. The point is that the things you find on the internet will not always be applicable to your situation. So, evaluate first before you act.
What happens when you don’t change your oil?
Changing your oil earlier than the required mileage does not harm your engine nor bring some positive results. However, doing so wastes your resources; time, money, and effort. It's not changing your oil on time that will cause you problems. Engine oil is somehow comparable to our saliva, without it, our teeth will decay fast and our digestive system won’t function the way it should – simple as that.
Motor oils lubricate your engine, keeping the moving parts functioning, preventing them from wear and tear due to friction. They also absorb heat because your engine generates heat from fuel combustion. Like any other fluid in your car, motor oils wear out and when they do, their lubricating and heat-absorbing capabilities weaken. Soon enough, your engine will face dirt, gunk, corrosion, and other major damage if your engine oil sits in there for too long.
Now, when do you really change your oil?
As we have stated above, topping up new motor oil depends on multiple factors. Experts say that the severity of usage heavily affects your oil change schedule. Cars used for business, either for material transport of passenger service, are subject to more frequent oil changes. Meanwhile, if you use your car normally, such as daily home-to-office drives, you may follow the common schedule recommended by your dealer.
Ideally, you should follow a regular oil change schedule as part of the preventive maintenance service (PMS). Failing to do so would result in voiding your warranty and you don’t want that. The maintenance schedule is found on your car’s owner’s manual.
Hints that your engine oil needs to be changed, ASAP
If, however, your car is outside the warranty coverage, there are clues and warnings to know when it’s time for an oil change. Don’t fret, however, as it can easily be observed.
Engine sound – if you think your engine is noisier than it usually sounds, it might be because your oil has been sitting there a bit too long. Unnecessary sounds from your engine could be a cause of low engine oil. That’s because build ups on certain parts of your engine can cause friction of moving parts. This also causes vibrations during ignition.
Check engine or check oil warning is lit up – there’s only one reason why these warnings are lit; you need to have it checked. You may also check the oil yourself by locating the yellow round pin in your engine bay, which is known as the oil dipstick. Pull it to check the level of your oil, as well as the color.
Dark, even black, oil color – this is a sign that you need to flush the old oil and top your engine up with a fresh batch. Fresh motor oil is light brown in color. It gets dark due to varying conditions in the engine, such as high temperature and the presence of contaminants.
Taking note of your mileage also helps, as you could evaluate the aforementioned factors easier by basing it on your kilometer reading. Bottom line is, if your car is an old model, it’s best for you to follow the 5,000-km rule. If it’s relatively brand new, just refer to the schedule for when your car was still covered by the warranty.