Whenever we think of car maintenance, the topic of oil changes always springs to thought. Changing your engine’s lubricant is important, and manufacturers often give exacting specifications and intervals as to when your car is due for a trip to the shop or dealership.
However, one may wonder why it is important to regularly and religiously change one’s oil with the right stuff? That’s a bit of a loaded question, but one that isn’t unanswerable. Let’s get into it.
It keeps things slippery and cool
Engine oil is called lubricant for a reason. It prevents the metals in the engine componentry from rubbing up against each other, scratching, and even chipping away at the delicate. Metal-to-metal contact is indeed detrimental to the motor because tolerances can be worn away in a matter of seconds if there is no oil getting pumped through. Parts like the pistons, camshafts, crankshafts, and even in the gearbox, require a barrier of lubrication in order to avoid that dreaded metal-to-metal contact.
Over time, with constant heat cycling – or going from hot to cold and back, the oil thins out and breaks down or becomes part of the combustion cycle. You do lose a bit of oil after a while, so it is also important to always check your levels so as to not starve your engine of precious lubricant. That being said, oil also carries heat away from the metal, and it can also serve as a cooling system for the engine through the use of oil coolers.
It keeps things clean
Another property that oil has aside from protection and making sure things don’t rub up against each other directly is the cleaning factor that the oil has. Like making juice from concentrate, there is a limit to how much dirt your oil can hold. It will also carry away metal particulate and other dirt and grime that gets into your engine. If you don’t change your oil, sludge will build-up, which can damage multiple engine components like your oil pump among other things.
Of course, whenever you do get an oil change, the old oil filter also has to go, as this assists in the cleaning process for your car, and if your filter is clogged, you run the risk of starving your engine of oil, and sludge will also block the flow and decrease your oil’s ability to go places and lubricate your engine’s components.
You can improve performance slightly
There is a bit of a difference that you may feel if you change your oil. Since motor oil degrades over time and accumulates dirt and other grime, it has a tendency to get heavier and more particulate-filled as you beat on your car day in and day out. So in this case, it’s not really an improvement in performance, it’s more like bringing back your engine to its optimal performance, or close to it considering that age plays a factor in deteriorating engine output.
Though, if you’re ‘upgrading’ your engine oil to something else, make sure that it is still within acceptable spec based on your owner’s manual. Most manufacturers will provide metrics as to what weight oil you can use depending on if it is synthetic, semi-synthetic, or mineral. Typically, the more synthetic your oil is, the thinner it can be leading to – perhaps – improved engine response and thus leading to slightly better performance.
Better fuel economy
On top of better performance, you might also get a slight bump in fuel efficiency. Since your engine components are less impeded by old oil. Fresh lube will allow things to move more freely and with less resistance, meaning that you get better energy transfer, which results in better fuel economy, albeit not to life-changing results depending on how badly you need that oil change.
Now to set expectations, you could be seeing a good improvement over a car that is in dire need of a change, however, the point of changing your oil regularly is to maintain your car’s peak performance throughout its entire lifespan. Much like the performance benefit, changing the oil to a thinner and synthetic blend will allow your engine to move easier since the oil can be thinner.
Longer engine life
It goes without saying, but if you ensure that your motor is in tip-top condition, and is also maintained properly, it will last longer. Considering that oil protects your motor’s components, it is only natural that the motor will be less likely to break, provided you also follow your service intervals, and also take care of your car in general. If you regularly change the oil and all other fluids, you shouldn’t worry too much.