How to Know When to Change Your Oil in your Vehicle

April 20th, 2012


Today in the Oil Changers auto care blog, we’re going to talk to you about oil change intervals.

It seems that as engine technology advances vehicle manufacturers make their engine service intervals longer.  What they don’t make as well known is that they also recommend the engine oil to be changed at a certain time interval regardless of the number of kilometers you have driven in that time ie kilometers travelled or time since the engine oil was changed, whichever comes first.

Under real world conditions the engine oil starts thicken up and form a sludge before the recommended change interval. Oil sludge is a thick jelly-like substance. Quite literally petroleum jelly – like Vaseline. This sludge clogs the vehicle’s small engine passages so the oil doesn’t  flow as well to some parts of the engine. This can result in engine damage. We see it too often at Oil Changers.

Here’s the bottom line for vehicle owners: with longer oil change intervals, it’s essential to follow them closely. Back in the day of 6 months or 5,000 kilometres, if you went an extra month or an extra thousand kilometres, your oil was still fresh enough that it didn’t have time to build up much sludge.

But if your recommended interval is 10,000 or 15,000 kilometres (or more) and you go over another thousand, you’re potentially getting into heavy sludge territory. You need to follow service intervals very closely and don’t forget your severe service schedule. If you do a lot of stop start driving, short trips, driving in dusty or polluted conditions, hot or cold weather, or towing heavy loads, you’re driving under severe service conditions. Your Oil Changers service advisor can help you determine which schedule to follow.

So check your owner’s manual or talk with your Oil Changers service advisor about where and how you drive. Should you change your oil closer to the regular schedule, or the severe service schedule? You need to make the call.

Let me give you an example of this. Some newer vehicles have an oil change indicator. It has a sophisticated computer algorithm that tracks number of cold starts, engine temperature, RPMs, mileage, and many more variables to come up with a recommendation for when to change the oil.

Depending on driving conditions, the indicator in one test vehicle came on at anywhere from 4,000 to almost 10,000 kilometres. It’s typically just over 7,000 kilometres. Sometimes we drive roads that are easy on the vehicle – like a long road trip. Sometimes, our vehicles are used for fairly hard work – like towing a heavy trailer or a lot of around town driving but, usually, it’s a combination of both.

Once again, it’s up to you to make the call as to when to change your oil to protect your vehicle engine. Another place where drivers can go wrong is with the type of oil they use. More and more new cars are coming out filled with synthetic oil.

It can cost a bit more than a conventional mineral engine oil so some people are tempted to use a conventional mineral oil for their oil changes. It’s always best practice to use the oil recommended by your Manufacturer. Check your owner’s manual see if a conventional oil alternative is allowed.

Oil Changers