We’ve serviced thousands of cars across the country since 2014, and one of the most common maintenance issues our technicians have discovered is old motor oil. Some drivers live in cities or regions where they may not use their car as much, leading to too much time passing between oil change services. Others accidentally ignore their vehicle’s oil change intervals or, in the worst cases, forget about them altogether.
Regardless of where you stand, there’s an important question that needs to be answered: how do you know exactly when to get an oil change? Let’s take a look at what a routine oil change does for your car's engine and pinpoint the best time to schedule your next service.
Why a Routine Oil Change is Important
It should go without saying that keeping up with any maintenance item helps ensure the longevity of your vehicle. With the average age of cars in the U.S. reaching a record 12.1 years last year, there’s a greater need for routine oil changes to keep those older cars running.
When your car and its engine are running healthy, it’s easy to lose sight of how crucial routine oil changes are. But as anyone who has been forced off the road due to old oil can tell you, it’s one of the biggest inconveniences you can experience behind the wheel - especially if it’s derailing an exciting road trip. You definitely shouldn’t expect to head out on any long mileage trip without getting your oil changed first.
The longer you go without changing your oil, the greater the chance that you’ll encounter symptoms of old oil. These include:
- Loud engine noises, particularly when starting up your car
- Smoky engine exhaust
- Inconsistent drive quality and difficulty maintaining a stable speed
If you see any of these problems, then the “check engine” light is either on or just around the corner. Schedule a service appointment immediately to prevent engine damage and the need for substantial auto repair.
How Long Can I Go Without an Oil Change?
If you’re one of the many people who dread going in for an oil change, then this is the right place for a definitive answer on oil change intervals. But first, stop me if you’ve heard the “oil change every 3,000 miles” rule. Maybe from a dealership or quick lube shop where you’ve been serviced in the past?
While getting your oil changed that often would help maintain the health of your engine and avoid repairs, the era of 3,000-mile intervals has come and gone. Modern engines have improved to the point that 5,000 to 7,500-mile intervals are more appropriate. If you drive an older model or a classic car, then shorter intervals between fresh engine oil will help preserve its lifespan.
With our Spiffy Oil Change services, we stick with the owner’s manual and recommend getting your oil changed every six months or 7,500 miles, whichever comes first.
What are the Different Types of Car Oil?
When you’re planning an oil change appointment, it’s important to know the best oil type for your car’s engine. The most immediate answer to this question is in your owner’s manual, but it may differ depending on vehicle age, routine usage, and climate conditions.
There are four different oils to consider for your vehicle: full synthetic, synthetic blend, conventional, and high-mileage. Let's break them down further, so you know the benefits of each on your engine.
Full Synthetic Oil
Full synthetic oils take top-quality base oil and add natural gas or additives for more excellent engine protection than other choices. If you choose full synthetic, you can expect higher resistance to oxidation and thermal breakdowns, in both extreme heat and cold, and less oil sludge than a traditional option. Some synthetic oils are rated to last over 10,000 miles, depending on your driving tendencies.
In addition to these benefits, full synthetic is typically the pricer oil option. However, the pros vastly outweigh the cons, especially if you live somewhere with scorching summers or freezing and snowy winters.
We use Pennzoil Platinum®, which is made from natural gas with high-performance additives and fewer impurities than crude oil for our Spiffy Oil Changes. Not only is this motor oil completely clear, but it helps engine health by keeping pistons clear, increasing fuel efficiency, and delivering consistent performance.
The next step down is synthetic blend oil, which draws the same appeal as full synthetic but without a steep price. This type is a mixture of synthetic and conventional oils and additives that deliver a similar resistance to oxidation and thermal issues as full synthetic. It’s typically regarded as a good choice for the average driver, but your mileage may vary depending on your driving habits.
The most common type of motor oil is traditional petroleum-based oil. The standard 5W-30 grade includes additives that shift its viscosity based on temperatures, thickening at high temperature and thinning at low temperature.
Fresh conventional oil doesn’t act too much differently than synthetic oils, but it breaks down more quickly, which can harm your engine. Therefore, it’s recommended that you change it and the filter every 5,000 miles.
Finally, there’s high-mileage oil. You might think that this would mean it lasts longer than any other oil, but that’s incorrect! Instead, it’s designed for cars with more than 75,000 miles. It’s super helpful in extending the life of your older engine by reducing oil consumption, minimizing leaks from wear and tear, and preventing increased emissions.
Dismantling Common Motor Oil Myths
Before we wrap up, let’s dive into some common misconceptions about engine oil. There’s plenty of information out there that isn’t 100% accurate, making car care that much harder for all owners. You may have heard one or more of these myths from a friend, family member, or somewhere else on the Internet.
Regardless of where they originated, let’s break a few down before your next oil change:
- Never mix motor oils. Believe it or not, there is no danger to mixing synthetic oil with traditional oil. However, some experts say that while mixing won’t damage your car, conventional oil may detract from the superior performance of synthetics. Ultimately, it’s your call, but you don’t need to fret over engine damage from mixed motor oil.
- Synthetic oil is “fake.” As we stated above, synthetic motor oils are derived from crude oil, natural gas, and other materials. None of that means it’s a lower quality oil. There are many reasons to opt for synthetic over a traditional option. You may desire to use an oil that’s not solely derived from fossil fuels. Synthetic oil has also been specifically designed to have a higher viscosity, so you don’t have to change it as often. Higher viscosity even helps your oil handle a wider range of temperatures, while still performing well over time.
- Conventional oil is “useless.” While synthetic may be the better option in most cases, there are still times when you’ll want to choose regular motor oil. New engine parts can sometimes have some rough edges that haven’t been worked over yet, and traditional oils are better at smoothing these surfaces. Also, if you drive a classic car, you’ll definitely want to stick to traditional motor oil, as that is what those engines are designed to work with.
- Dark oil = get an oil change. I’m sure that many of us learned that dark oil means an oil change is needed ASAP. However, this isn’t always true and can instead mean that it's simply doing its job by suspending and filtering impurities in your engine. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that you're scheduling service at the right time or mile interval, as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer and based on the amount of driving you do. So long as you’re doing that, you don’t need to worry so much about the color.
If you only remember one thing from this article, let it be to always trust your owner's manual. Yes, they can be long and can sometimes take a bit to find exactly what you're looking for. But there are plenty of benefits and tips to learn about your specific vehicle that can help extend its life and minimize wear and tear. That's more than what any of these myths have to offer.
Let the Oil Change Come to You
We know that oil changes, car maintenance, and auto repair can quickly feel like a chore you don’t want to manage. Setting aside the time to head into a quick lube shop isn’t convenient or fun. Fortunately, our mobile oil change services are here to make caring for your car that much easier.
Keep your car running longer with routine oil changes at your home or office, provided by Spiffy. Our technicians will bring the tools and resources needed to replace your oil and its filter so that you can enjoy a healthier engine for another year or 7,500 miles - whichever comes first.
And, we recycle every drop of oil, over 50,000 gallons per month, with our Spiffy Green system. You even get a multi-point inspection to ensure your car’s up to standard!
Get started towards your next mobile oil change service with Spiffy today!