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How to Determine When to Change Your Engine Oil

As we talked about on Tuesday, knowing when to change your engine oil has become more complex as changes are constantly made to new vehicle models. While you may think that relying on your car to tell you when it’s time for an engine oil change is the way to go, your car’s sensors don’t have all of the senses and information that you do.

When you check your oil, you can observe and take into account these things that your vehicle does not:

 

  1. Is the oil filter still working or is it completely soiled?

    Your car does not have a sensor that has the ability to check whether or not your oil is still being filtered. Once the filter is full, a bypass valve allows the oil to bypass the filter in order to keep engine oil flowing in the engine. If your filter is full, it might be a sign that it’s time to change. 

 

  1. Color, Smell & Viscosity

    Unlike us, our cars don’t have the physical senses that we do, so they can’t see or smell the oil in the same way that a human being can. Why is that important? The visual appearance of the oil tells a lot, if the oil is dark and thick, that means it's dirty, and so are the components that it is supposed to be lubricating. Additionally, the burnt smell of dirty oil can tell you whether or not fuel or vapors are getting into the oil. This is very important as this can really thin out the oil and cause more problems than you bargained for.

 

  1. Age of the oil

    How old is the oil? Believe it or not, engine oil does have a shelf life in the vehicle. Over time, moisture, fuel vapors, and other contaminants can enter the engine and break down that engine oil and fill up the filter.

 

  1. Extreme temperature changes

    When your engine oil experiences extreme spikes or drops in temperature, as can be typical here in Iowa, it may go through a change in viscosity or the thickness of the oil. In heat spikes, the oil thins out, and in cold drops, it thickens. Different viscosities in your oil change how it flows through the system. 

 

So, when should you change your oil? If you are using a basic or blend oil, you need to change your oil and filter every 3 months or 3,000 Miles. If you use a full synthetic oil, you can extend the interval to 5 months or 5,000 miles. For older vehicles it may be even more frequent. At the end of the day, you probably wouldn’t be too upset if you changed your oil once or twice more per year and your engine lasted twice as long. 

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