But I Don't Know Anything About Cars: Oil Changes

May 23


Jessica Harmon

Jessica Harmon

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Oil changes are crucial for maintaining the health and longevity of your vehicle's engine. Regular oil maintenance ensures that your car runs smoothly and efficiently. This article delves into the importance of oil changes, how often they should be done, how to check your oil, and what type of oil is best for your vehicle. By the end, you'll be equipped with the knowledge to keep your car in top shape.


The Importance of Oil Changes

Oil changes are a fundamental aspect of vehicle maintenance. The oil in your engine serves as a lubricant for the numerous moving metal parts. Without proper lubrication,But I Don't Know Anything About Cars: Oil Changes Articles these parts can grind against each other, causing significant wear and tear. Clean oil reduces friction, minimizes wear, and helps to keep the engine cool.

Why Oil Quality Matters

Over time, engine oil can become contaminated with dirt, debris, and other particles. Dirty oil loses its effectiveness as a lubricant, which can lead to increased engine wear and even engine failure. According to a study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), neglecting oil changes can reduce your engine's lifespan by up to 25% (source).

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

The traditional guideline for oil changes has been every 3,000 miles or three months, whichever comes first. However, advancements in engine technology and oil formulations have extended this interval for many modern vehicles.

Modern Recommendations

  • 3,000 Miles/3 Months: Still applicable for older vehicles or those under severe driving conditions.
  • 5,000 to 7,500 Miles: Common for most modern vehicles.
  • 7,500 to 10,000 Miles: Some high-performance or synthetic oils can last this long.

It's essential to consult your vehicle's owner's manual for the manufacturer's specific recommendations. According to a 2017 study by J.D. Power, 70% of new car owners follow the manufacturer's oil change interval (source).

How to Check Your Oil

Checking your oil is a simple yet vital task that can help you determine when it's time for an oil change.

Steps to Check Your Oil

  1. Park on Level Ground: Ensure your vehicle is on a flat surface.
  2. Turn Off the Engine: Let it sit for at least five minutes.
  3. Locate the Dipstick: Usually marked with a brightly colored handle.
  4. Pull Out the Dipstick: Wipe it clean with a lint-free rag.
  5. Reinsert and Remove: Check the oil level against the minimum and maximum marks.
  6. Inspect the Oil: Rub some oil between your fingers. If it feels gritty or smells burnt, it's time for a change.

Visual Guide

Step Description
1 Park on level ground
2 Turn off the engine
3 Locate the dipstick
4 Pull out and wipe clean
5 Reinsert and remove
6 Inspect the oil

Choosing the Right Oil

Selecting the correct oil for your vehicle is crucial. Your owner's manual will typically list the recommended oil types.

Types of Engine Oil

  • Conventional Oil: Suitable for light-duty, late-model cars.
  • Synthetic Oil: Offers better performance and protection, especially in extreme temperatures.
  • High-Mileage Oil: Formulated for vehicles with over 75,000 miles.

Viscosity Ratings

Oil viscosity is indicated by a series of numbers and letters (e.g., 5W-30). The first number (5W) represents the oil's viscosity at low temperatures, while the second number (30) indicates its viscosity at high temperatures. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for viscosity ratings.


Understanding the basics of oil changes can significantly impact the longevity and performance of your vehicle. Regular oil maintenance is not just a recommendation; it's a necessity. For more detailed information on vehicle maintenance and emergency tips, explore our other articles in the "I Don’t Know Anything About Cars" series.

By staying informed and proactive, you can ensure that your vehicle remains reliable and efficient for years to come. Don't overlook the importance of regular oil changes—your engine will thank you.

For further reading on the importance of oil changes, check out this comprehensive guide by Edmunds.