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Oil Changes – How Technology Has Changed the 5,000 km Rule

Oil Change
Photo: iStockphoto

Why do you need to perform an oil change?

Whether you do the job or leave it to your mechanic, performing an oil change on your vehicle is one of the most important vehicle maintenance procedures. As the oil breaks down, it no longer performs as well, lessening its ability to provide adequate protection to your engine. If you do not get regular oil changes it can affect the oil’s ability to lubricate your engine properly. Dirt builds up and additives in the oil that protect your engine will wear out.

How often should you get an oil change?

I’ve had this debate with many people as I’m one of those overprotective vehicle owners who changes their oil before the stated timeframe recommended in the owner’s manual.  I guess it’s just a habit that I’ve formed – when I see a 5,000 km increment on my odometer, a light goes off.  No… not the maintenance light in my car, the one in my head!  I’ve been conditioned for so long to change my oil at 5,000 km it’s hard to let it go – I don’t want to hurt my car of course. At least I recognize that I need to break this habit. I’m just throwing out good oil!

With so many advancements in automotive technology and engine oil, many auto manufacturers now recommend oil changes anywhere from 6,000 km to 25,000 km, or at 3 – 6 month intervals, depending on your driving style.  There are typically different recommendations based on if you drive under “normal, “severe” or “special” driving conditions. For example, if you consistently drive only short distances you should change your oil more often because your engine doesn’t reach normal operating temperatures and carbon can begin to build up. It’s always a good idea to follow what your owner’s manual recommends.  

If you use synthetic oil, typically the life span increases further. You can read more about synthetic oil in a previous PumpTalk Post “Synthetic Oil: Making the Switch

It’s not just about the oil:

Changing your oil filter at the time of your oil change is just as important as the oil change. Your oil filter helps filter out contaminants like dust particles and debris, similar to your air filter.

It’s also a good idea to check your engine oil level every few hundred kilometers to ensure that you are not losing oil. Top it up to the level shown on your dipstick and be sure not to overfill. Overfilling your oil can build up too much pressure in your engine, which can cause oil seals to fail and you’ll have unnecessary repairs to your vehicle in the future.

Do you follow your auto manufacturer’s recommended timeframe for oil changes?  Do you perform your oil changes yourself – or let the experts handle it?

- Julie S.

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