The Oil Change Guide: 10 Questions Answered by Hotchkiss Auto Repair

Periodically the question comes up, “Do I need an oil change?”  Life is busy and it is never a great time to be without your car.  As you are cruising down the highway, that pesky “Maintenance Required” light comes… great timing! You also noticed your oil change reminder sticker and see that the next oil change is overdue.  It is tempting to skip your oil change or put it off for a more convenient time and it won’t be that bad right?  Wrong.  

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine and it has many vital roles in protecting the longevity of your car.  Poor vehicle maintenance is the most common cause of premature vehicle failure.  Continue reading to learn more on Ten Common Oil Change Questions that will better inform you on how to best maintain your vehicle and ensure it has a long and reliable life!

1. Why does my vehicle need an oil change?
Engine oil has additives such as detergents, rust fighters, and friction reducers that all play a critical role in keeping your engine clean, lubricated and running smoothly.  Over time these additives and the oil itself break down and are collected in your oil filter along with dirt and debris the oil picks up along the way.  Once the oil filter is full of contaminants, it can no longer do its job.  The oil then becomes thick and abrasive, eventually causing the engine parts to start to wear down.  The last thing a vehicle wants is its engine oil to be described as a sludge.  In addition to the added wear on the engine parts, your fuel efficiency and overall engine performance begins to deteriorate because that engine is having to work harder to operate.  Furthermore, dirty oil no longer draws heat from the engine potentially warping the critical metal components; heat is the greatest enemy of both the engine and transmission so it’s critical to avoid an overheating condition.  Once that occurs, it will likely go unnoticed until a gasket gets damaged and leaks become prevalent, therefore leading to costly repairs.  Eventually, the oil will become thick enough that your engine will seize, and you will likely be looking to buy a new car.

2. Should I complete the oil change myself or take my vehicle to a local repair shop?
It is important to have your local repair shop service your vehicle for oil changes as your vehicle receives an inspection that can warn you of any upcoming problems or required maintenance to help avoid expensive repairs. In addition, servicing your own oil typically doesn’t save much money by the time you factor in the cost of your time to do it, especially because repair shops frequently sell oil changes at very low to no profit. 

3. How costly is an oil change and are any new parts involved with a standard oil change?
Fortunately, a vehicle oil change is one of the least expensive maintenance services available and doesn’t take long to do! When performing an oil change, we always lube the steering, suspension, and drivetrain systems, replace the oil filter, top off fluids, and perform a courtesy inspection to look for any safety concerns or upcoming maintenance items.

4. Where can I find my engine oil type and what is the difference between those numbers?
You can find the recommended oil for your vehicle in the owner’s manual. It’s often also on the engine oil cap on the top of the engine.  The numbers used to describe the oil represent the oil’s viscosity, and the lower the number the thinner the oil is. The “W” stands for “Winter” meaning the oil will maintain that viscosity even in cold winter temperatures as temperature impacts oil’s viscosity. So, when we say a 5W30 oil it means the oil has a viscosity of a 5 weight in cold temperatures and will range up to a 30 weight in warm temperatures.

5. What is the difference between regular and synthetic oil?
Synthetic oil is a laboratory created oil designed by engineers, scientists and chemists that has been created to increase the lubrication properties and reduce heat buildup to protect the longevity of your engine.  It uses higher quality base oils.  Conventional oil is blended with chemical additives because it’s chemically more unstable plus other modifiers to meet the manufacturer’s specified levels of heat tolerance, breakdown resistance and viscosity. It uses less-refined base oils.  Synthetic blend oil uses a mixture of conventional oil and full synthetic oil to get the best of both worlds. Most newer model vehicles require a synthetic blend or full synthetic oil, while older vehicles with lower mileage and a history of regular maintenance are more suited for conventional oil.   

6. What is the regular oil change interval for my vehicle?
If your vehicle uses conventional oil you should be replacing it every 3,000 miles.  If you are using a synthetic blend or full synthetic oil, we recommend replacing the oil every 6,000 miles even if your owner’s manual suggests a 10,000 mile interval. Even though the oil doesn’t break down until 10,000 miles, at 6,000 miles the oil filter begins to implode on itself and is no longer effective.

7. What situations justify shortening the recommended oil change interval?
If 80% or more of your driving is on short trips in city traffic, it puts excessive wear on your vehicle, and it may be time to discuss shorter oil change intervals. Another reason to shorten your oil change interval is once your vehicle starts getting higher in mileage. Typically, once vehicles age, it is common for the engine to start consuming oil causing it to run low. If you find that your vehicle is starting to run low on oil by the time your oil change is due it may be time to discuss shortening your oil change intervals.  Another reason to complete an oil change prior to reaching the target mileage is time.  If a vehicle is not driven frequently and it might be years before it realizes 10,000 miles, it’s better to target an oil change every 12-18 months.  The relatively low cost of an oil change is worth the money to ensure time and inactivity does not cause damage to the vehicle.

8. Are there any additives I should request added into my oil during the maintenance service?
We recommend adding BG MOA (BG Motor Oil Additive) with every oil change.  MOA is designed to protect the longevity of your engine by keeping piston rings from sticking, stabilize oil viscosity, prevent oil sludge and varnish, reduces engine wear, and prevents increased harmful emissions.  For only $20-$25 extra, this is a valuable and inexpensive investment into your vehicle.

9. Should I get any other maintenance work completed with my oil change?
With every visit we perform a courtesy inspection to check for regular maintenance and safety concerns to ensure you and your passengers have a safe vehicle you can feel confident climbing into. If you have any questions about regular maintenance items that will be due soon, give us a call!  It is important when leaving a vehicle with your local auto repair shop for an oil change to discuss any other concerns.  As the regular driver of the vehicle, you are in the best position to let a repair shop know what odd issues you have experienced.  When something unfamiliar occurs (e.g., noise, vibration, erratic shifting, etc.), take a note of it and voice that concern to your mechanic shop.  You do not have to know what’s wrong but your concern can go a long way in a local auto shop reaching an accurate diagnosis on what may be wrong with your vehicle.

10. Why do some “lube shops” advertise $19.99 oil change specials but I got quoted way more from my local independent repair shop?
Lube shops can advertise lower cost oil changes because they often utilize lower quality fluids & parts.  Also, the discount only applies to 5 quarts of the most basic oil that may not be to the specifications your vehicle requires.  In addition to the parts differences, lube shops solely specialize in oil changes and have a staff of technicians fresh to the industry trying to learn by performing oil changes for a lower pay rate.  When you bring your vehicle to an independent repair shop you have more established technicians with experience and more industry knowledge operating on your vehicle, lessening the chance of stripping oil drain plugs and provide you with more accurate inspections.

At Hotchkiss Auto Repair, our goal is to earn your trust with honest customer service & quality vehicle services.  We encourage responsible vehicle maintenance to avoid costly repairs.  Most of our clients are repeat customers and vehicles we work on have a long history in our shop.  We DO NOT sell customers items they do not need.  If we identify a problem, we communicate the severity of that issue and often recommend it be addressed at a future date.  Our approach is simple: we advise our customers as if they are friends and neighbors.  Over time, we have built an amazing community of customers making our role in the Denver, Park Hill & Montclair communities one we take pride in!  Give us a call (303-780-7747) and schedule an appointment for your next Denver oil change, maintenance service or vehicle repair.  You will not regret it!