Basics of Oil Change


Oil changes, like taxes, are an inescapable fact of life for car owners. However, whether you change your own oil or leave it to the professionals, you should at least understand what choices are available to you and how they will affect your vehicle’s performance. Here are a few basics of oil changing that will bring you up to speed and help you make an informed decision.

Why Do I Need All that Oil in My Car?

The main purpose of motor oil is to act as a lubricant. Engines contain a variety of moving parts that rub together, which build up heat and wear them down. Oil creates a thin, slippery film between the parts to reduce friction, extending the life of the parts.

Oil also provides numerous secondary functions in your vehicle’s engine. It washes away dirt and debris, which keeps the moving parts clean. Motor oil also prevents components from being exposed to oxygen, which in turn inhibits corrosion. Lastly, oil helps cool the engine by transferring heat away from the moving parts.

How Can I Tell if My Car Needs an Oil Change?

As a general rule of thumb, your oil should be changed every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. However, if you are unsure how long it has been since your last oil change, you can simply check the dipstick. If the oil is dark, then it should be changed.

Make sure to have a towel or rag handy to wipe off the dipstick. This prevents dirt from getting in your oil and contaminating it.

How Do I Know Which Type of Oil to Use?

Motor oils are labeled according to their viscosity, or thickness. Viscosity is the amount of time it takes oil to flow through a standard opening at a standard temperature. A standard grading system has been established by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) that runs from 0 (low viscosity) to 60 (high viscosity). When you hear someone refer to the “weight” of your oil, this is the number they are talking about.

Most vehicles today use multi-weight oils, which are motor oils that have been enhanced with polymers so they can function at different temperatures. The first number, represented by the letter ‘W’, is the viscosity of the oil at cold (or “winter”) temperatures. The second number demonstrates just how much the oil will thin as the temperature rises. For example, 10W-30 motor oil is a 10 weight oil that thins like a 30 weight oil when it gets hot.

If all this still seems a bit confusing, then don’t worry. Your owner’s manual should tell you specifically which type of motor oil works best for your vehicle. In some scenarios, it may even be printed directly on the oil cap. If you’re still unsure, a mechanic or oil change professional can look it up for you.

Can I Change the Oil Myself?

Changing the oil yourself depends on if you’re the type of person who regularly works on your own car, and if you don’t mind getting your hands (and driveway) dirty. However, for the uninitiated, oil changes can be pretty arduous. Many newer-model vehicles don’t leave you with a lot of room to work, and simply finding a place to safely and legally dispose of your old oil can be a challenge.


Our mechanics and oil change professionals here at Asher Automotive are specially equipped to handle oil changes quickly and efficiently, and can often have the work completed in a fraction of the time it would take you to do it yourself. We can also check the levels of your other fluids and, if necessary, replace your oil and air filter. Aside from the basics of oil change, this type of routine maintenance can help keep your vehicle running smoothly until the next major inspection. Contact us with the link below for more information!

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