When Should I Change My Oil

It has been a seriously debated topic in the last few years. I will give my two cents on the topic and hopefully provoke some thought to the issue. In basic, oil does two things: the first is lubricate moving parts; the second is remove deposits from the combustion process. 

In a perfect environment, oil without combustion would never need to be changed. A perfect environment meaning no humidity in the air and a completely sealed oil system. Since humidity is a factor and it’s impossible for an oil system to be completely sealed, we have those issues to contend with as well as the combustion process residue. 

Almost all oil manufacturers still recommend replacing oil at a 3,000 mile interval. Some have claims of 15,000 miles with weasel clauses to protect them from having to pay claims. Is the 3,000 mile oil manufacturer marker correct? Is the car manufacturer maintenance interval correct? In my opinion, maybe. 

Vehicles in Western Pennsylvania are exposed to some of the harshest conditions in the country. Our hills, turns and climate extremes wear tires more rapidly, use more fuel, and force our vehicles to adapt to extreme changes in ambient temperature. For example, people in Ohio, where it’s straight and flat, can get the mileage warranty on a set of tires. I haven’t seen a client ever get 90,000 miles on a set of tires in the 24 years I’ve been with Murrysville Auto Clinic. Ok, I’m rambling on about how bad it is to drive here - let me start getting to the point. 

We have clients that are on the road constantly driving 30,000 miles a year plus. Those clients drive a majority of their miles on the highway. We see those clients able to extend brake life, tire life and yes oil life past what we see as normal. In all the research I have done on oil, I have found either extreme on the interval it should be replaced. I don’t find anyone in the middle or taking into consideration that people drive differently. 

Modern cars have variable valve timing also known as VVT. VVT could be an entire 40 page article, but we will keep it short for the purpose we are targeting. VVT is a change in the timing by oil that shoots through a hole roughly the size of the head of a needle one would use to sew. VVT allows your vehicle to perform better under certain conditions. For example, on a hybrid, it can shut down cylinder when not needed for better fuel economy. On conventional vehicles, it can allow more fuel and air into the engine to generate more power. 

Since VVT works with a small hole that oil travels through, debris in the oil can cause VVT failure. The key phrase in that sentence is CAN CAUSE VVT FAILURE. When carbon from the additives in the oil cleaning the system enters the VVT system, it will illuminate a check engine light. This will prevent you from passing the PA Emissions Inspection. Typically, that debris causes clogged passages. This is where it gets tricky. The debris in the system is verifiably impossible to clean without rebuilding the engine. I say verifiably because engine cleaners may or may not work. To verify all the debris is gone, the engine must be completely disassembled and cleaned. When there are VVT check engine light codes come up, we can do an oil flush, replace the affected part and hope the light stays out. The last class we attended, the instructor blatantly stated, “tell your client they need an engine replacement.” That’s a tough thing to do when there is a chance the passages may come clean with a flush. 

When are you supposed to change your oil? Ok so I’ve painted some background on the subject, and bored you with technical talk. The real answer to this question is, how much personal accountability do you want to take? I can tell you I personally use full synthetic oil and change it every 5,000 miles. With my driving style, it seems like the oil on the dipstick is just starting to change color. If you want to push the envelope on intervals, you must take caution on the oil level and condition. Checking your oil becomes more critical than ever in this case. If the maintenance reminder is your fall back, I would caution you they aren’t very good. There have been countless cases where the vehicle manufacturers have come out with software updates to revise the oil life systems due to sludge problems. Blanketing oil change intervals for everyone around the country seems to be slightly outlandish to me. That goes for both sides of the fence: oil companies and vehicle manufacturers. The people making the oil have a lot of stake in the game with profits to be made and liability to be concerned of. 

Vehicle manufacturers have a cost of ownership to consider and recalls to worry about. Anyone claiming that the oil change intervals for any one person should be the same, or saying that the oil life monitor is intelligent, I have witnessed hands on that they are wrong. We have had people insist on changing the oil before it is due and people develop problems who have followed the indicator-based maintenance. The only true answer to this question involves a hands-on approach and accountability if something goes wrong. Our oil supplier only warrants the oil for 3,000 miles plus or minus a 1,000-mile grace period. That doesn’t work for everyone and in some cases is excessively early. On the other hand, we have personally witnessed the snake bite of extended intervals delivering hammering news to our clients. Those repairs can be extremely expensive with no confirmed long-term fix. 

My official suggestion is change your oil at 3,000 miles unless you feel comfortable checking the oil regularly. If you are inexperienced at determining the oil status, stop down and we will check it with you. By doing this we can educate you which is something we love to do!!!! 

When Should I Change My Oil

It has been a seriously debated topic in the last few years. I will give my two cents on the topic, and hopefully provoke some thought to the issue. In basic, oil does two things. The first is lubricate moving parts, the second is remove deposits from the combustion process.

In a perfect environment oil without combustion would never need changed. A perfect environment as in no humidity in the air, and a completely sealed oil system. Since humidity is a factor, and it’s impossible for an oil system to be completely sealed we have those issues to contend with as well as the combustion process residue.

Almost all oil manufacturers still recommend replacing oil at a 3,000 mile interval. Some have claims of 15,000 miles with weasel clauses to protect them from having to pay claims. Is the 3,000 mile oil manufacturer marker correct? Is the car manufacturer maintenance interval correct? In my opinion, maybe.

Vehicle’s in Western Pennsylvania are exposed to some of the harshest conditions in the country. Our hills, turns, and climate extremes wear tires more rapidly, use more fuel, and force our vehicle’s to adapt to extreme changes in ambient temperature. For example people in Ohio, where it’s straight and flat, can get the mileage warranty on a set of tires. I haven’t seen a client ever get 90,000 miles on a set of tires in the 24 years I’ve been with Murrysville Auto Clinic. Ok I’m rambling on about how bad it is to drive here, let me start getting to the point.

We have client’s that are on the road constantly driving 30,000 miles a year plus. Those client’s drive a majority of their miles on the highway. We see those client’s able to extend brake life, tire life, and yes oil life past what we see as normal. In all the research I have done on oil I have found either extreme on the interval it should be replaced. I don’t find anyone in the middle, or taking into the equation people drive differently.

Modern cars have variable valve timing, also known as VVT. VVT could be an entire 40 page article, we will keep it short for the purpose we are targeting. VVT is a change in the timing by oil that shoots through a hole roughly the size of the head of a needle used to sew with. VVT allows your vehicle to perform better under certain conditions. For example on a hybrid, it can shut down cylinder when not needed for better fuel economy. On conventional vehicle’s it can allow more fuel and air into the engine to generate more power.

Since VVT works with a small hole that oil travels through, debris in the oil can cause VVT failure. The key phrase in that sentence is CAN CAUSE VVT FAILURE. When carbon from the additives in the oil cleaning the system enters the VVT system it will illuminate a check engine light. This will prevent you from passing the PA Emissions inspection. Typically that debris causes clogged passages. This is where it gets tricky. The debris in the system is verifiably impossible to clean without rebuilding the engine. I say verifiably because engine cleaners may or may not work. To verify all the debris is gone, the engine must be completely disassembled and cleaned. Whenever VVT check engine light codes come up, we can do an oil flush, replace the affected part, and hope the light stays out. The last class we attended the instructor blatantly stated, "tell your client they need an engine replacement". That’s a tough thing to do when there is a chance the passages may come clean with a flush.

When are you supposed to change your oil? Ok so I’ve painted some background on the subject, and bored you with technical talk. The real answer to this question is how much personal accountability do you want to take. I can tell you I personally use full synthetic oil, and change it every 5,000 miles. With my driving style is seems like the oil on the dipstick is just starting to change color. If you want to push the envelope on intervals, you must take caution on the oil level and condition. Checking your oil becomes more critical than ever in this case. If the maintenance reminder is your fall back, I would caution you they aren’t very good. There have been countless cases that the vehicle manufacturers have come out with software updates to revise the oil life systems due to sludge problems. Blanketing oil change intervals for everyone around the country seems slightly outlandish to me. That goes for both sides of the fence, oil companies and vehicle manufacturers. The people making the oil have a lot of stake in the game with profits to be made, and liability to be concerned with. Vehicle manufacturers have a cost of ownership to consider, and recalls to worry about. Anyone claiming that the oil change intervals for any one person should be the same as another is ridiculous. The belief that the oil life monitor is intelligent, I have witnessed hands on they are not. We have had people insist on changing the oil before it is due, and people develop problems who have followed the indicator-based maintenance. The only true answer to this question involves a hands-on approach and accountability if something goes wrong. Our oil supplier only warrants the oil for 3,000 miles plus or minus a 1,000-mile grace period. That doesn’t work for everyone, and in some cases is excessively early. On the other hand, we have witnessed the snake bite of extended interval’s delivering hammering news to our clients. Those repairs can be extremely expensive, with no confirmed long-term fix.

My official suggestion is, change it at 3,000 miles unless you feel comfortable checking the oil regularly. If you are inexperienced at determining the oil status, stop down and we will check it with you. By doing this we can educate you, which is something we love to do!!!! 

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