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Oil Changes - The Whys and Hows

Updated on July 15, 2016

Why should I change the motor oil in my car? Periodically changing the oil in one’s car is important for proper maintenance. This is because motor oil is the lifeblood of a vehicle. Motor oil helps reduce wear and tear, collect contaminants within the engine which can the be filtered out via the oil filter, decrease corrosion of engine parts (due to additives included in most commercial motor oils), as well as reduce engine temperature. Below I will briefly discuss in more detail why these four benefits of motor oil are important.

  • Reduces Wear and Tear: Motor oil helps lubricate the moving parts of your engine, thereby limiting the heavy frictional contact between moving parts within the engine. By reducing friction between the moving parts motor oil helps prolong the life of your engine. However, if you do not change the motor oil within the time frame listed by the car’s manufacturer, its ability to help reduce friction between the moving parts breaks down and increased heavy contact between the moving parts of the engine will occur.
  • Cleans out engine: As stated earlier in this article, motor oil helps to clean out the engine. This is because as oil circulates throughout the engine it collects contaminants within the engine. Some of the contaminants that the motor oil picks up include dust and dirt particles. Additionally, due to normal engine wear and tear of parts rubbing against each other oil will sometimes pick up metal shavings, which may have found its way into the engine. These contaminants are then carried through the engine via the motor oil. Eventually, the oil carries these contaminants to the oil filter where the filter will trap most of these contaminants.
  • Decrease Corrosion: Most commercial motor oils have additives and detergents included in the motor oil mixture. Several of the additives have properties that help decrease the oxidation and corrosion of the metal part within the vehicle. The effectiveness of these additives will wear down over time, which is why it is also good to replace your engine will periodically as per the car manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Reduces Engine Temperature: Motor oil helps reduce engine temperature within the car. Engine oil helps to reduce engine temperature in two ways. First, engine oil is designed to absorb heat from the engine thereby helping the engine run cooler. Secondly, by providing lubrication to the engine parts it helps reduce the grinding of moving parts, which would also increase heat if this lubricant were not present.

How do I determine what motor oil to use and how often to change the oil in my car? The easiest way to determine how often you should change the oil in your vehicle is to read your car manual. When you purchase your vehicle, the car manual will most likely be in the glove compartment of your car. The manual will not only tell you how often you should change the oil but also the type of oil you should use. Additionally, you may find that depending on whether you’re using synthetic or non-synthetic oil that your periodic changes could be anywhere from 3,000, 4,000, 5000, 7,500 or even 10,000 miles between oil changes. This is why it is very important to read your car owner's manual because many people find out that they are unnecessarily changing their oil more often than they need to. However, one should not only rely on their car owner's manual to determine how long they should wait before changing the oil. You should periodically check the quality of your oil by opening up your engine and removing the oil dipstick from the engine and looking to see whether the oil has a proper consistency, color, and amount.

What to do if you cannot locate your owner's manual? If you find that your car does not have the original vehicles owner’s manual or if you misplaced it then doing a quick Google search or going to the website of your car’s manufacturer can help you find the information you will need on how often to change your motor oil and oil filter.

Oil Filter Wrench

How do I change the motor oil in my car? Changing the oil in one’s vehicle is not a difficult task. However, it is important that you have the right tools prior to engaging in this car maintenance. Additionally, it is important that you know how and where to dispose of your old motor oil. If you do not know where you can properly dispose of your motor oil in your city or town you can normally do a quick Internet search for this information. Alternatively, if you know where your town hall or municipal building is located you can ask to speak to the department in charge of waste disposal. Remember illegal dumping of motor oil is a crime.

The tools and equipment that you will need to change your oil include motor oil, oil filter, wrench/socket wrench (see car owner’s manual for proper size wrench you will need to remove oil drainage nut), container to catch draining oil, and possibly an oil filter wrench. For most vehicles the bottom of the car will be sufficiently high off the ground for you to get under it to locate the oil filter and oil drainage plug. You may need to remove some plastic covers to get to the oil filter. Once you locate the oil filter and oil drainage plug you will need to place your container for capturing your old oil. Next you will need to use your oil filter wrench or regular wrench (you can also use your hands to remove the oil filter, but this may be difficult) to remove the oil filter. You will see some oil begin to drain out. Additionally, the oil filter will have some oil in it, which you can pour into the container. Next, you will remove the oil drainage plug from under the oil pan. Let the oil drain out and wait. Once the oil has fully drained out you will pop the hood of the car and remove the oil dipstick. Clean the dipstick and place it back where you found it.

You should now take your new oil filter and take it out the box. Additionally, you should open one of the new bottles of motor oil you purchased. For most people you would purchase several one-quart bottles or oil however, they do sell motor oil in five-quart containers as well. With your fingers rub some of the motor oil on to the inside seal of the oil filter. Be generous with the lubrication you rub on the seal. When you have done this you will then place the oil filter back on the car and tighten the filter. You will then place back the oil drainage plug back on the oil pan. Make sure when you tighten the oil plug that you are carful not to strip the thread by tightening it too much. If you strip the thread on the oil pan you may end up needing a costly repair to replace the pan. Once the plug and filter are back on you will pour your new motor oil into your car. You will enter the oil via the engine after you have popped the hood on the car. You may need to remove an engine cover in order to get to the location where you pour in your oil. Make sure that when you pour in the oil that you only put in the amount listed for your car’s specifications. You can find this information in your car’s owner manual. When this is complete screw back in any covers you had to open to pour your oil in. Also, remember to put away all tools and to take your old oil and place it in a proper container for disposal purposes. You can use the empty oil bottles from the new oil you poured in your car to store the oil. When you are done cleaning up you should turn on your car and let it run while parked so that the oil circulates. Check under the car while the car is running to make sure there are no oil leaks. If there are no leaks you should be all set.

Conclusion: It is important to follow your owner manual's instructions on when to change the motor oil and oil filter in your car. Proper oil changes and other maintenance on your vehicle will not only assure a smoother ride, but also help prolong the life of your vehicle.


To learn more about various other car maintenance and repair information, click the articles below:

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© 2016 James


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