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Why Do Cars Need You Their Oil Changed So Often?

Updated on June 13, 2013
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Protecting the Engine

A first time car owner might not know what the basic functions of cars' parts are, but the function of motor oil is to protect the engine against heat and friction. Clean, new oil is made up of different weights of oil, and ensures that the parts of the engine don't touch. It also carries heat away from the engine. As oil gets used, the anti-friction additives in it become more and more used up and melted away, the lighter-weight oils burn off, and after a while, there's no more anti-friction capability and only heavy oils remain, which can mean your engine's parts touch and can overheat. One way to avoid that is to switch to synthetic oils, which is made up of all same size molecules. But even with synthetic oil, you still need to change the oil. The oil still gets dirty when it's running through parts, and carbon will, over time, turn the oil gritty and thick. This can burn onto the engine's parts, much like a pan that has burned-on butter stuck to it, and ruin the engine over time.

Part of having a car means you have to keep up with maintaining it. In your car's manual, there should be a list of time tables for when certain maintenance needs to be done—things like transmission fluid flushes, spark plug replacement, and perhaps the most frequent upkeep we partake in, the classic oil change. It used to be that oil changes needed to be done every 3,000 miles, though now most manufacturers have changed those guidelines to every 5,000-10,000 miles. It's still pretty frequent, but now, you don't need to get it done 4 times a year. So why does it need to be done often, anyway? I talked to some of the guys where I bring my car for auto repairs and learned a lot more than I thought I would.

What Can Happen If you Don't?

With old oil, the engine runs both hotter and less efficiently. As previously mentioned, not getting regular oil changes can ruin an engine over time, but in the shorter term, it can negatively affect your car's gas mileage. With the high cost of gas these days, every penny counts, and regular oil changes can mean a little bit more time between fill-ups. Granted, it won't turn your car from one that gets 20 mpg into one that gets 33 mpg, but there might be a few mpg difference.

More dire, however, is what a lack of oil changes can do to the engine. Once oil breaks down, it can leaved deposits of sludge on the parts of the engine. Even after the oil gets changed, that sludge will still be there, restricting the movement of new oil through the parts and holding heat in. There are ways to reverse this, but it's easier and more cost effective to just keep up with oil changes rather than worry about how to fix a much bigger problem down the road.

Is There Other Regular Maintenance You Need to Do?

Aside from oil changes, there are some other routine maintenance procedures you shouldn't ignore. Some people may not get new tires until their treads are worn completely down. Once after a particularly heavy rainstorm alerted me to the fact that my tires were so worn that my car was hydroplaning, I got myself to a McHenry tire shop on the double. It's important to make note of when you change tires so something like that doesn't happen. You should also check the tire pressure frequently to ensure your cars are filled adequately.

Transmission fluid should be changed regularly too. Many oil change shops will suggest it every time you go, but it's not necessary that frequently unless your vehicle is pulling a lot of weight or is generally working harder than it should most of the time. In that case, transmission fluid will wear out more quickly and put your transmission at risk. Check your manual about what to do if you're going to be pulling a trailer, and remember that if you're moving, your car may be weighed down and overworked, which can degrade the transmission fluid's integrity.

Once a year, check the spark plugs and coolant levels, and every few months, it's smart to check the windshield wiper blades and fluid, air filter, and whether any lights are out. It's important to know where to go for auto repair. McHenry residents are lucky to have plenty of options, but if you don't know how to find a good mechanic, ask around or check online reviews (but be wary if a business has only stellar or only awful reviews, as it's a sign they may be fake reviews).

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    • jabelufiroz profile image

      Firoz 3 years ago from India

      Good machinery maintenance tips. Changing gear oil at the specified intervals improves fuel efficiency a lot.

      Voted up and useful.

    • AlanMalmcom profile image
      Author

      Alan Malmcom 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Thank you! I appreciate it - please feel free to read up on some of my other topics.

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