Everything You Always wanted to know about oil changes
Everything you always wanted to know about oil changesOK, so maybe you've never changed your own oil, or, for that matter, even lifted the hood of your car. The fact remains that every 3,000 miles or every 3 months, whichever comes first, you must change the oil in your vehicle, like it or not.
And if the idea of sliding under your car's chassis and doing it yourself doesn't appeal to you, what then? The inevitable trip to your local oil-change center, of course! That's why the Expert has put together this short list of tips to shed some light on what to expect when you take your car for a lube job.
What is the average price for an oil change? While prices may vary depending on your location, the average price for a lube job is between $25 and $30. This generally includes checking and topping off other fluids (windshield wash, brake fluid, power steering fluid) and also checking the tire pressure and adding air, if necessary.
How often should I have my oil changed? The general rule of thumb is to change your car's oil and oil filter every 3 months or every 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. You should consult your owner's manual for the exact manufacturer's specifications for your car, which may differ slightly. The owner's manual will have "normal" and "severe" recommendations. Severe driving conditions include driving in stop-and-go traffic or excessive idling, making frequent short trips (less than 5 miles per trip), driving in extreme temperatures (over 90 F or below freezing), and towing and hauling. The average driver probably considers his or her driving conditions normal, but the truth is that most of us drive under severe conditions far more often than we realize and should time our oil changes accordingly. However, sticking to the 3-month/3,000-mile rule is considered the minimum drain interval necessary for maximum engine performance.
What type of oil should I be putting in my car? Once again, consult your owner's manual for the manufacturer's specifications for your vehicle. That way, you will be able to tell the mechanic exactly what type and grade of oil you want. Most manufacturers will recommend conventional motor oil and a grade, i.e., 10W-30, but the temperature of your surroundings may require the use of a different grade. For instance, if you are living in a very warm climate, you may want to use heavier weight oil, such as a 20W-50. A very cold climate would suggest use of lighter weight oil, such as 5W-30. (For more information on oil please see the Expert's "All About Oil" section.) Be aware that there are premium motor oil brands and value brands. Most oil-change centers will use a value brand as their "house brand." Should you want to use a premium quality motor oil such as Castrol, you may have to ask for it specifically, or you will get the "house brand." Unless, of course, you visit a quick lube that uses Castrol as the house brand.
Do I have to use the most expensive brand of oil? Certainly not. The important thing is to use the right oil for your car. There are 3 types of motor oil, and they each offer your car different benefits. Conventional motor oil, such as Castrol GTX, will give you excellent protection. Synthetic oil, such as Castrol Syntec, offers the ultimate in engine protection. If you are seeking added protection for your engine, you might want to request an upgrade to a synthetic motor oil when you have your oil changed, but you will pay a premium. A synthetic-blend product, such as Castrol Syntec Blend, will offer added protection but at a lower cost than a full-synthetic oil change. Once you know your options, you will be better able to decide what is best for your car, but, in general, the right oil doesn't have to be the priciest.
Do I need an appointment? No! Changing a car's oil is a relatively quick and simple affair. If a lube job is all your car needs, there should always be someone on hand to do it, barring the possibility of an extremely busy day at the garage!
How long will it take to have my oil changed? The actual process of changing your oil should take no more than 20 minutes, assuming that this is the only service the mechanic is going to perform.
If I have my oil changed at a quick lube, will it void my warranty? No, but if your car is fairly new, your warranty may include oil changes from the dealer up to a certain mileage point. Check your warranty to see what service benefits may be included through your dealer.
Can the mechanic change my other car fluids when changing my oil? Yes, for an additional charge, of course. It's a good idea when hitting the 3,000-mile mark to have your transmission, power steering, windshield washer, clutch and brake fluids topped off, and your mechanic will be happy to do so at your request. Usually there is no additional charge, but always inquire to make sure. A complete changing of fluids (draining and refilling) will definitely result in an additional charge.
I asked to have my oil changed and I got a bill for a whole list of services I didn't request - what gives? Ah, here is where it most benefits you to be an educated consumer. There are many other services that help your car's performance when you hit the 3-month/3,000-mile mark, but it isn't necessary to have them done when you have your oil changed. If an oil change is all you want, be clear and firm about it from the start, or you may be unpleasantly surprised by the size of your bill.
Do I have to have my air filter changed every time I get my oil changed? NO! This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Don't fall for it! An air-filter change is only necessary after 30,000 miles. An unscrupulous mechanic may also insist on changing your windshield wipers, yet another scam. When you ask for an oil change, that should be the only service performed unless you request otherwise.