If you think you’re doing the right thing by getting your oil changed every 3,000 miles, you’re probably only helping the garage, not yourself or your car. Oil change facilities love to tell you to come in every 3,000 miles, because that’s another $25 (at least) in their pocket every time you walk through the door.
The way cars are built these days, you may only need to replace the oil every 6,000 miles. And even less if you use synthetic oil.
Synthetic Versus Regular Motor Oil
Synthetic oil costs more than non-synthetic, and your oil change will last twice as long. It consists of artificially synthesized compounds which can tolerate more extreme engine temperatures. Synthetic also promises better gas mileage, and many factories recommend it. But check with your owner’s manual to see what your manufacturer advises.
Where Should You Have Your Oil Changed?
- Definitely not the dealer, unless it’s running a big money-saving special. Independent mechanics will do just as good a job for a lot less money.
- Look for an ASE certified facility. You’ll be assured the facility is approved by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence.
- Ask a lot of questions and make sure the mechanics are knowledgeable and helpful.
- Check your Sunday paper and the internet for coupons.
When Do You Need to Change the Filter?
Every time you change your oil. The filter only costs about five dollars. And if you don’t change it with the oil, you’ll leave about 10 percent of the old oil in the engine. If the mechanic says you need a whole lot of other things, ask a lot of questions. Look under the hood yourself. Some newer cars will alert you as to when you need a transmission flush or even new wiper blades.
Should You Change the Oil Yourself?
Sure, if you know your way around cars. But if you don’t, leave it to a certified mechanic. They know what they’re doing. But if you decide to do it yourself, here’s what you’ll need:
- Five to six quarts of oil (or whatever your car requires)
- Oil filter
- Pan (it should be able to fit underneath the car and hold about five to six quarts of oil)
- Oil filter wrench and socket wrench
- Bucket with a lid
Use a socket wrench to remove the drain plug. Then take the oil filter wrench and remove the filter. After the oil drains into the pan, pour it into a bucket. Make sure the engine is not hot when you’re doing this. Then, install the new filter and put the oil plug back in the drain. Remove the engine oil cap and fill with five to six quarts of oil (or whatever your manufacturer recommends) using a funnel. Replace the cap, start the engine and make sure the filter and drain plug are not leaking.
Remember, it is illegal to discard used motor oil or transmission fluid in the trash, on the ground or into sewers. Check your state’s environmental resource agency for recycling facilities. Some oil change facilities will take the oil for you and recycle it. Or go to Earth911 where you can plug in your zip code and find a list of recycling centers near you.