Regular oil changes are extremely important and are fundamental for proper vehicle maintenance. Failing to keep oil clean and clear can cause a lot of damage to the engine, destroy gas mileage and result in frequent trips to the local repair shop.
Why Change the Oil
Engine oil’s main purpose is to lubricate the engine. It keeps things running smoothly and prevents parts from grinding against each other. But it also plays many other important parts. Oil helps to keep the engine cool. It also removes moisture and dirt particles, both of which can cause serious damage. It lubricates and seals the combustion chambers and protects the parts from rust. As the oil is used up in the engine, it begins to break down and lose its ability to perform these necessary functions. As such, it is extremely important to remove the worn-down stuff and replace it with clean oil.
When to Change the Oil
The traditional recommendation is to change the oil every 3,000 miles or three months, whichever comes first. This rule of thumb came about in the 1950s as a safe estimate of how long engine oil holds up. This might be true for older cars, but most new cars can go longer than that between changes. In addition, engine oil has improved over the years.
Follow the Manufacturer’s Recommendations
The best guideline for determining when to change the oil is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most owners’ manuals will have both a mileage and time stated, and whichever comes first is when the oil needs changing. It may be surprising to find out that the maker of the car actually recommends a longer time between oil changes. New engines and oils can last as much as 5,000 miles or longer.
- Oil changes are one of the most important vehicle maintenance tasks.
- Engine oil serves to lubricate, seal, protect and cool the engine.
- Older cars should follow the rule of changing the oil every three months or 3,000 miles.
- New models that have better parts do not need the oil changed that often.
- Engine oil quality has increased over the years, making it more durable than ever before.
- Always check the owner’s manual for model-specific guidelines on the frequency of oil changes.
- Some manufacturers recommend changing oil every 5,000 miles or possibly even longer.
- Change the oil following either the time or mileage guideline in the manual, whichever comes first.
According to an Insurance Information Institute, the average vehicle repair bill is upwards of $900. With so much money on the line, you want to make sure that you understand the estimate written by the auto repair shop before you authorize them to complete the work. Here’s a look at what you should be aware of when reading the estimate.
Look at the Customer Vehicle Information
This is usually found toward the top of the page and contains your name, address, current mileage, license plate and Vehicle Identification Number (also called a VIN.) While many times you provide the repair shop with the information, you should always make sure it is correct. For example, if the mileage is incorrect, the shop may miss recommended services such as oil changes, tire rotation and fluid level checks.
Read the Suggested Parts for the Job
Generally, there are three types of parts. Original Equipment Manufacturer (also called OEM), after-market and used. Manufacturer parts are usually the most expensive, followed by after-market and then used. Dealerships usually only use OEM parts which is one of the reasons their repairs tend to be more expensive. Additionally, you should watch out for using used parts for a couple of reasons. One, the part has been used and has worn. Second, those parts usually do not come with a warranty. Using after-market parts from a reputable retailer saves you money while usually still providing a warranty.
Read the Suggested Labor for the Job
This is usually broken down by the number of hours it will take to complete the job. For example, if having your brake pads replaced, you’ll notice the cost for the brake pads under “Parts” and maybe one to three hours under the “Labor” portion of the estimate. The variance is due to the complexity of different brake systems and whether the vehicle needs more brake work such as fixing the rotors. Shops should clearly post their hourly rates for all customers, so you know you’re getting a fair price in comparison with other customers. Hourly rates range from about $80 to $100.
Determine if the Job is Imperative or Optional
On the estimate for your car repair, the auto shop will detail if they feel you definitely need the repair or if it is merely optional. For example, if your tires are almost tread-bare, they might state that you need new tires. However, if your windshield wipers have not been changed in a year, they might suggest you replace them, but if they are not giving you problems, then it is not something that it is imperative. This is where it is important to trust your mechanic, as a solid mechanic will be square with you as to what you absolutely need versus what is optional.
The final piece of the estimate is the additional charges levied by federal and state statutes. For example, if you have an oil change, the state might charge a disposal fee. Additionally, you’ll have to pay sales tax on parts and labor. These charges are added after the “Sub-total” to create the “Total” for the estimate. You must sign the estimate for the shop to perform the work. You are allowed to waive any and all services if you do not feel you need them. Finally, if the repair shop discovers some other repair needed, they must contact you to discuss new charges to your estimate before proceeding.
- Check the customer vehicle information section to make sure it is correct.
- Read the suggested parts needed for the repair.
- Read the suggested labor for the repair.
- Determine whether each suggested repair is imperative or optional.
- Look at the taxes and associated fees that complete the estimate.