When most people bring their car into a mechanic or oil change place for routine maintenance, they simply drop the keys off and pay the bill after work is completed. They don’t think much about it and generally agree to whatever recommendations that mechanic might make about services to perform. This is a big mistake! Not asking questions or paying attention during even the most basic of car care procedures can cost you hundreds of dollars immediately or down the road.
Being a smart car owner means asking questions. Here are a few things that you should be prepared to ask your mechanic when you bring your car in for an oil change, tune-up or any other scheduled maintenance procedure:
- Are you putting the right oil in my car? If you have an older car, you will want to consider motor oils designed for high mileage vehicles. If you drive in cold weather or frequently haul things, you might want to consider different viscosity oil than what is standard for your model.
- Is it time to change my oil filter? A dirty oil filter can hurt your engine’s performance and rob you of gas mileage.
- Are my fluid levels where they should be? If your fluid levels are lower than would be expected for the amount of time between maintenance visits, this could be a sign that you have a leak or some other mechanical problem which is draining your fluids and could be something to look at.
Most people understand that it’s important to change your motor oil and other fluids in your car on a regular basis on order to keep your car running properly. While the old axiom of having a motor oil change every 3,000 miles might not hold true today with improvements in motor oil technology, it’s still a good idea to change your oil every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
But your motor oil isn’t the only thing you need to be replacing on a regular basis in order to maximize the performance of your car. The air filtration system is an incredibly important part of the car’s internal workings but something that many people ignore. Cars need fresh air in order to fire properly, meaning that your air filter and other parts of the filtration system need to be checked and cleaned on a regular basis.
Simply making sure that your air filter is clean can improve your gas mileage by 10 percent or more along with reducing the wear and tear on your motor and improving your engine life. Every time you replace your motor oil, making sure you check your air filter. If it is simply clogged, the particles can easily be removed; older air filters will need to be replaced. It’s an easy and cheap way to improve your gas mileage and performance.
The warning lights on your dashboard are there for a reason – they serve to let you know about a potential problem with your car. However, many people choose to simply ignore the warning lights, even going as far as to put tape over their dashboard in order to avoid seeing the flashing lights. This is a terrible idea! Ignoring warning lights will only make a bad situation worse and could lead to major car troubles.
It’s important that you immediately take your car into a mechanic if you get a “check engine” light or other warning on your dashboard. A mechanic can run a diagnostic check to see exactly what the problem is with your car. In many cases, the problem will only get worse as time goes on. If not fixed, many minor issues which can trigger a warning light can turn into significant problems down the road.
For example, the oil light is a sign that your car does not have enough motor oil to function properly. This is not a sign that you need to drive home and then check the situation but a warning that your car is in serious danger. Driving without enough motor oil can cause your engine to seize up and create major damage. Pull your car off the road immediately and call a tow truck to take you to a service station immediately if you get this warning sign.
Whether you have just bought a new car or are trying to keep your current car on the road as long as possible, it’s important to follow a maintenance schedule. Car parts need love too, and if you ignore the basic upkeep of your car, chances are that you will run into significant problems that can leave you stranded and paying a major repair bill. Putting in a little bit of effort ahead of time to service you car will help you significantly down the road.
Some of these maintenance steps are larger and will be done fairly infrequently (like replacing spark plugs) but others should be done on a regular basis. Here are a few car care steps that should be done every 5,000 miles:
Replace the engine oil and filter. Many people forget about their air filter when they change their motor oil. However, having a clogged or dirty air filter can be just as damaging to the performance of your engine that old motor oil.
Service the Battery: While you might not need a new battery every 5,000 miles, it’s a good idea to have it serviced (such as cleaning off dirty connections). You can also have it tested to see if it is starting to wear down – it’s better to fix it before it dies.
Rotate the Tires: Rotating your tires every 5,000 miles helps to prevent uneven wear caused by improper alignment. In addition, front tires will wear differently than rear tires, and changing positions will allow your tires to last longer.
When you got your first car, chances are that your father gave you a list of things that you needed to do. At the top of the list was probably to change your oil every 3,000 miles. That number has become an industry standard – if you go to a mechanic to have your oil changed, chances are that they will give you a reminder to come back and have your oil changed again within three months or 3,000 miles.
But do you really need to change your oil that often? The answer is that you don’t, even though 3,000 miles was a good standard until recently. However, improvements in oil quality and the ability of modern engines to operate well at higher heats and stresses that are closer to their maximum tolerances mean that motor oil can last longer and that your engine doesn’t need fresh oil every 3,000 miles.
How often you decide to change your oil depends on several factors. If you have an older car or a work vehicle that is under high stress, then it’s still a good idea to change your oil close to 3,000 miles. Newer passenger cars can go significantly longer depending on the type of oil used. If you are using a regular, petroleum-based motor oil, you should change your oil around every 5,000 miles. If you use a synthetic oil, you can get up to 7,000 miles out of one oil change.
“Synthetic or standard oil?” If you’ve gone into a shop for an oil change in the last few years, the chances are good that you’ve heard that question. And there’s also a very good chance that you didn’t have a good answer for that question because you didn’t understand the difference between the two types of oils.
Synthetic oils are created in a laboratory from artificially-created polymers. This process was created in Germany because they lacked the crude oil resources needed to create “standard” motor oil. Because the polymers could be controlled and their size standardized, synthetic oil was used for high-end products like aircraft and large boats.
Today, synthetic oils are used for all types of engines, including commercial and passenger vehicles. Synthetic oils do offer more protection than regular oils. However – and this is key to remember – the amount of difference is very limited. If you have a work vehicle or other vehicle that is placed under a high level of stress, synthetic oil might be the best choice. But if you are just looking for the right choice for your oil change, then you will likely want to consider a blend of synthetic and standard oils, which will give you many of the enhanced protection benefits of a synthetic while still being affordable.
When you go into the automotive parts store to buy new motor oil, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the different options that are available. There are many different brands, each offering different additives and protections for certain types of cars. Many times, a person makes a decision on the motor oil to purchase based not on what’s right for their car but what’s the easiest to grab.
Choosing the right motor oil for your vehicle isn’t a difficult decision – if you understand what to look for. One of the most important concepts to understand is the viscosity of the oil. Also known as the oil’s “weight,” this is usually shown as a pair of numbers on the oil container. Both numbers relate to the oil’s ability to withstand the extremes of hot and cold temperature. The number with a “W” next to it is the oil’s rating for winter weather – a lower number means it will flow freely in colder weather. The second number means that the oil is thicker and will not thin out while subjected to extreme heat.
When it comes time to select the motor oil for your vehicle, you should consult the guidelines for your car as instructed in the owner’s manual. If necessary, you can make adjustments based on the weather conditions your car might be exposed to. If your owner’s manual suggests 10W-30 oil but you are in Minnesota in the winter, you might want to consider going down to 5W-30.