Smart Oil Changes

Text and photography by Eduardo Medrano

A well maintained modern engine should provide at least 100,000 miles of service. Changing your oil regularly is the best preventative medicine for your car. So, when and how should you do it?


Many manufacturers recommend a change every 5,000 miles, but other intervals may be appropriate for your driving style and conditions. Recent television news correspondents have irresponsibly reported that “many” cars can go 15,000 miles between changes. This applies only to the newest high-end cars, using synthetic motor oil. Consult the owner’s manual of your car for accurate recommendations, including what type of oil to use.


Your dealership service department provides good oil changes. They have the most experience with your vehicle and will use the highest quality, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) filter. They will also keep a computerized record of all services performed on your car.


Dealerships however, are notorious for keeping your car all day. Find one taking appointments and promising to finish your car within a specified time. Otherwise, you may want to use an oil and lube specialist, such as Jiffy Lube.


These specialty companies offer quick turn around, usually at a price better than the dealership. They do not however use an OEM filter, and you will need to track your own service history—keep your receipts.


Lastly, marginally handy, super thrifty consumers can actually do it themselves. Although it is not technically difficult, you will need to crawl under your car, and may get a little dirty.


If you choose to do it yourself, invest in an oil-catch device which can be sealed when full of spent oil. This allows you to take your oil for recycling. Remember, oil is hazardous waste and can severely harm our environment. Most reputable garages will recycle your spent oil free of charge. Call ahead to avoid driving all over town.


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