The Final Word On How Often To Change The Oil On A Car Not Driven For Awhile
The age-old question that keeps mechanics up late at night: how often to change the oil in a car when not driven
No more nightmares! The facts are clear.
It is better to have a friend or family member drive your car every week than it is to prepare the car for long-term storage.
Oil sitting in the engine of an unused car is most likely okay for six months. After that, it isnt.
If the car is too old for this debate, it might be time to send it to the junkyard.
In the end, oil, oil changes, and car storage are certainly complicated topics. If you are looking for definitive answers, your best bet is to refer to the cars owner manual and follow all factory specifications.
When To Change The Oil
The answer to a lot of these questions is the same: Check your owners manual. It should be your car maintenance and operation bible. Dont make assumptions on the interval based on past experiences or guidance from mechanics who profit from the work, because the timing has evolved over the years.
Many cars, pickups, and SUVs now have service reminder monitors that alert drivers when to change their oil. These systems typically monitor the number of miles a vehicle has traveled, and they also sense how hard the car is being driven, and adjust accordingly, Ibbotson says.
Make sure you get your oil change soon after you receive such an alert.
Jack It Up Open It Up
First, you’ll want to lift the car high enough to give yourself room to work under it. Whether you use a hoist, ramps, or jack stands, make sure you are being absolutely safe. Never work under a car that is held up only by a floor jack. We raised our subject vehicle on the lift in the Car and Driver test garage, so you could see what we were doing. Most modern cars are fitted with a plastic undertray to both improve aerodynamics and protect vital components on the underside of the engine. In order to access the oil pan and oil filter on the TSX, the cover needs to be removed most undertrays are held on with a mixture of bolts, screws, or plastic clips that can be unfastened with basic hand tools. Before step two, be sure to examine the area for oil leaks. If any are found, consider having your vehicle inspected by a mechanic.
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Log Info Clean Up Recycle Used Oil
Write down your vehicles current mileage and the date. Refer to your vehicles owners manual for the recommended oil change interval , add that number to your vehicles current mileage and change the oil again at the resulting mileage. Carefully dispose of the used oil filter, any used rags, newspaper or paper towels. Put away your tools.
Recycle the used motor oil. Many service stations and quick lubes will accept used motor oil and used oil filters at no charge. Find recycling locations in your area at Earth911.com. Your local government and/or recycling coordinators may be able to tell you which materials can be recycled with your trash pickup.
Ready for your next oil change?
The miles can really add up quickly between oil changes. Bookmark this page and use these step-by-step oil change instructions as general guidelines each time. Refer to your vehicles owners manual for manufacturer-specific oil change instructions, warranty information and more.
Setup And Draining The Oil
From a hard, level surface, elevate your car . Let the car idle a few minutes, to warm up the oil . Next, pop the hood, find the oil cap, and open it. This is where you will pour the new oil , and opening it now allows the old oil to drain faster.
Look under the car, and find the oil pan. Its a flat metal pan thats close to the engine. There should be some sort of plug or bolt toward the bottom. Place your oil pan directly underneath the plug, and have some newspapers underneath that, in case of any drips.
Now youre ready to pull the oil plug . Check the gasket, to see if it needs replacing. Once the plug is off, guess what? Oil comes out. You may get messy . Catch the oil in the pan. Now, we wait.
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Common Oil Change Questions
How often should you change your oil?
Follow manufacturer recommendations, or change when the oil looks dirty or the level is low.
What happens if you dont change your oil?
Your engine wont be properly lubricating, so overheating and excessive wear is likely. This is just one of the many ways you could inadvertently kill your car.
How much does an oil change cost?
For a professional oil change, expect to pay between $20 and $50, or up to $70 if you want synthetic oil.
How can you reset your oil change light?
This will depend on the specific make and model. Simply check your owners manual for instructions.
Get Together Your Filter Wrenches And Other Supplies
In addition to oil, you’ll need an oil filter, an oil-filter removal wrench, a wrench to remove the drain plug, a funnel, a drain pan and some gloves. You may also need to raise the car to gain access, in which case you’ll need a floor jack and safety stands, or a pair of purpose-made steel ramps. For this kind of work, never use the flimsy jack that’s supplied with the car.
Yes, my funnel is an empty, dry water bottle with the end cut off. Also, my drain pan has a screw-on lid and pour spout, which makes it easier to transport and recycle the old oil. The only other “tools,” not shown here, are a T-shirt and grubby jeans.
You can buy filters at the dealership or at an auto parts store. Make sure to ask if you’ll need a new drain plug washer. Some dealers automatically include a new washer, if you need one. Others charge extra for it. In this case, I didn’t need a new washer, as you’ll see later.
I like the sort of filter wrench that engages the serrations on the end of the oil filter. Wrenches like that are available at most auto parts stores for a few dollars and they snap onto the end of any common three-eighth-inch-drive ratchet. There are many sizes, but it’s easy to make sure you buy the right one if you match the wrench to the filter right there in the store.
Band-type filter wrenches are more familiar, but they can be frustrating to use if you don’t have enough space especially if the old filter was over-tightened.
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What Are The Different Types Of Engine Oil
It’s critical to learn how to change your vehicle’s oil, but also, it’s as important to learn about the different types of engine oil available in the markets. Every oil comes with its characteristics and has its price as well.
Conventional oil is the most common type of oil that is the basic one that provides you with the required characteristics to cool down your engine and lubricate the internal components. Although this conventional oil is not expensive and is affordable by most drivers, it requires more frequent replacement because it breaks down fast and might not have the top additives that help extend the lifetime of your car.
Synthetic oil is the most advanced in High-quality engine oil that you might encounter. It not only extends the lifetime of your car, but it might also come with certain additives to help prevent oxidation and corrosion that could impact your engine’s performance.
Although synthetic oil comes with great characteristics, it has one drawback, which has a cost. Synthetic oil is much more expensive than conventional oil, so not every driver can afford it.
Furthermore, synthetic oil might not be compatible with every vehicle, especially if you’re driving a car with an old engine. Since synthetic oil comes with additives to prevent oxidation and remove sludge buildup, it might damage weak seals in older engines, which means that it’s not recommended if you’re driving an old car.
What Are Oil Additives
Engine Oil additives like brands STP or MOLI are helpers to the engine and oil by reducing breakdown of chemicals and all the building blocks that exist inside the oil. These type of oil additives reduce friction, heat, wear and tear. Many are even designed to slow and stop oil leaks.
Other Engine and/or Fuel additives can be used to clean and decarbonize your engine. Carbon and varnish reduce performance. Carbon robs the fuel mixture spray by absorbing fuel molecules. The fuel mixture becomes leaner which increases cylinder and combustion temperatures. This can cause spark knock, reduce the engines power, decrease the fuel mileage and could increase harmful emissions.
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Why Does Your Engine Need An Oil Change
Before we get into the details about changing your oil, let’s take a closer look at why your engine needs an oil change in the first place. Your vehicle’s engine relies on the oil to lubricate internal components and prevent engine overheating that could damage the engine.
Over time of use, oil breaks down. As a result, it loses its capabilities of lubricating the engine and might lead to significant engine overheating that could cost you thousands of dollars under pairs. Therefore, depending on the type of oil and new engine performance, you might need to change your oil occasionally.
Some good oils might not require replacement up to 15,000 miles. However, if you relied on the cheap conventional oil, you would need to replace it at least once every 5000 miles, if not 3000 miles, in certain instances.
Therefore, if you’re concerned about these frequent oil changes, we advise that you choose a specific type of engine oil that does not require regular changes but keep in mind that these oils might be more expensive and might not be compatible with your engine. Thus, you must consult with your mechanic and confirm whether you can choose a higher quality type of engine oil.
Types Of Motor Oils For Your Vehicle
There are several types of motor oils offered today. Widely available, either at your dealership or the local auto parts and big box stores, they are tailor-made for the type of driving you do.
Traditional motor oil has always been a safe choice, but requires replacement at a much more frequent interval. The same applies to the filters that trap many impurities from the oil flow as possible during its lifetime. Traditional motor oils should be changed after approximately 5,000-miles of service.
Semi-Synthetic motor oil combines traditional and synthetic blends and are a good choice for vehicles that operate under heavier loads, and extended driving sessions. Semi-Synthetics last longer than traditional oils, and could safely provide proper lubrication to around 8,000 miles.
Synthetic motor oil is the perfect choice for todays high-tech engines, whether high performance or high efficiency. They offer better performance from a viscosity standpoint and increased protection from foreign deposits. Good all the way out to 10,000 or even 15,000 miles in some usages, it is the perfect choice to protect your investment whether its a Grand Tourer, a Ranch Edition pickup truck or a plug-in Hybrid.
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Color Change From Amber To Black
In the course of collecting heat, soot, and metal chirpings, the oil will change from its usual amber color to black soot. Additionally, the accumulation of carbon changes the oil into a thick sludge. To check the oils quality and color, remove the dipstick and wipe off the residual oil. Next, insert the dipstick in and remove it again. If the oil residual is amber to dark color, its probably fine. However, if its black and thin, its time for an oil change.
How Much Does An Oil Change Cost
The largest cost in a typical oil change is the oil itself. Oil prices range widely, but a car or truck usually needs 4 to 6 quarts of motor oil. Oil prices vary, but generally, a quart starts at $4.00 and goes from there. Special viscosity synthetic oils for some modern cars can be considerably more expensive. Oil filters and drain plug gaskets are generally inexpensive, in the range of a few dollars for a common brand and type. For most cars, you should be able to do an oil change for under $50sometimes a lot less.
Park Your Car On A Flat Surface With Plenty Of Room To Work
Unless you drive a car with plenty of ground clearance, like a Jeep Wrangler, youre most likely going to have to raise the end of your vehicle where the engine sits. Youll want plenty of space to work and youll need to make sure your car is on a flat surface so that it doesnt roll when you jack it up. Be sure to let the engine cool sufficiently before you begin draining its oil. Keep in mind parts like the exhaust get extremely hot.
How Often Should I Change My Oil
In the old days, experts recommended changing conventional oil and oil filters every 3,000 miles. Some people still have that stuck in their mind as a guideline, so if it gives you peace of mind to visit the dealer every few months, go for it! But todays newer-tech engines often use synthetic-blend oil or full synthetic oil and are engineered to go anywhere from 7,500 to 15,000 miles between oil changes. Yes, synthetic oil changes cost more than conventional ones, but youre also changing the oil less often. Of course, always follow your manufacturers recommended service interval. Not every engine needs synthetic oil.
Something else that can affect how often you need to change your oil is where you live and how you drive. If you drive like the little old lady , the recommended interval is probably just fine. But if you live in the desert or tow a trailer often or do a lot of stop-and-go driving, youre operating under severe driving conditions and might need to change your oil more often. As usual, your owners manual can tell you more. For more info about caring for your car long-term, see Top 10 Car Care Tips.
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Unscrew The Drain Plug
After removing the undertray, locate the drain plug- this is usually a large bolt or plug that requires a socket wrench to unscrew. Before loosening the plug, be sure to have the oil drain pan ready to catch the dirty oil. With the drain pan in position, loosen the plug counterclockwise using a socket wrench first, and then unscrew it completely using your hand. The dirty oil will flow out into the catch pan as soon as you remove the plug, so be ready to get your hand out of the way fast. Give the old oil 5-10 minutes to drain completely.
Open Up The Oil Pans Drain Plug And Allow The Oil To Drain
Turn the plug in a counter-clockwise motion with the appropriate-sized socket or bit.
It may take a few minutes for the engine to drain entirely, but when the steady stream of oil has become a sporadic drip, youre now ready for the next step. Screw the drain plug back into place with a clockwise motion and tighten it properly. Dont forget to replace the drain plugs washer.
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What’s Included In An Oil Change Service
During an oil change, the technician will remove the drain plug from the bottom of the oil pan and gravity does its thing: the oil drains out completely into a catch pan so it can be properly discarded. Note: If youre changing your oil yourself, never dump your oil randomly! From there, the technician will replace the drain plug, change the oil filter and fill the engine with the correct amount of oil.
Its worth noting that, although an oil change is a simple service, it often makes sense to go to the dealer. Nobody knows your vehicle better than your local dealership service department. Not only have they undergone specific training about your car, truck or SUV, theyre in the best position to advise you about other repairs, maintenance items and even open safety recalls affecting your vehicle.
Remove The Old Oil Filter And Replace With A New One
Once most of the oil is drained from the engine and the pan plug is replaced, locate your engine oil filter. Its normally a cylindrical part that extends out from either the side or the bottom of the engine block. On some cars, like on certain Subaru models with a flat engine, the oil filter is accessible from the top. However, its important to note that it varies greatly by car and the type of engine it comes with. Its much easier to just identify what an oil filter looks like so you can find it on any engine.
Unscrew the oil filter from where it sits using either a pair of wide-grip pliers or an oil filter wrench. Be sure to position your drain pan under the filters location as the oil it contains will leak out.
Install the new filter after applying a little bit of oil to the rubber ring around its edge. This will help create a better seal while making it easier to remove during your next oil change. And, dont over-tighten the filter you run the risk of stripping the threads on the filter housing, which could create a major problem. Hand-tight is fine in most cases.
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