The Purpose of Engine Oil
Although it may seem straightforward, many people find the procedure quite difficult and end up damaging their engine quite seriously. DriveSmart understands how proper oil maintenance can make an engine last a lifetime, so allow us to explore and master the process of changing an engine’s oil together. It’s likely that we’ve all been exposed to the process of changing an engine’s oil at one point or another in our lives. Whether we watched our parents change it on their car, our friends change it on theirs, our mechanic changing it on ours, or even if we changed it our self – changing the engine’s oil is inevitable.
With that said, it’s safe to assume that we’re all very much aware that our engines require an oil change. However, most of us have little to no understanding of what the oil is used for and why it needs to be replaced.
The engine’s oil has many vital purposes, with the main one being that of keeping the engine running smoothly. Our engines contain many moving parts that all have the potential to rub up against one another, thus creating friction and heat. This friction can severely damage the parts that make up your engine and cause your engine to likely break down altogether.
Engine oil is used in order to keep these parts lubricated in order to reduce the friction and heat generated by the engine’s operation. Engines that overheat are a huge risk to both the vehicle and those inside, as it’s possible that the car can catch fire from the said heat.
Aside from reducing friction and heat within an engine, engine oil is also used in order to keep the engine clean and protect the engine’s parts from corrosion. Interestingly, engine oil also is used in order to improve the engine’s fuel efficiency – something we all could appreciate these days. With that said it is best if all drivers conduct an engine oil check.
How to Check Engine Oil
Most cars have a sensor built into the overall system that will cause a change engine oil light to illuminate on the dashboard when there is a lack of oil, or you are past the recommended miles. If you’re like most drivers, you’ll probably decide that taking your car to a certified mechanic to perform the oil change is the best option. However, prices seem to be rising when it comes to the maintenance of a car, and an engine oil change is no different. With that said, it may be in your best interest to change your engine’s oil on your own in order to start saving some bucks!
Consult Your Manual
Just in the same way that not every vehicle will use the same transmission fluid, engine oil inside your vehicle can vary in viscosity depending on the make and model. Your vehicle’s manual should explain how to locate and identify the oil filter, how to drain and ultimately replenish the oil within the vehicle.
Follow the Instructions Step-by-Step
If your vehicle’s manual instructs that you change the engine oil filter after every 3K-6K miles, you must change the engine oil filter, which is a crucial component. Failure to do so may end up in poor engine performance, or complete engine failure. If your vehicle’s manual instructs only a specific oil type be installed, install only that type of oil. Failure to follow the manual’s instructions can result in a huge repair cost.
Tools You’ll Need
Ensure that you are equipped with the following tools generally required to change your vehicle’s engine oil:
- Container to capture used oil
- New engine oil*
- Oil filter
- Oil filter gasket
- Clean rags
- Rubber mallet
- Wrench set
- Oil filter wrench
- Oil Pan
- Safety glasses
*Refer to the “Synthetic vs Conventional Engine Oil” section to understand which type of oil to install into your vehicle.
Beginning the Process
Changing the engine oil typically takes around 20 minutes or so. You should begin by spreading plastic sheets on the ground in order to avoid oil dripping on the surface below your vehicle.
- Remove the drain plug and begin draining the old oil
- Remove the old oil filter and install the new one
- Install a new gasket on the plug once the oil is down to a trickle by tapping the box-end wrench with the rubber mallet in order to tighten it
- Wipe down any dripping oil with a rag before coming out from below the vehicle
Synthetic vs Conventional Engine Oil
As you will soon discover from your vehicle’s manual, there is a specific type of oil that your engine requires and should always be filled with. As you make your way to the shop, you will have to decide whether to choose a synthetic oil or a conventional oil.
Synthetic engine oil is made for high-tech engines that are typically found in luxury vehicles such as a Mercedes-Benz or BMW. This type of oil is required to pass intensive quality tests in order to provide a longer lasting performance that is superior when compared to conventional oil. This type of oil is able to flow better at low temperatures and it’s able to maintain high lubricity at high temperatures.
This is the type of oil that most people use, as it’s standard for typical commercial vehicles. 5W-20 and 5W-30 oils are usually recommended by manufacturers, as this type of conventional oil performs well at low temperatures. This type of oil needs to be replaced more often than synthetic oil, with 3,000 miles being the most accepted limit before performing the change.
Viscosity and Weight
The viscosity of an engine oil is very important as well. Viscosity is simply defined as the state of being thick, sticky, and consistently semifluid, due to internal friction. Your engine will require a specific level of viscosity and weight from the engine oil in order to function both safely and efficiently.
Viscosity and weight used to be less important for the universal oils of the old days. Read more about how automotive engineering has advanced in engines, where oil pressure is used to regulate valve timing and apply the proper tension to the timing belt or chain.
Again, substituting the manufacturer’s recommendations with your personal preference can result in engine damage, poor performance, and even a “Check Engine” warning. Disregarding the owner’s manual and substituting a different oil for the engine will void any sort of warning, leaving you with a large repair bill for such a silly mistake.
Keep Your Vehicle Running Smoothly
With everything said, it’s no wonder why the processes for changing engine oil are the “driving” reason for people are getting the proper car care from a professional oil change rather than do it on their own. It should be noted that certified vehicle workshops are liable for the work that they perform and will follow the instructions necessary for your car. To learn how to get all your future oil changes paid for, check out DriveSmart’s Auto Saver’s Club.