Angie's List: Change often, but not too often

Oil is the lifeblood of your car's engine

TAMPA - Knowing how long to go between oil changes can be a guessing game. It seems everyone has a different opinion – 3,000, 5,000, 7,000 or even 10,000 miles. There was a time when 3 months or 3,000 miles was sound advice, but times have changed.

"Years ago the time to change your oil was really simple – every three months or 3,000 miles," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "With the improvements made to engine oil as well as cars you need to depend on your owner's manual for the best recommendation of how frequently your car may need an oil change. It could be 3,000, 7,000, even 10,000 miles. Changing your oil every 3,000 miles it isn't going to hurt your car, it's only going to hurt your wallet. If you think about it, it might save you $100 a year if you follow the manufacturer's suggestions. "

Regular oil changes are a critical maintenance item in ensuring your car's engine runs properly and will have a long life. Auto shop owner Jim Trump warns if oil changes aren't done in a timely manner, your car's performance and fuel economy can suffer, and long-term damage can occur. "Oil changes lubricate the engine and keep it from wearing. An oil change is probably the most important thing you can do for your car to keep the car healthy. "If you skip a lawn treatment you can always catch up and recover your lawn, but your engine will wear and you won't get that back."

How often to go between oil changes depends on several factors. Conventional motor oil should be changed between 3,000 and 5,000 miles. Those who use synthetic motor oil can go up to 7,000 to 8,000 miles. Be sure to check your owner's manual, though, as some vehicles require synthetic oil. "Synthetic oil is better oil," said Trump. "It lasts longer and it protects better. Some cars require synthetic oil. You need to read your owner's manual or ask your technician to help you with that decision."

If you push your oil change interval too far, you may actually be neglecting other car maintenance issues. A regular oil change schedule can also act as a benchmark for other routine services such as tire rotation, fluid level checks and tune-ups. Oil changes also give technicians a chance to look under the hood and undercarriage to see if there are problems with the vehicle.

Angie's List Tips: Oil Changes

  1. Get in a long-term relationship: One of the biggest advantages to regular oil changes beyond keeping your engine running correctly is having your car regularly in the care of an experienced professional. Whether it's a dealership, an independent shop or a quick-change location, most auto service providers will keep detailed service records that will help you keep up-to-date on recommended services.
  2. Know what you need: If you don't know offhand, it's a good idea to check your owner's manual for the recommended oil weight and type for your vehicle prior to getting an oil change at a new provider. You can also find the recommended oil type for your vehicle under the hood on the oil filler cap. That way you can ensure that the correct oil will be going back into your vehicle once the old oil has been drained.
  3. Check the manufacturer's recommendations: Don't forget to brush up on your car's recommended services based on the mileage on your odometer, too. Many consumers' biggest complaints when dealing with oil changes are companies trying to upsell other services that may be unnecessary. You can quickly verify if you need that pricey air filter or transmission flush by checking your owner's manual recommendations.
  4. Inspect the work: Prior to agreeing to a "full service" oil change, ask what's included in the price. If the company promises to vacuum your car interior, wash your windows and top off fluids like the wiper fluids, check these items before paying the invoice.
  5. Keep your receipt: If something does go wrong, how can you prove it was the shop's fault and not yours? By proving the shop did the work. Keep your receipt from the oil change in the glove box or another handy location. Not only could it help you prove mistakes were made, diligently recording and documenting maintenance and service work can help you sell your car faster and for more money down the road.
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