By Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

November 6, 2023

You might be wondering if oil changes are really that important.

Maybe you have seen a sign or a coupon at your local oil change express shop and were tempted to get a good deal for a cheap oil change.

When it comes to maintaining your vehicle, oil changes are often overlooked as many owners wait for their vehicle or service advisor to tell them when to change their oil.

Quite frankly, my wife has NO IDEA when to change the oil, but I always tell friends and family to try to change it at least once a year.

I've been an automotive enthusiast and fanatic for years, and I can confidently say that regular oil changes can extend the life of your vehicle.

My countless hours under the fleet of cars and hundreds of forum posts have given me the confidence to know the general consensus on oil maintenance and repair.

Oil acts as a lubricant for your car's engine, preventing parts from grinding against each other and causing damage.

Obviously, this oil can degrade and lose effectiveness over time, leading to potential engine problems, especially if you keep your oil the same.

Say "hello" to engine sludge and engine damage.

That's why it's crucial to get your oil changed regularly.

But it's not just about avoiding damage.

Data shows that regular oil changes can also improve your car's performance and fuel efficiency.

In the next sections, I'll dive into the details and explain exactly why you shouldn't skip your next oil change.

In the video below, YouTuber, DoubleBase, who is a certified ASE technician, recommends to change sooner than later if you want your engine to last 200,000 to 300,000 miles. Check out the video below.

Importance of Regular Oil Changes

Oil changes are not just a routine maintenance task; they're a critical component in ensuring your vehicle performs optimally and lasts longer.

"Oil is cheap compared to a new engine" is a saying that many car enthusiasts swear by. I'm one of those guys. Lol.

Understanding the role oil plays in your engine will highlight why the type of oil you use and how often you change it matters immensely.

Regularly Check and Maintain Oil Levels

One of the first steps in successful routine maintenance is regularly checking and maintaining oil levels. It's not just about filling it up and forgetting it; monitoring your oil level is a proactive approach to extending engine life.

Check it once a month, and definitely check it when the seasons change. This is true since we live in the North East.

When oil levels fall below the optimum mark, you are typically low on 1 quart. However, I suggest you top it off as soon as possible.

If you drive with low oil, this WILL definitely lead to costly repairs and, in severe cases, a complete engine rebuild.

Oil Change Intervals

How often one should obtain an oil change service generally depends on several factors.

These include the type of oil used, the age of the vehicle, the car's mileage, and whether the vehicle commonly carries heavy loads, among other factors.

For instance, synthetic oil generally lasts longer than conventional oil. If you do a lot of stop-and-go locally or carry heavy loads, you should change it once a year or every six months to ensure the longevity of your engine's performance.

However, you do not have to follow the old rule of 3,000 miles before an oil change.

The sweet spot is between 5,000 - 7,500 miles.

What is the recommended frequency for oil changes?

The frequency of oil changes depends on several factors, including the make and model of the car, the type of oil used, and driving conditions.

Here are some general guidelines based on the search results:

  • Every 3,000 miles: This used to be the standard interval for oil changes, but most cars can travel farther before needing the oil replaced.
  • Every 5,000 to 7,500 miles: This is a common interval recommended by many car manufacturers and service providers
  • Every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or every 12-24 months: This is the longest interval recommended by some car manufacturers, especially if synthetic oil is used

It's worth noting that some people enjoy the feeling of a fresh oil change, even if the difference in performance may be minimal.

However, changing the oil too frequently can be a waste of money and resources (3,000 miles), while changing it too infrequently (15,000 miles) can lead to engine sludge and potential repairs.

If you have any questions, message our team if you have any concerns about your car's oil change frequency, as we can check the recommended interval.

Fresh Oil and Oil Filter

A fresh oil change and a new oil filter facilitate better engine performance, improve fuel economy, and prolong the lifespan of your engine.

Do Oil Changes Improve Performance

Indeed, routine oil changes play a vital role in the performance of a car's engine. Let's delve into this subject a little deeper.

Old, degraded oil can increase fuel consumption; thus, 'fresh' oil equates to a coordinating car with a better fuel economy. Changing the oil filter during each oil change ensures that the newly added oil remains cleaner for longer, contributing to a smoother and more efficient running engine under the hood.

Engine Performance

Regularly scheduled oil changes significantly boost engine performance.

How so? 

When you repeatedly service your engine at oil change intervals, you ensure that it's adequately lubricated.

This lubrication is essential for the smooth operation of the many engine components.

The type of oil used can also make a difference. Higher-quality oils contain cleaning agents that help keep the engine clean.

In fact, Shell Rotella has been used among enthusiasts to help keep engines cleaner.

This cleanliness reduces friction among engine parts, and with less friction, less energy is used to drive the engine, ultimately improving fuel economy.

Using a fresh oil filter change alongside the regular maintenance schedule maintains the engine's health and sustains performance.

Prolonged Engine Life

Oil changes also play a significant part in extending an engine's lifespan.

Routine maintenance, especially oil changes, minimizes engine damage from heavy loads and overworked engine parts.

By investing a bit of time and money in regular maintenance, you can save a lot in the long run.

Ultimately, a well-maintained engine is more likely to perform at its peak, return better fuel economy, and endure for a lengthy period.

Do Oil Changes Improve Gas Mileage?

As someone who's spent years under the hood of cars, I can confidently affirm that routine oil changes do improve gas mileage.

Yes, regular oil changes can help improve gas mileage in a few key ways:

  • Reduced friction - Fresh, clean oil allows engine components to move more freely and smoothly. Less friction means better mechanical efficiency and less drag on the engine, requiring less fuel.
  • Maintains emissions - Fresh oil helps the engine meet factory emissions standards. A degraded emissions system burns more fuel.

Why? 

Its science:

Fuel Efficiency

The key word here is 'efficiency'. An engine that is clean and free from debris operates efficiently and boosts overall fuel economy.

The type of oil you use plays a huge role in this since engines are engineered with high tolerances and operate using specific oil viscosities. Reduced friction means the engine doesn't have to work as hard to keep your car moving, which translates to savings at the pump.

Remember that clean oil translates to a slicker, more efficient engine operation, lubrication, and cooling.

When the engine operates with heavy loads, like when towing or climbing steep hills, a fresh oil change ensures it can cope without straining since there are fewer deposits and better cooling properties.

The EPA estimates that a vehicle can gain up to 2% in fuel economy just by switching from dirty to clean oil.

So, while the mpg improvement may be modest, regular oil changes are an easy way to keep your engine running at peak efficiency and get the best possible fuel mileage. The improvement will be most noticeable in older, high-mileage vehicles.

The Importance of Oil and Oil Filters

Often, during an oil change service, you should be getting a new oil filter, too.

Oil filters are cheap (priced between $5-$15), and it's uncommon to skip this. Growing up, my dad would personally skip changing and alternate between oil changes.

But now I know it's best to change with the oil.

Oil filters mechanically remove impurities caught up in the oil, preventing them from causing costly repairs down the line due to unwanted engine damage.

By regularly swapping out your oil and oil filter, you're not only contributing to improved fuel economy but also preventing overwork of engine components. Proper engine flow and pressure are key.

So, think about these benefits next time you question whether it's worth sticking to your oil change intervals.

Your vehicle will thank you and your wallet when you start noticing the miles you've been saving.

After all, prevention is always better – and more economical – than cure.

Can You Feel the Difference After an Oil Change?

The effect an oil change has on your car is often evident in aspects like fuel economy and the overall feel of the driving experience.

Some may say the butt dyno is a placebo effect, but I noticed that engines are usually quieter and smoother with a fresh oil change.

Driving Habits

The ability to perceive the immediate effects of routine maintenance, such as an oil change, largely depends on a person's driving habits.

If your usual driving routine has you dealing with heavy loads, like towing, or frequently running at high speeds, your engine works harder.

The strain on the engine components is where a clean, well-lubricated engine matters the most.

Let me tell you in simple terms.

When your engine's clean, it's happy.

A "Happy" engine equals smoother performance, which you're bound to notice.

It runs better; there is less noise and better lubrication overall for your engine.

If you added an oil additive, allow 500-1,000 miles before your final verdict. My personal favorite additives are Liquimoly oil additives.

Swapping in fresh oil during oil change intervals as per your "maintenance schedule" does reflect your car's performance.

Choosing the right type of oil for your vehicle is about more than just complying with guidelines from the user manual or advice from your oil change service provider. Your choice of oil also tells how well you understand and respect your engine's needs. Whether it's synthetic or conventional, the oil's job is to reduce friction among the engine components, maintain a clean and efficient engine, and shield it from costly repairs and engine damage.

It's not just an oil change but a well-done one, complete with an oil filter change.

Spent oil filters can't keep the impurities out like the new ones do. It's about the whole service package. And each part added, or component serviced moves you one step closer to prolonging your engine life.

If you do your own oil changes, then check the dirty engine oil and oil filter for metal or glitter. This might be a sign there is something more you need to investigate with your engine.

Good oil change habits equate to healthier engine life, and that you'll feel long term.

Do Oil Changes Make a Car Run Smoother?

Yes, absolutely!

Regular oil changes are a crucial part of vehicle maintenance that can't be ignored. The oil in your engine is its lifeblood, providing vital lubrication to prevent damage from parts grinding against each other.

By changing your oil regularly, you're not just being a responsible owner but also boosting your car's performance and fuel efficiency.

The result is a smooth-running engine. 

High-quality oils contain cleaning agents that reduce friction among engine parts, directly improving fuel economy.

Regular oil changes can even extend your engine's lifespan. They prevent damage from overworked parts and ensure proper lubrication, which means your engine can perform at its peak for longer.

How does an oil change improve performance?

benefits for oil changes

Here are a few key points about how regular oil changes can improve vehicle performance:

  1. Clean oil reduces friction. As engine oil gets dirty, contaminants build up in it, which increases friction between moving parts in the engine. This creates drag and reduces power. Fresh, clean oil minimizes friction for better performance.
  2. Removes debris. Over time, debris from normal wear and combustion byproducts accumulate in the oil. Regular changes remove this sludge and build up before it can clog or coat engine components.
  3. Maintains proper viscosity. Oil thins out as it gets older and loses its lubricating properties. New oil has the correct viscosity to coat and lubricate engine parts properly.
  4. Cools better. Cleaner oil flows better and dissipates heat more efficiently throughout the engine. This helps prevent overheating, especially under heavy loads.
  5. Protects against corrosion. The oil contains additives that neutralize acids and help prevent corrosion inside the engine. Fresh oil replenishes these additives.
  6. Prevents premature failure. Dirty oil can lead to clogged filters, stuck piston rings, and other problems that reduce engine life. Regular changes prevent sludge buildup to maintain proper engine function.

Timely oil changes remove contaminants, maintain proper lubrication, and help extend the life of your engine. This keeps all systems running smoother and can improve performance. The extent of improvement depends on how dirty the old oil was.

Is there a noticeable difference after an oil change?

Yes, you can often notice an improvement in your vehicle's performance and feel after getting a fresh oil change. 

Here's why:

When oil gets old, contaminants build up, and the oil's lubricating properties break down. This creates more friction and drag in the engine. A new oil change cleans out all the sludge and replaces the old oil with fresh, clean oil. The improved lubrication makes the engine components glide more smoothly. This reduced friction can give you more responsive acceleration when you step on the gas pedal.

The engine may feel slightly "freer revving" and more willing to pick up speed. You may also notice less vibration from the engine at idle and overall quieter operation. In some cases, minor oil leaks can stop after an oil change removes built-up gunk, allowing gaskets and seals to make better contact.

While the differences may be subtle, a well-tuned driver can sense the engine running cleaner and smoother after a new oil change. The improvements are most apparent in high mileage vehicles where oil breakdown and contaminants have a greater impact. So next time your car is due for an oil change, pay attention, and you may notice that refreshed feel as you drive.

FAQs:

Q: Why are regular oil changes important for a vehicle?

Routine oil changes can prolong an engine's lifespan by preventing damage from overworked parts and ensuring proper lubrication.

Q: How do regular oil changes improve fuel economy?

Higher-quality oils with cleaning agents reduce friction among engine components, allowing the engine to work more efficiently and save fuel. A well-lubricated engine can also handle heavy loads without straining, further enhancing fuel efficiency.

Q: What are the immediate effects of a routine oil change?

The immediate effects of a routine oil change can be felt in aspects such as fuel economy and the overall feel of the driving experience. Some might say it is a placebo, but it always feels better after performing some routine maintenance.

 

 

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Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

About the author

I am a passionate car enthusiast who likes to help people save money and avoid headaches when it comes to cars. I believe that everyone can find the right car at the right price. I share my tips and experience so you can learn quickly and maximize your next SUV, truck or car purchase.

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