Some of today's most modern car engines can reach 100,000 miles before their first scheduled tune-up. Unfortunately, there is no 100,000 mile miracle motor oil to protect them. After a few thousand miles or kilometers of service, virtually every commercial motor oil becomes contaminated with abrasive metal filings, carbon deposits and other gunk circulating through the engine block. This condition can only be fixed with a regularly scheduled oil change. The problem for drivers is knowing when an oil change becomes necessary and how to avoid spending too much money for too little service.
It's important to keep in mind that practically any mechanic, amateur or professional, can perform a standard oil change. It can be time-consuming and messy, but the oil change procedure is not especially difficult. What can be difficult, however, is the proper disposal of the old oil and the attachment of a new oil filter. This is why many drivers seek out professional service stations for an oil change -- they have approved methods for oil disposal and trained mechanics who can reach even the trickiest oil filter from below the ground. Your first decision should be whether to tackle the oil change on your own or visit a local auto repair center.
If you decide to have the car serviced at a local oil change shop or garage, compare price versus service. Because these shops depend on repeat business from loyal customers, there is plenty of competition for 'introductory' services such as an oil change or tire rotation. Local auto servicing centers routinely offer discount coupons in the local newspaper or telephone book or in bulk mail circulars. One company may offer a complete oil change and safety inspection for $16.95, while another might advertise an oil change and chassis lubrication for $12.95, as long as you agree to use their house brand oils and lubricants. Even the cheapest oil change coupon should provide the most essential service of all -- replacing the old oil with new.
After you've decided on the best value for your needs, you should consider what type of motor oil should go into your car. Motor oils are designated by relative weight, which translates to how thick they are and how much heat can they take before breaking down completely. Cars driven in the winter in Minnesota may require a "10w 30" weight oil which won't turn to a thick syrup in the cold. A small car driven in the hot Southern summers might use a "5w 20" weight to avoid overheating. Every car's needs are different, so ask the attendant to select the best weight motor oil for your particular engine. Sometimes it's the same all year round, but in other circumstances it may have to change with the seasons.
If you're planning on taking a long car trip or really want to keep your car in prime running condition, you may want to consider the more advanced oil change options. A basic oil change at a local shop may cover the cost of the oil, a disposal fee and a quick inspection of the car's other fluids and hoses. The next step up may include lubrication of the chassis, tire inspection, topping off other fluids and a more thorough belt inspection. Deluxe oil change services vary from venue to venue, so be sure to ask the manager or attendant about what to expect in return for the higher charges.