Staying up-to-date on oil changes is an easy way to lengthen the lifespan of your vehicle. It is not always obvious when an oil change is necessary and many drivers procrastinate when it is time. While your vehicle’s manufacturer will spell out specific guidelines for oil changes in the owner’s manual, the need for an oil change will vary with vehicle use. Short trips and extreme weather conditions can put pressure on the car engine.  Also traveling on dirt or gravel roads can lead to more dust getting in the oil.  These conditions can shorten the useful life of your oil.

Indications for an oil change.

Even with today’s technology, there isn’t a magic button that tells you the truth on your oil life. Luckily, it’s simple enough to look at your dip stick for a few indications that may tell you if your car needs an oil change.  Oil is a light, clear amber color when it is fresh and becomes a black or dark brown color when it has reached the end of its life. If the oil has a burnt odor to it, it is time for an oil change.  If you happen to notice small pieces of metal or other debris when you pull the dipstick out, don’t be alarmed. Motor oil is designed to capture those smaller particles to be removed when the oil is changed. But if you notice metal shavings on the dipstick, you might want to get your car in as soon as you can. This can indicate a much larger problem, internal problem in the works. Another sign to look for is the your check oil light. While we wish this was an easy reminder to get your oil changed, it’s actually a sign that you have dangerously low oil and there isn’t enough pressure being generated to safely keep your engine running.

How often should oil be changed?

If you are like most people, you have one of those oil change reminder labels that shows when to expect the next oil change.  Typically it should be changed every 3,000 miles.  Sometimes this time frame can go by very fast and as a result it could be 4 to 5,000 miles before the oil is changed.  Is this ok?  It is important to understand the wear and tear on engines as a result of when you change your oil.

How Much Should an Oil Change Cost?

Determining how much you’re going to pay to have your oil changed can be difficult. The cost depends entirely on where you take your car, or whether you’ve decided to do it yourself. Both methods will cost you money, but the cost of having a professional change out your oil can vary greatly.  If you have the experience and necessary equipment it is possible to do it yourself.  When changing the oil, change out the oil filter as well. Filters can quickly become clogged with particles that flow through the oil.  The expense of oil and a filter can usually be around $20 and can be completed within a half hour.  A nationwide service station chain will usually charge around $30 to change your oil.  These shops can get you in and out in a jiffy but won’t always do additional work if needed.  Your local mechanic might only charge $35.  The benefit of a local shop is having someone take a little better look and they might also be willing to make an additional repair if needed.  The final option is your auto dealership.  Generally this will cost about $50 depending on the size of engine and type of oil.  A lot of drivers like to take their cars to be serviced at the auto dealership where they bought their vehicle because of an implied greater level of service. The dealership can also help keep a service record for any warranties your car may have.