Oil Change Service Guide: Everything You Should Know About Your Car’s Oil

close up of car oil change

The investment you have in your vehicle is protected by a routine schedule of oil changes. Taking this one proactive step will extend the life of your car or truck significantly and can help keep you safe while on the road. Protect the life of your vehicle by investing in a quality oil change service, rather than a cheap oil change. Even better, you can get more for less by asking your local Driver’s Edge auto repair location about our oil change specials.

With the advanced technology now used to build engines, oil change service schedules have changed. Below is critical information you should know about oil change frequency, types of oil, and the impact your driving habits may have on how often you’ll need to change the oil in your car or truck.

Do one size fits all recommendations still apply for oil change frequency?

Although the “3 months or three thousand miles” rule for oil change frequency is a good place to start, you may want to first check what the manufacturer of your vehicle says on the topic. Nowadays, modern engines and modern oils are more sophisticated, which can change how often your car may require an oil change

This can also affect the frequency of oil changes. The synthetic lubricants today hold up much longer than they used to, so newer engines can run longer and safely with a full synthetic oil change. But how much longer and for which engines?

Severe vs. normal driving

Your owner’s manual scheduled maintenance guide may reference this distinction. One manufacturer has defined “severe” as:

  • Driving on dirt roads or dusty roads
  • Driving while towing, using a car-top carrier, or heavy vehicle loading
  • Repeated short trips in below-freezing temperatures 
  • Extensive idling and/or low speed driving for a long distance
  • Driving in hot weather stop-and-go traffic
  • Going long distances at speeds under 50 mph

Driving in conditions like these can demand oil changes twice as often as the manufacturer’s recommendation for “normal” driving. But, if you drive in a large city and have an active family life, your driving may fall into the “severe” category on a daily basis. Or maybe you live on a rural dirt road. What then? 

The point is that drivers must know what their car needs based on the recommendations of the company that built it. The shortest suggestion for the time between oil changes is 3K miles. Some suggest longer periods between oil change services. All of this critical information and more can be found in the manual. 

The oil change specialists at your auto repair shop are your local experts. Be sure to discuss the following factors with your mechanic, as well. 

The age of your vehicle

As with any machine, older models need more attention. If your car or truck is an older model or has high mileage, it may require more frequent oil changes. Older vehicles use oil less efficiently than newer ones, so there’s a chance that the oil used can become contaminated faster. As engines age, they can accumulate more build-up, metal filings, and general debris. If the vehicle hasn’t been maintained well, it could be even worse. This is when your mechanic may recommend an “engine flush,” which can help to some degree.

Driving conditions

Extreme weather, either hot or cold, can affect your vehicle’s engine. Oil in your car becomes thicker in cold weather and the manufacturer’s recommendations for your vehicle may recommend a thinner grade of oil in the winter. The use of synthetic oil can add additional protection. Ask the service staff at your local auto shop for further assistance.

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Checking your own oil

It’s good practice to check the oil level in your car once a month. Newer cars have an electronic monitoring system, while older cars have a dipstick in the oil reservoir under the hood. All cars require the oil to be topped off between oil changes. 

Here are some tips for checking the oil with a dipstick:Oil Change Must-Knows

  1. Park the car on a flat surface.
  2. Wait for the car to cool off before checking the oil.
  3. Turn the car off, open the car’s hood and locate the dipstick.
  4. Pull the dipstick out and wipe the oil off.
  5. Place the dipstick back, pushing it all the way back in.
  6. Pull it back out.
  7. Look at both sides of the dipstick to see where the oil level shows on the end.
  8. The level is fine if the oil level is between the two marks or within the crosshatched area.
  9. If the oil is below the minimum mark, you may need to add more oil. 

Also, look out for flecks of metal in the oil. It should be brown or black. If it’s lighter in color, coolant may be leaking into the oil. Either of these characteristics mean possible trouble ahead, so be sure to make an appointment at your auto repair shop as soon as possible.

There are serious consequences for old or contaminated oil in your car’s engine.

Sludge is as bad for your vehicle’s engine as it sounds. Instead of oil flowing smoothly through the engine and lubricating each component adequately, a thick mud literally clogs oil passageways. The result is wear and tear on the engine and then failure long before the engine would normally need to be replaced. 

Replacing oil on a regular basis is much less expensive than buying a new engine or a new car or truck.  Plus, there are other consequences for a failure to keep up with oil changes in your vehicles.

Drivers who take short trips, either regularly or infrequently, face another problem with the effects of this kind of driving. The engine doesn’t have time to heat up enough to burn off water vapor, experience oxidation, and the formation of acids. These components literally wear away your engine because the oil can’t do its job. In order to protect engines to some degree, nearly all commercial motor oil products contain up to five percent of additives. Oil additives improve the performance of an oil’s base stock, but they can’t completely prevent engine damage caused by sludge.

Conventional oil vs synthetic oil 

The differences between conventional and synthetic oil begins at a molecular level, but the answer is not too complicated. You want to use whichever type of oil best protects your car’s engine every day. Here are some of the things to consider.

Conventional oil

  • Less expensive 
  • Needs to be changed more often
  • Made from crude oil
  • Contain impurities
  • Lubricates by coating vital engine parts that run at high speeds 
  • Leaves carbon deposits in the engine forming “engine sludge” 
  • Susceptible to extremes of heat

Synthetic motor oil

  • Fewer oil changes
  • More expensive
  • Mixture of additives that allows for a slower break down of oil
  • Provides better lubrication
  • Adapts to extremes of hot or cold
  • More uniform, so it keeps your engine cleaner and lasts longer
  • Improves fuel efficiency and engine performance

Weigh the pros and cons of using each kind of oil in your car or truck. If you need assistance, you can also ask the professional service staff at your local Driver’s Edge for their advice. That way, you can choose what is best for your budget and for your vehicle. 


Many engine failures are due to owner neglect. There are no actions more important than maintaining the recommended oil change schedule, using the correct oil, and then adjusting as the engine ages on your vehicle. 

Let the professionals at Driver’s Edge help you. We have the experience, knowledge, and modern technology to monitor the quality of the oil running through your car’s engine and we can help you make the best decisions for your budget and your vehicle. 

Book An Oil Change Appointment