The oil change is one of the most basic maintenance tasks for combustion engine vehicles. Especially with the advent of better motors and oils, though, it can seem like a car can run for thousands of miles without one. That's a chancy proposition, but how do you know when to take your ride to a professional oil change services provider?
Before Taxing Trips
You don't want to look for a shop while you're on the road. If you're taking a trip across the country, the simplest move is to have a technician change the oil in the vehicle before you.
Notably, this doesn't just apply to long trips. Engine compression can quickly break oil down. If you're using a pickup truck to haul a loaded trailer through hilly or mountainous terrain, for example, an oil change before you set out is a smart idea. That applies even if it's going to be open highways the whole way. Your truck will appreciate doing the job with fresh oil.
After the Vehicle Has Sat
Oil is like any fluid. If it sits long enough, things will start separating out. When a vehicle sits, these separated materials settle in the bottom of the engine. They can cause nearby components to get sludgy, and that can damage the motor. Even if you've driven a vehicle once a week, that may not be enough. If the vehicle has largely sat for three months, an oil change is in order.
If it has sat longer than six months, presume it needs a change. Also, it might need a flush if the engine gets too sludgy.
You don't have to take your vehicle on long trips or leave it in a field for months for it to need an oil change. If you have a commute that runs the engine hard, especially one with lots of stop-and-go traffic, changing the oil every three months is wise. Even if you only accumulate a couple of thousand miles in that time, the abuse of starting from stop signs and traffic lights reputedly is enough.
A combustion motor uses lifters to control the intake and exhaust of fuel, air, and fumes. Lifters are usually a couple of inches long, and they're often attached to moving parts with springs and bearings. They're also typically at the top of the motor so they don't get the most oil.
Lifters are the canary in the coal mine. When the oil starts circulating poorly, they make tapping sounds that signal it's time for an oil change.