Does your oil change service make the grade?

Most drivers realize frequent oil changes can add to the life and performance of their vehicle. Yet, are all oil changes services the same?

In a word, “No.”

So says Tony Molla, vice president of communications for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

“Full service centers generally employ ASE certified and factory-trained technicians and offer a wide range of maintenance services,” Molla said. “A lube-only facility generally focuses on oil, fluid and filter services.”

According to Molla, a quick-lube service alone may miss problems that could have expensive repercussions.

For example, a full service facility may operate a tire center and offer tire rotation as part of routine maintenance.  Like engine lubrication, tires for most passenger vehicles are rotated every 5,000 miles to prevent abnormal wear.

 “It’s easy to neglect tire rotation when you are simply looking for the least expensive oil change service,” Molla said. “Yet, forgetting to rotate tires can cut tread life by more than half.”

The same problem can exist with brake system, battery check and hose inspection. Early warning signs such as worn pads or leaky hydraulic systems can cause more expensive repair down the road if neglected or overlooked during routine maintenance.

“Every vehicle is different as well,” Molla said. “Service operations that have certified technicians are trained in a variety of makes and models.”

Some vehicles require synthetic motor oil as standard equipment from the factory rather than conventional, refined motor oil.  Service intervals for synthetic oil may vary up to 15,000 miles.

“Certified technicians are trained to spot problems beyond basic oil change and lubrication services,” Molla said.

Traditionally, oil change services were recommended every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Most manufacturers recommend a change every 7,500 miles for conventional oils.

“Although important to long vehicle life, simply changing oil is not enough to keep your vehicle operating safely and efficiently,” Molla said. “Your vehicle needs to be inspected at least twice a year by a certified technician.”

Molla also gave some extra tips in determining your need for an oil change:

  • Get a multipoint inspection along with your autumn oil change service. This service will help avoid problems that can lead to winter breakdown or malfunction.
  • Follow manufacturer’s suggested intervals for oil change service. The old rule of thumb—getting an oil change and lube every 3,000 miles—does not necessarily apply to today’s high tech vehicles, particularly if they use synthetic motor oil.
  • Driving conditions and style affect oil change intervals. Do you make a lot of stop-and-go driving? Do you drive a lot of dusty roads? Both situations may require more frequent oil change services than long distance, freeway travel.  Ask your service technician.
  • The type and grade of motor oil recommended for your vehicle can vary from one manufacturer to another. These days, one size does not fit all when it comes to motor oil. Check your owner’s manual to make sure you are using the correct type of motor oil for your vehicle.
  • Does your vehicle require synthetic oil? Some advanced engines now require highly specialized grades of man-made oil that may not be substituted for traditional oil. Check your owner’s manual.