Does your car need an oil change? Everything you need to know

When it comes to traditional internal combustion engines, changing the oil is one of the simplest tasks you can do to keep your car running great. But when should you do it? Before we answer that question, it's important to understand the purpose of the engine oil in a car.

The job of the engine oil

Your car’s oil pulls double duty. Not only does it act as a lubricant for the mechanical parts of the car, but it also protects the engine. The oil prevents the build-up of small particles that form every time the car is started.

In addition to the particles it collects, the engine oil goes through massive temperature swings thanks to the combustion cycle. That’s why it’s crucial not to just keep it topped up but change it at regular intervals.

How often should you change your oil?

The answer to that varies from car to car. You’ll want to check your user manual to get the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. As a general guideline, most modern petrol engines can go roughly 15,000 km between changes.

Sometimes your car will consume enough oil between changes to need a top-up. When this happens, it should flash a light on the dash to let you know. Park your car on a flat surface and pop the hood to locate the oil dipstick. Pull it out, wipe it off, then reinsert it. Now when you pull it out again, check the level. If it’s below the minimum mark, top it up with the correct grade of oil—also something you’ll find in your user manual.

What about diesel cars?

Diesel cars run different fuel, but they still require oil! Just like with their petrol-powered counterparts, you’ll want to check the user manual to determine the right oil grade for your diesel car. The general rule of thumb puts oil change intervals slightly longer in diesels—think 25,000 to 30,000 km—but to be sure, check that in your user manual, too.

Don’t forget the oil filter

The oil filter is an essential part of the package. It traps the particles that find their way into the oil. Filters can come in multiple types, including magnetic, centrifugal, sedimentation and mechanical. Most modern cars use the latter style.

If you’re changing your engine oil, it’s generally a good idea to change the filter, as well. On older cars, it’s recommended you change the filter every 10,000 km.

How long does an oil change take and cost?

The answer to that depends on your ability—and desire—to do an oil change on your own. Naturally, it can be cheaper than taking it to a mechanic, but make sure you have all the necessary tools, including a wrench set, jack, funnel, rags and old oil pan.

Most auto shops will do an oil change in around 30 minutes. Prices vary too, especially if your car has an unusual oil filter. Call ahead to confirm the details.

Check out other important first-time car owner tips now that you’ve got the oil change down. These tips can make looking for your next car on Kijiji Autos even easier!

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