(Part 2 of 2 – covering engine oil types/facts)
Different variations of this question are asked on a fairly regular basis, but almost always the same answer applies: Depends, not usually.
There are enough variables in properly caring for your vehicle that prolonging the time between routine service is inadvisable at best, and potentially harmful at worst. This question generally derives from people wanting to know if synthetic oil (versus conventional) will allow them to drive longer without making a service stop, however their concern isn’t exclusive. Now days a lot of people are trying to get the most out of their vehicle and holding onto them much longer. We actually commend those whom have made this decision. Nevertheless, you must arrive to this point keeping a few important things in mind:
01. As cars age they are naturally more likely to require additional service (in most cases)
02. Because older vehicles generally require more of your/our attention, skipping recommended maintenance can often be to the vehicle’s detriment
One method of extending the life of your newer vehicle is the use of synthetic motor oil. You’ll want to consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation but something as simple as synthetic versus conventional may provide you with a competitive advantage. Synthetic motor oil contains significantly more additives than conventional, which among other things protects your oil from viscosity (internal resistance to flow) breakdown. Synthetic handles extreme weather (hot or cold) better than conventional. There are far less impurities to potentially damage your engine with synthetic oil, whereas with conventional it can be a real challenge to eliminate these through simple filtration. This last point is actually the main reason vehicles can often drive much further between synthetic oil change service.
If you’re going to opt for the use of synthetic motor oil it is best to do this when the vehicle is new or within the first few years of its overall life. If you own an older vehicle and have been running primarily conventional oil, it may be wise to stay the course. Switching from conventional to synthetic isn’t nearly as advisable in older vehicles, as your engine develops a type of memory that you are best not to manipulate. Keep in mind also that “extreme conditions” is synonymous with frequent stop-and-go driving. There is a rather common misnomer that synthetic motor oil in newer vehicles is pointless unless you live in a climate that exceeds normal temperatures. What engine oil manufacturers are really saying here is that the temperature of your engine matters more than the outside weather. Synthetic oil produces the best results above 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not difficult to reach/exceed in stop/go traffic. Much easier than you may realize, actually.
Of course better protection comes with a price. That may ultimately be the main reason some decide against using synthetic motor oil. However, don’t be so quick to dismiss the documented advantages, especially if you drive a newer vehicle. Whatever you decide, it is always a good idea to have a routine maintenance check-up on your vehicle every 3 months. Even if your motor oil is not due to be changed, make an appointment to have your vehicle inspected for routine wear/tear and manufacturer recommended maintenance.
We understand when people answer with “Hopefully not too soon” when we wish them well and tell them “See you next time.” Our remarks have nothing to do with major repairs that you might experience, but everything to do with the fact that we know how important it is to service your vehicle on at least a 3 month “preventative” schedule. To us, this constitutes “soon.”