8 Mistakes to Avoid When Changing a Car’s Oil

Changing the oil is a common car maintenance job many people take on themselves. Neglecting oil changes can lead to expensive breakdowns. It doesn’t take much time, is usually easy to get to, and must be done often. While an oil change might be the most common car maintenance job, a mistake can be very costly. Avoid these mistakes to protect your car’s motor.

1- Using the Wrong Oil

Oil varies by viscosity, quality, and brand. Your small car has a much different engine than a large truck. Before you consider changing your own oil, you need to know what to look for. Using the wrong viscosity is the most common mistake. Viscosity refers to the thickness and weight of a liquid. The difference between water and maple syrup is a great example of viscosity. Oil that is too thin can cause increased wear on motor parts, increased oil use, and leaking seals. Overly thick oil can cause increased fluid friction, sluggish starting in cold weather, and reduced energy efficiency.

2- Over or Under Filling

Your car requires a certain amount of oil to keep the engine lubricated. The wrong amount can cause extra friction and wear on motor parts and affect hydraulic pressure. Use the recommended amount of oil for your vehicle and recheck the level after running the motor for a few minutes to circulate the oil.

3- Forgetting to Replace the Oil Cap

It seems like this would never happen, but it is a common mistake even among professionals. If you are lucky, the check engine light will alert you to the missing cap. Otherwise, your oil can spray out all over the engine compartment, leaving none to lubricate the motor. Triple check for a missing cap before you shut the hood.

4- Using the Wrong Filter

Just because it fits, doesn’t mean it works. Your specific engine requires a certain filter. Using the wrong one can starve your engine of oil or not filter enough dirt to protect the parts. Be sure to know all of the right information about your car (including make, model, and year) before buying a filter.

5- Leaving the Filter Seal Dry

It is important to lubricate the seal with a small amount of oil applied with your finger. Without a lubricated seal, your filter is likely to be loose and leaky.

6- Using the Old Drain Plug Washer or O-ring

Your filter has either a soft metal washer or a rubber ring to seal the drain plug. These items are designed to use once when tightening the oil filter. A drain plug washer is designed to break upon tightening to form a seal. Reuse of a drain plug washer will result in a leaky filter.

7- Forgetting to Remove the Old Gasket

Sometimes, the gasket from the original filter sticks to the housing. When you replace the filter with the new gasket, two gaskets are in place. The original gasket will likely blow out while you are driving and quickly drain the oil.

8- Not Changing the Oil Often Enough

The rule for changing oil used to be every 3,000 miles. Oils and engine technology have changed so much that the estimate is no longer so frequent. Most newer vehicles have a suggested average of 5,000 to 7,500 miles between changes. Which end of this range you should adhere to, depends on what type of driving you do. Stop and go driving, muddy or dusty conditions, rough terrain, and extreme temperatures are factors you should consider. Clean oil lubricates and protects your motor parts. Running dirty oil can cause early wear to your motor.

Changing your car’s oil is one of the least expensive and time-consuming maintenance jobs you can perform. As long as you learn the basics, it is a job you can accomplish yourself. Always consult your car’s owner manual for questions regarding the products you should use in your car. If you don’t have the manual, talk to a professional mechanic or the owner of your local parts store.

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