5 Things to Know About Oil Changes for Your Car

If you’re confused about motor oil—the right time to change it, how often to change it, what’s the best oil for your car—Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic, John Ibbotson, can set you straight.

1. When to Change the Oil

The answer to a lot of these questions is the same: Check your owner’s manual. It should be your car maintenance and operation bible. Don’t make assumptions on the interval based on past experiences or guidance from mechanics who profit from the work, because the timing has evolved over the years.

Many cars, pickups, and SUVs now have service reminder monitors that alert drivers when to change their oil. “These systems typically monitor the number of miles a vehicle has traveled, and they also sense how hard the car is being driven, and adjust accordingly,” Ibbotson says.

Make sure you get your oil change soon after you receive such an alert.

Oil level gauge.

2. How Often to Check the Oil Level

Checking car oil.

You should keep an eye on your car’s oil levels. Our reliability survey results have shown that even newer cars can need the oil to be topped off between changes.

CR recommends checking your oil level at least once a month. Be sure to get repairs done at the first sign of a leak.

Check the owner’s manual and follow the automaker’s recommendations. Some newer cars have electronic oil monitors and don’t have traditional dipsticks for manual inspection.

If you do have a dipstick, and you’re checking it yourself, make sure the car is parked on level ground. If the engine has been running, be aware of potential hot spots under the hood.

With the engine off, open the car’s hood and find the dipstick. Pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe any oil off from its end. Then insert the dipstick back into its tube and push it all the way back in.

Pull it back out, and this time quickly look at both sides of the dipstick to see where the oil is on the end. Every dipstick has some way of indicating the proper oil level, whether it be two pinholes, the letters L and H (low and high), the words MIN and MAX, or simply an area of crosshatching. If the top of the oil “streak” is between the two marks or within the crosshatched area, the level is fine.

But if the oil is below the minimum mark, you need to add oil.

Pay close attention to the oil’s color. It should appear brown or black. But if it has a light, milky appearance, this could mean coolant is leaking into the engine. Look closely for any metal particles, too, because this could mean there is internal engine damage. If you see either of these conditions, get the car to a mechanic for further diagnosis.

If everything is okay, wipe off the dipstick again and insert it back into its tube, making sure it’s fully seated. Close the hood and you’re done.

3. How Often to Change the Oil

Changing car oil.

Some swear by the “every 3,000 miles or every 3 months” rule, but advances in engines and oil have made that guidance obsolete. Many automakers have oil-change intervals at 7,500 or even 10,000 miles and 6 or 12 months for time.

“Your owner’s manual has more detailed information about your car than any mechanic does,” Ibbotson says. “Don’t get talked into too-often oil changes. Follow the manual and your car’s engine should stay well-lubricated and perform well.”

Over the course of two years and 30,000 miles, assuming that your oil change costs $40 a pop, you could save $240 if you get it changed every 7,500 miles vs. every 3,000 miles.

It’s not just about miles: If you don’t drive your car a lot, your oil still needs to be kept fresh. Even if you drive fewer miles each year than your automaker suggests changing the oil (say, 6,000 miles, with suggested oil-change intervals at 7,500 miles), you should still be getting that oil changed twice a year.

Why? Oil becomes less effective as it ages, and by not getting the engine warm enough, excess moisture that forms in the engine will not be removed, which can lead to shorter engine life.

4. Choosing the Right Oil for Your Car

Again, take a look at your owner’s manual. “Don’t be upsold into synthetic oil if there is no need,” Ibbotson says.

In many newer models, the weight of your car’s motor oil is printed on the cap where you add oil. “Make sure you know what’s recommended or required by your automaker before you visit your mechanic so that you can control the cost of the oil they’re putting in,” he says.

If you have a much older car, do you need special motor oil?

“Not if it’s running well,” Ibbotson says. “If you’re not sure what oil you should be using because you don’t have an owner’s manual, check with your local dealer or an online enthusiast group for your particular model,” he says.

5. Do You Need Synthetic Oil?

Conventional engine oil vs. synthetic engine oil.

“Only if your manufacturer calls for it,” Ibbotson says, “because it can cost from two to four times as much as conventional oil.”

Synthetic oil is designed to be more effective at resisting breakdown (and because of that, it lasts longer) and withstanding high temperatures.

There are situations where that resistance to breakdown can help prolong the life of your engine.

“If you make lots of short trips, standard motor oil may never get warm enough to burn off moisture and impurities, which means it may not be doing enough to protect your engine,” Ibbotson says.

Another consideration is your lifestyle. “If you live in a region with very cold winters or very hot summers, or if you use your vehicle for towing or hauling heavy material, synthetic oil is your best bet,” he says. “While synthetic generally holds up better and can serve for more miles, it is equally important to not extend oil changes beyond the time interval recommended by the manufacturer—typically six months or a year if it is a motor that is not driven many miles or on many short trips.”

Synthetic oil can also help engines that are prone to building up sludge; some Volkswagen and Toyota models have had sludge issues in the past. This residue, formed when oil breaks down, can block the flow of oil, leading to the quick death of an engine. Synthetic oil would be beneficial in these engines because it helps to reduce sludge buildup, helping to extend the engine’s lifespan.

Hanover Will Be Opening Later Today

– Because we have gone down to one staffer at a time for safety reasons, we sometimes can run into issues of coverage. The Hanover store will be opening sometime later this afternoon. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Outside of School Shutdowns, California Governments and Transits Keep Moving

From first responders to public transit authorities in cities from San Diego to Sacramento, and counties from Orange to San Bernardino, SCL customers in municipalities throughout the state are continuing to operate normally aside from school closures.

A longstanding partner with the City of Los Angeles, SCL provides oils, lubricants and petroleum products for all vehicles and machinery used by cities and counties under contract; this includes products for fire department vehicles, ambulances, large engines, sanitation trucks, public transit, police and sheriff’s department vehicles, and any vehicles used by smaller departments.

“The majority of our customers are still working. Nothing is shut down – not even public transportation. On the contrary, they’ve all been proactive about placing orders for all of their supplies,” said SCL Contract Specialist Melissa Carson. “So far no one has had any issues getting anything they regularly order either, which is a good sign.”



Most of what falls under municipalities are considered essential services, exempting them a mandate by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that has forced closure of thousands of businesses statewide.

As a supplier for those essential services, SCL is also permitted by the state to continue operating. Recently, the County of Marin went so far as to provide written authorization for SCL drivers to carry with them, designating them as essential. From a public service perspective, having ready access to supplies that keep vehicles and machinery for first responders and public works up and running has been critical.

“The departments we work with have thousands of vehicles and equipment, and they have a huge responsibility to serve the public, especially in a crisis like this,” Carson said. “To date, oil manufacturers have stated they haven’t encountered any issues with regard to the coronavirus (COVID-19) that impact their ability to support North America, which is good for everyone. The City of Los Angeles alone has 185 locations, so that impacts a lot of people.”

There are other types of supplies that municipalities have reported shortages of – including personal protection equipment – but orders of oil, lubricants and petroleum have not experienced any reported shortage to date.



As with most industry sectors, a driving concern among city and county government officials has been the protection of its employees. According to Carson, many SCL customers have come up with creative ideas to keep people working while maintaining health, such as additional shifts that reduce the number of employees working at a time and the closure of public offices.

“One municipality we work with, for example, went from having 1-2 shifts to now having 3-4 shifts and they’ve opened hours on the weekends,” Carson said. “I think they’re trying to think outside the box, dispersing people throughout the day so they’re not as in close proximity to each other.”

According to the Orange County Register, although some police departments have closed their station doors to the public, they are continuing to respond to emergency calls. “We’re still providing the service. We’re just adapting new ways to do them (including phone and online services) and trying to limit unnecessary contact,” Fullerton Police Sgt. Eric Bridges told the newspaper.

SCL has also adopted measures aimed at limiting contact with customers, particularly at cardlock fueling stations used by a vast number of employees from municipalities throughout the state. Cardless Swipe, an app that allows drivers to conduct all transactions electronically, is offered at many stations as an alternative to coming in contact with an attendant or having to keep track of physical receipts.

Other local government offices have followed suit by closing their doors to the public, but according to Carson, jobs have not been affected. “So far, we haven’t had any of our customers experience furlough. I know it’s happening in other places, but not among any of the people we’re servicing,” she said. “The customers in our area are busy and they’re needed.”



The greatest opportunity in the municipal sector as far as SCL coverage goes has to do with the availability of supplies.

“We often fill gaps among customers that may have existing contracts with other suppliers,” Carson said. “We are always happy to offer support, even when it comes to products or equipment that may be outside our wheelhouse. We want to do our part to make sure our cities and counties have everything they need to provide their essential services to the public.”


Contact an SCL Consultant today 

In a wide range of automotive, industrial and commercial sectors, SCL remains steadfast on its commitment to product and industry knowledge, performance satisfaction and superior logistics. We protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving. For more information on how we help can help with services including bulk purchasing or managing inventory, contact an SCL expert today.

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SCL Business Resource Center

The Coronavirus pandemic is posing unprecedented challenges to all businesses.  With the government stepping in to offer support, it can be a challenge keeping up with what benefits are available to your company and your specific situation.  By familiarizing yourself you may identify opportunities to help your company finesse through thee turbulent times.

The SCL Business Resource Center provides up-to-date information to help our customers stay informed during these challenging times.

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Observe National Car Care Month with a Driveway Vehicle Check

National Car Care Month in April is the perfect time for simple driveway car care to make sure your vehicle is operating safely and dependably for essential trips during this trying time, says the Car Care Council.

“A driveway vehicle check only takes about 10 minutes. These simple steps will help keep you on the road so you can run important errands and arrive safely to your destinations,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “If you find your vehicle needs service, automotive repair is considered essential, so call your trusted local repair shop. Many shops have remained open in stay-at-home areas and most have instituted polices to ensure limited personal contact, allowing you to drop off and pick up your vehicle quickly and safely.”

The non-profit Car Care Council suggests inspecting the following items as part of a simple driveway vehicle inspection:

  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and inspect and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation. Keep the reservoir filled with solvent.

The Car Care Council’s 80-page Car Care Guide can be ordered free-of-charge by visiting www.carcare.org/car-care-guide. Available in English and Spanish, the popular guide features helpful information about maintaining your vehicle for safety, dependability and value.

The non-profit Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For the latest car care news, visit the council’s online media room at media.carcare.org. To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at www.carcare.org.

The post Observe National Car Care Month with a Driveway Vehicle Check appeared first on Be Car Care Aware.


Quick Lube History: 1990 – Jiffy Lube gets new board, complete restructuring

BALTIMORE — Jiffy Lube International, Inc. Tuesday announced the election of a new board of directors as part of a just-completed financial restructuring plan with senior lenders and Pennzoil Co.

Under terms of the financial plan announced last year, Pennzoil of Houston exchanged $15 million in debts and $28.5 million in cash for an 80 percent common stock interest in Jiffy Lube.

Under the restructuring plan, Jiffy Lube’s payment terms on the Baltimore company’s senior debt will be significantly revised and reduced, company officials said.

Pennzoil, a supplier that came to Jiffy Lube’s rescue when it ran into financial trouble a year ago, has replaced the quick-lube company’s founder and chairman with one of its own executives.

The move, along with changes in Jiffy Lube’s board of directors, was part of an anticipated management sweep by the oil giant.

The new board includes J. Ronald Calabrese, 54, the new president and chief executive officer of Jiffy Lube International who previously was group vice president of Pennzoil’s quick lube division.

Others board members include J. Anthony Aldrich, 51, vice president and partner of Talesis, a division of Towers Perrin, who previously was vice president and director of the Boston Consulting Group.

Also named was Randal B. McDonald, 59, president and director of Pennzoil Co., who previously was a managing partner and chief financial officer at the Chicago world headquarters of Arthur Anderson & Co.

The remaining board member are James L. Pate, 54, director and executive vice president of Pennzoil Company, who previously served Pennzoil as senior vice president, finance and treasurer, and Robert N. Thurston, 57, who has been a business consultant since July 1985. Thurston previously was executive vice president and a director of Quaker Oats Company.