7 ways to maintain your car's engine oil

July 28, 2015

By checking and changing your car's oil regularly, you can give your vehicle's engine a longer, stronger life. Here are 7 easy-to-follow ways to maintain the oil in your car's motor.

7 ways to maintain your car's engine oil

1. Check engine oil at every other fill-up

For an accurate reading of the engine's oil level:

  • Run or drive your car for about 15 minutes to warm the oil; then park the car in a level place.
  • Turn off the engine and wait 15 minutes to allow the oil in the engine to drain back to the oil pan.
  • Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a paper towel or rag.
  • Reinsert the dipstick, being sure to push it in all the way, then pull it out again to check the oil level. It should be somewhere between the hash marks on the dipstick.
  • Add the type and amount of oil as specified in your owner's manual, if necessary.

2. Change the oil frequently

While owner's manuals for today's cars recommend increasingly longer intervals between oil changes, the fact remains — frequent changes flush abrasive dirt and metal particles out of the engine, prolonging its life.

  • Most owner's manuals recommend a more frequent interval for "severe conditions".
  • To maximize the life of your engine, follow the severe conditions interval recommendations, especially if you drive regularly in stop-and-go traffic.

3. Avoid overfilling your crankcase with oil

Don't overfill your engine crankcase with oil. It can rise into the crankshaft, where air bubbles will get churned into the oil.

  • Your oil pump can't do a good job of circulating oil with air bubbles.
  • The result can be overheating and stress on engine components.
  • Overfilling can also foul your spark plugs. In fact, overfilling is a bad idea with all automotive fluids.

4. Wipe the oil pan plug clean

If you do your own oil changes, clean the drain plug and washer with rags before reinstalling your oil pan.

  • Some plugs are magnetized to trap metal particles.

5. Consider adding oil coolers

If you plan to do a lot of towing and your vehicle is not already equipped with coolers, consider having them added.

  • Aftermarket engine oil and transmission fluid coolers are simple, low-cost add-ons that operate on the same principle as your car's radiator.
  • The fluid flows through them, and many small fins absorb and dissipate heat.
  • Cooler operating temperatures of engine oil and transmission fluid can add significantly to the life of your engine and transmission.

6. Synthetic oil is better

Use synthetic lubricant when you change your engine oil. It's more expensive, but your engine will thank you.

  • Synthetic oils last longer, stand up to high heat and extreme conditions, and have better flow rates when cold than regular oils.
  • Take care, however, not to void your warranty.
  • Follow the schedule for oil changes specified in your manual – at least through the warranty period.

7. Heavier is not always better

Use the oil viscosity grade that's recommended in your owner's manual for the temperature range you expect for the coming season.

  • Lighter grades (lower viscosity, such as SAE 5W-30), often specified for today's smaller car engines, will deliver easier starts and better engine protection in winter and improved gas mileage throughout the year, thanks to less internal engine friction.
  • Do not use a heavy grade of oil in cold winter climates or you will risk damage to your engine.
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