The next time your vehicle is due for an oil change, you may be offered a choice between three types of oil – conventional, synthetic, and synthetic blend. How to choose? Recent studies show that synthetic is best. In fact, AAA found that synthetic oil outperformed conventional oil by nearly 50 percent in its independent evaluations, offering vehicles significantly better engine protection for only $5 more per month, on national average.
In general, synthetic provides the following benefits:
- Reduced engine wear and tear
- Better fuel economy, performance, and longer engine life
- Works better in extreme temperatures, from below freezing to above 100˚F; perfect for Arizona drivers
- Long-lasting performance. Synthetic takes longer to break down, and is designed to last for 7,500 to 10,000 miles or more between oil changes. Conventional oil, on the other hand, should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
The only downside to synthetic oil is cost. However, before you choose what appears to be the cheaper oil, you may want to crunch numbers since (as mentioned) synthetic lasts longer and thus requires fewer changes. In the long run, synthetic oil could save you money. In the end, it’s important to use the right oil for your vehicle!
How often should I change the oil?
“Change your vehicle’s motor oil every three months, or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.” There was a time when this was standard auto advice, but not anymore. “Oil technology has changed dramatically over the past 30 years, making the 3,000-mile oil change unnecessary.” [Source: Edmunds]
According to research by Edmunds, most carmakers now recommend oil changes between 7,500 and 10,000 miles, although some specify 5,000-mile intervals. So, check your owner’s manual! Today, the type of motor oil, the age and make of your vehicle and your driving habits dictate when to change the oil.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check the oil on regular basis. In fact, Consumer Reports recommends checking the oil level and color – a quick, easy job – at every other gas fill-up, ensuring your engine runs well until its next full oil change. Follow these steps to find out if your vehicle needs oil:
- With the engine off, open the car’s hood and locate the dipstick
- Pull the dipstick straight out, wiping it off on a clean, lint-free rag
- Re-insert the stick back into its tube
- Pull it back out, and this time 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 word MIN and MAX or simply an area of crosshatching. [Source: Consumer Reports]
- If the top of oil “streak” is between the two marks, the level is fine
- However, if the oil is below the minimum mark, you should add oil
You can either change your oil yourself in your garage, or take it to your mechanic.