Oil Maintenance for Teen Drivers

Did you know that gas isn't the only liquid your vehicle needs to stay healthy? Learn how proper oil maintenance can make all the difference for your ride.

AAMCO  | 06/24/2020
Car Problems & Safety

As a new driver, a concerning moment might be when you see that low fuel light pop on — meaning your car is hungry for the gasoline that keeps it running happy and smooth. However, did you know that there is another type of liquid that your vehicle craves even more than gas?

You guessed it — oil. This amber liquid is one of the essential liquids that keep your vehicle running at its most efficient. If your oil levels get too low, you can risk damaging your engine and other essential mechanisms permanently. Keep your car in tip-top shape with the following tips for understanding motor oil changes and maintenance.

What's The Big Deal With Oil?

Over the years, motor oil has undergone a variety of changes and updates. Today, there are as many motor oil brands as there are soft drink options, most modern synthetic motor oils are made up of a combination of base oils and added components that keep your car running at maximum efficiency. Check out a few of the things your motor oil does for your vehicle:

  • Keeps all moving parts lubricated
  • Reduces engine wear
  • Prevents harmful deposits from forming in the engine
  • Cools engine parts that can overheat easily
  • Enhances engine fuel efficiency (saving you $$$ at the pump!)
  • Helps your car operate in any outside temperature
  • Keeps all valves and hydraulics moving smoothly

Staying Conventional Vs. Going Synthetic

Once you know what oil can do, it's time to understand what oil to put in your vehicle. Typically, the correct type of motor oil to use in your vehicle is included in the owner's manual. However, depending on your car's age and mileage, your mechanic may encourage you to use conventional or synthetic oil blends.

From the outside, you won't be able to tell any differences between synthetic and conventional oil. However, there are vast differences in the production of these two types of motor oil. Conventional oil is often a basic and natural version of motor oil that has been in use for years. In contrast, synthetic oil will be more "man-made," meaning it's formulated with particular elements that will enhance the oil and add extra protection to your vehicle. 

Generally, a synthetic oil blend will offer better performance and efficiency to your vehicle as it moves throughout the system. The mixture is built to keep your engine wear and tear low and keep it clean of harmful deposits. This type of oil also burns cleaner, meaning better overall performance that leads to a longer-lasting engine. If you want to learn more about your vehicle's motor oil options, contact your local AAMCO center and our expert technicians.

When to Change Your Oil

Like any liquid, motor oil will eventually wear out and get low as it burns up. While the general rule is to change your oil every 3,000 miles (about every three months, or seasonally), you may be surprised to learn that newer cars tend not to need oil changes for 5,000 - 7,000 miles. The right oil change schedule can be found in the manual for your vehicle. However, there are a variety of reasons to consider changing it sooner — including driving habits, driving patterns, and your vehicle's age. 

How to Check Your Oil

Confused about when to change your oil? The best method is by checking your oil levels frequently. Once the level goes below the recommended levels, it is time to get the oil replaced. Here is a quick guide for how to check your oil:

Click on the image below to view at full size
AAMCO Illustration: How to Check Your Oil

  • First, check your owner's manual and follow any special instructions or recommendations for how to check your oil. With the vehicle's engine off, pop the hood. Locate the dipstick, which will usually have a circle hoop at the end to allow you to easily slip it in and out of the engine.
  • Remove the dipstick. Clean it thoroughly with a clean rag or cloth to remove any residual oil marks. Reinsert the dipstick fully into its tube. Pull the dipstick out again and note where the liquid mark sits.
  • The dipstick has notches that tell you if the levels are high or low. The oil can be dark but should still be translucent. If it's black, gritty, or sludgy, that could indicate old or degraded oil that may need to be changed. Oil with milky hues signals a possible coolant leak, and the vehicle should be examined immediately. If little or no oil is present, fill the engine with new oil.
  • Check your owner's manual for which oil is best to use for the vehicle. To add oil, remove the oil filler cap, located on top of the engine. Using a funnel, add oil in increments to avoid overfilling and damaging your engine. Recheck the oil level and add more oil as necessary. Once done, screw the oil filler cap back on. Put the dipstick back in its tube and close the hood.

Just like that, you've checked your oil! Getting into the habit of checking your oil will help ensure that you stay on top of many common car issues related to low levels.

Indicators Your Oil Needs Changing

 Some warning signs that your oil is low, there's a leak, or you need an oil change are:

  • The check engine or oil light flicks on. This is your car's way of yelling at you. Dashboard lights are there to warn you there's a problem that needs to be attended to immediately.
  • Your engine begins making noise (such as knocking or rumbling). Engine noise could mean there is no lubrication in the engine, and the metal parts are hitting one another. Lack of oil can quickly destroy your engine and create a considerable repair bill. 
  • You notice dark stains under your car or smell oil inside the vehicle. Stains can be indicative of an oil leak, as well as oil smells within the cabin of the vehicle.
  • Your oil is sludgy, gritty, or milky when you check it. Thick, black oil can mean your oil is breaking down and may need to be replaced. Milky oil can mean contamination by water or coolant — the latter being a serious issue that could cause substantial damage to the engine.

You should get your car to your local AAMCO promptly to have any of these issues checked out. 

Knowledge and Maintenance Is The Key To A Long Lasting Ride

Knowing how to handle motor oil in your vehicle is the first step to becoming a responsible car owner. While it may seem like an issue that is "out of sight and out of mind," taking care of your vehicle's oil can keep your car running at its best and help you avoid many costly problems or breakdowns in the future. Preventative care is the best care, so make sure to schedule seasonal tune-ups with your locally owned & operated AAMCO. Stay safe out there, and happy driving!

 

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