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Changing engine oil. After what distance? How often?

Added 28 July 2021 by

In order to prevent malfunctions in the vehicle engine, its oil needs to be changed regularly. Your car engine will be grateful as it is going to be protected against defects. Find out how often and after how many kilometres you need to change your engine oil and what the costs are.


The role of engine oil in a car

The engine is a complex mechanism that consists of many moving parts – including the camshaft and timing belt, crankshaft, guide and tension rollers. These elements rub against each other intensively, vibrate and shake a lot, which could be disastrous for the car if it wasn’t for the engine oil. So its primary function is to minimise friction so that moving parts have optimum glide and are not damaged.

But good engine oil does more than merely protect against engine seizure. It is such a critical operating fluid because:

  • it lowers fuel consumption and thus car running costs
  • it allows maintaining the proper temperature inside the car mechanism
  • engine oil has a cleaning function – it helps to get rid of dirt, dust, accumulated lubricants from the engine. Moreover, it removes carbon deposit, i.e. the residue which is a by-product of fuel combustion
  •  it protects against corrosion – there are car oils whose composition is designed to inactivate acidic products of combustion
  • the engine oil also has a sealing function – it guarantees the tightness of, among other things, shafts and cylinders. That allows the engine to maintain the right level of compression, which translates into better performance.

That is why changing engine oil is so vital for the technical condition and performance of a vehicle. Therefore, it should not be underestimated in any way – especially as it does not generate huge costs.


Changing oil – mileage intervals?

Until recently, the situation was clear – the engine oil should be changed every 10,000-15,000 kilometres. Currently, this distance is being extended due to ecological issues (it is pointed out that used oil is environmentally hazardous) and the introduction of modern products.

That is why production started of Long Life oils, which only have to be changed after the car has driven 30,000 km. However, these products do not attract all drivers, as there have been cases where they contributed to engine components’ damage. Although the oil in those vehicles was changed per the manufacturer’s recommendations, among other things, the main bearing sleeve was destroyed.

It is assumed that the frequency of oil change depends on the intensity of car operation:

  • engines used for dynamic, urban driving on short distances require that the oil change even every 8-10,000 km
  • in the case of standard driving, the oil should be changed every 10-15 thousand km
  • in cars with a large capacity lubrication system, it is necessary to change the oil every 20,000 km or so.

However, mechanics suggest doing it once a year. It seems like a good idea – especially as car repairs can be expensive, while the oil change cost is hardly something to worry about.


How long does it take to change the oil?

If you decide to change the oil in your car on your own, the time will depend on your skills and the tools you have at hand. You will also need to warm up the engine, prepare the container for the used fluid and put on your work clothes.

An oil change at the garage usually takes a few moments. Since mechanics do this while the car is on the pit, the waiting time is affected by availability. However, if there are no other customers in the service centre or workshop, the whole procedure takes from a few up to 20 minutes.

The procedure involves unscrewing the drain plug, draining the used oil and possibly sucking out its remnants under high pressure. Finally, new fluid is poured into the tank. At the same time, the filter retaining contaminants is replaced.


What oil for a petrol engine?

When choosing oil for each car, its purchase cost should by no means be the only guidance. A low price does not always mean = high quality, so it is worth investing in a product from a reputable company.

When buying oil, pay attention to three markings:

  • SAE – indicates the oil viscosity level = at both low and operating temperatures. There are such designations as, e.g. 10W40 or 0W30. The oil viscosity to choose directly results from the car manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.
  • ACEA – is the European standard that defines the oil class. According to this standard, petrol engine oils are labelled with the letter A followed by a number. The higher the number, the better the oil grade.
  • API – is a two-letter designation and an American standard that also indicates the quality of the oil. In the case of petrol engines, the first letter is ‘S’ and the second one varies – the further it is in the alphabet, the higher the oil quality.

The first step in choosing the right oil for your engine should be to read the manual that came with your car. Some cars have components (such as the DPF) that require the use of specially formulated oil.


Which oil for a diesel engine?

Oil for petrol and diesel engines should be chosen according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but it is recommended to select only synthetic fluids in the latter case. That is because, unlike mineral or semi-synthetic oils, they are continuously improved. In addition, diesel engines are subjected to considerable stress, so it is vital to choose the highest quality products.

Diesel engine oils are labelled in a similar way to petrol engine oils. However, in the API standard, the letter C will be used instead of S, while in ACEA, the letters B and C will be present.


Which oil for LPG?

Being an owner of a “liquified gas-powered” car does not usually require the use of a particular oil. However, oils should be selected whose packaging reads that the fluid can be used in cars with such a combustion system.

LPG oil should, first of all, neutralise the fuel combustion by-products. Moreover, it is recommended to use fluids based on light ester technology that ensures that oil viscosity remains constant.

It is also necessary to remember that LPG vehicles will require oil replacement slightly more often – preferably every 9-10 months.


Long Life oil – advantages and disadvantages

In order to avoid frequent visits to the garage and oil changes, fluids have been developed that do not require change either once a year or every 10-15 thousand kilometres driven. Long Life Technology was to be a tribute both to nature and to the drivers.

These oils – per the manufacturers’ declarations – may not be changed for even 30 thousand kilometres. It is the car computer that tells whether the fluid has been used up. It analyses how the engine works, and if it notices irregularities, it informs the driver.

This solution seems to be economical, convenient, as well as ecological. Nevertheless, some people are sceptical about these oils and list their disadvantages. They point out, among other things, that too seldom replacement of oil results in more significant engine wear. They also highlight that the fluid always gets contaminated after some time. Moreover, using products of this type may lead, among other things, to damage to the turbocharger and the camshaft.


Full SAPS and low SAPS oils

Low SAPS oils have a low content of sulphur and sulphated ash (that is why they are called low ash), and they are especially recommended for diesel engines. Their composition guarantees that metallic, ash-like sulphate particles do not settle on the DPF. As a result, this element has a significantly longer service life.

Full SAPS oils are old generation products. These operating fluids are not subject to sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur standards and can therefore be dangerous to the filter and the engine itself. It is estimated that the use of full SAPS can shorten the DPF life even by half. In addition, the filter becomes clogged by ash and needs replacement or regeneration.

Changing engine oil. After what distance? How often?
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Changing engine oil. After what distance? How often?
Find out how often and after how many kilometres you need to change your engine oil and what the costs are.
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