Oil: The Lifeblood of the Car

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

It’s been called the lifeblood of the car, and for good reason.  Engine oil is a vital fluid for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and just about anything with an engine.  The importance of motor oil can’t be overstated.  That’s why it’s critical to change the oil in your vehicle at regular intervals.

When I was young and foolish, I didn’t think changing the oil in my car was that big of a deal.  I rarely, if ever, thought about it. In fact, I thought it was a scam, set up by oil companies to get me to buy more oil.  So, I let the oil in my old car sit for days, weeks, months, and yes, years. Okay, I was just plain stupid. I had lots of problems with the car, and it died an early death.

What I didn’t realize was how much oil truly does to protect the engine and keep everything going.  So, what does oil do anyway?

The Importance of Oil

As you know, inside any engine there are lots of moving parts. These parts are generally made of metal and move so closely together that, without oil, they would literally melt together.  In fact, this is what happens when an engine seizes. The metal literally melts together. Not only that, there is intense heat in an engine. Oil acts as a barrier between these metal moving parts and helps to cool the engine by circulating around the moving parts, like the crankshaft and pistons. So oil provides a slick, protective barrier between the parts of the engine.

Another, less obvious, job of motor oil is to be a carrier of waste products.  By waste products, I mean metal shavings, dirt, and other debris.  As I stated earlier, the metal parts in an engine move so closely together that they sometimes actually contact one another and tiny metal shavings come off.  This is especially true of new engines.  Without oil, there would be nothing to carry away these metal shavings. So, they would act like solder or glue and potentially hurt other parts or seize the engine.  That is why it is recommended by most engine manufacturers to change the oil in a new car engine within the first 1,000 to 3,000 miles.

When you actually change the oil (and the oil filter), the metal particles are carried away and drained with the oil.  This is a great way to protect the engine and prolong the life of the engine and the car.

Changing your Oil

So, how often should you change the oil in your car? That depends.  Always follow the owner’s manual. Plain and simple.  I know it seems like a pain to crack open that little book that no one ever reads, but it’s well worth it. Trust me, I write instruction manuals, and they do actually serve a purpose, even though they are unbelievably boring.  It’s usually recommended to change oil about every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. You can change the oil sooner without any harm. In fact, you could change the oil every day if you wanted to.  But if you wait too long, you can hurt the engine, and you may even get poorer gas mileage.

Bottom line, engine oil is vital to the health of your engine, and thus the health of your car.  Change your oil when recommended. Your engine will thank you by providing many years (and many miles) of happy driving.

Written by Gary Pradel