Have you ever gone to a car repair shop to get a simple oil change only to be bombarded by the technician’s wielding a long list of repairs? I have. Once, I took my car for an oil change and the technician insisted that I needed new wiper blades and an air filter even though I had just changed them myself. These are the types of shady tactics that give mechanics a bad name. If you don’t want to get taken advantage of, you need to arm yourself with knowledge.
While getting an oil change should be a simple process, many people go too long without having their oil changed because they don’t want to deal with the process. That’s why is so important to find reputable shops and technicians to service your vehicle. Getting your oil changed on a routine basis is one of the best things you can do for your car. Benefits include engine longevity, reliable performance, and improved gas mileage.
I asked readers to submit their questions and concerns about oil changes. Bill Butler, Manager of Sears Auto Center in Willowbrook Mall, answered the top four questions.
How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
“The standard used to be every 3000 miles. Now cars can go 5,000 miles and beyond before they need an oil change. The best thing for you to do is to abide by the manufacturers specifications. However, if you drive in severe conditions such as steep hills, dusty roads, or extreme temperatures, you may want to change your oil more frequently.
What Type of Oil Should You Use?
First you need to know which viscosity is recommended for your car. For example, 5W-30 and 5W-20 are common viscosities. You can find this information in your owners manual.
Next you need to decide which type of oil to use – conventional, synthetic blend, or synthetic. Conventional oils are organic, petroleum based and more limited in the protection they offer. Don’t get me wrong, conventional oils will do the job, but synthetic oils, which are entirely man-made, work better. They have fewer impurities, more additives, and provide better engine performance. Some people don’t want to spend the extra money on the synthetic oil and that’s fine. I’d never pressure them to spend more than they can afford. If you want to save money while getting the added benefits of synthetic oil, you should try a synthetic blend which combines conventional and synthetic oil. You may also hear this type of oil referred to as High Mileage oil. If your car has over 100,000 miles, I highly recommend using a high mileage oil because it will help your engine to last longer. Obviously there are many brands of oil to choose from, but our preferred brand is Valvoline because they’ve been making high-quality lubricants for decades.
Should You Change Your Oil Filter with Every Oil Change?
You should definitely change your oil filter with every oil change. The oil filter catches contaminants and helps to keep your oil cleaner for longer. I’ve had customers come into the shop with all types of dirt in their oil because a previous technician failed to change the filter or tried to charge and additional fee to do it. If an oil filter change isn’t included in your oil change service, you need to go to another shop.
Do You Actually Need Any of the Additional Repairs or Services That Techs Try to Sell You?
At Sears Auto, we have a standard checklist that we use for every oil change. We check your fluid levels, belts, tires, wiper blades, air filters, and a few other items. If these items need to be changed, we will make recommendations. If we identify more serious problems, we will talk to customers about solutions. However, we will never try to sell you services you don’t need. Our process is completely transparent. I personally have to sign off on additional services. If I disagree with the tech, I won’t sign off on it. I also do not tolerate dishonesty in my shop. Our reputation is more valuable than a few extra dollars. My goal is to make sure your car is well care-for and safe to drive. Ultimately, the customer has the final say. It’s okay to say no after I’ve made my recommendations.
How Much Should an Oil Change Cost?
It depends on the type of oil you use and how many quarts you need. An oil change with 5-quarts of conventional oil can cost about $20-$30. Synthetic oil changes can cost about $20-25 more. Some shops will charge more but this gives you a basic range to determine fair pricing.
Join the conversation: What other questions do you have about oil changes?
Disclosure: I’m a paid member of the Sears Rules of the Road & Road Warrior program. Each month I will share expert tips and deals for different car maintenance topics. All opinions are my own.