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How often should you change your engine oil?

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WhoCanFixMyCar explains the importance of getting your engine oil changed on a regular basis

An oil change is an essential of any car’s maintenance routine. After a while, you need to throw away the old stuff and replace it with the new stuff to keep it working effectively. Think of it a little bit like replacing your shoes; to keep them protecting your feet after long periods of use, you’ll eventually need a new pair.

To give you an idea of what to expect, let’s delve into all the where, when, why and whats to do with changing your car’s engine oil.

Guide Contents:

What is an oil change?

How often should you change your oil?

When should you check your oil level?

How to check your oil level

How to change your engine oil

How to dispose of engine oil

How much is an oil change?


What is an oil change?

An oil change for your car involves removing old motor oil from your engine and replacing it with fresh motor oil. 

The oil is what keeps your engine lubricated and prevents any friction, overheating, and rusting whilst your car runs. Over time, the oil in your engine loses its ability to lubricate, so it needs to be changed. 

When you change your engine oil, you’ll need to change the oil filter too. Your oil filter literally filters the oil as it moves through the engine, keeping it clean. A filter change is an essential part of refreshing the entire system. If you don’t change your oil when needed, it can cause irreversible damage to your engine.


How often should you change your oil?

The best way to know when to get an oil change is by checking your car’s manufacturer manual. It will state the amount of time or number of miles driven before an oil change is necessary. 

On average, you should change your engine oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Your engine oil will be changed in your annual MOT every year, but if you're a high mileage driver, then you should consider scheduling an oil change more regularly.

You can also inspect the oil yourself to see signs that it’s time for a replacement. For example, if your engine oil is dark rather than transparent and feels gritty when you rub it between your fingers, you should book your car in for an oil change.


When should you check your oil level?

Changing your engine oil isn’t the only way it needs to be maintained. Making sure it’s topped up to the right level is essential. If your engine oil level drops too low, it can stop working correctly and damage your engine. 

You'll normally need to top up your engine oil levels more often than you'll need to do an oil change. So, make sure you check your oil levels regularly, ideally before every long drive.


How to check your oil level

Checking your engine oil level is a simple and straightforward task that you can do on the driveway. Wait until your car is stationary with the engine turned off and fully cooled. Then, follow these simple steps:

  • Open up your bonnet.

  • Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean.

  • Push the dipstick back into the tube.

  • Remove the dipstick again. The oil streak on the dipstick should sit between the two marks.

  • If the oil streak sits less than halfway between the two marks, you should top up your engine oil.


How to change your engine oil

It is possible to change your engine oil yourself. However, it’s a complex, fiddly and potentially mess job. If you run into any difficulty, it’s crucial to visit a local garage for support to avoid causing any damage to your engine.

If you are confident about changing your engine oil, follow our guide: 

  • Start by opening the bonnet, pull out the dipstick and take off the oil cap.

  • Get underneath your car.

  • Locate the oil sump, which is directly beneath your engine. Place a pan underneath and undo the oil sump plug with a spanner to allow the oil to drain out.

  • Locate the oil filter, which is a round cannister screwed against the engine.

  • Unscrew the filter and replace it with a new one. Smear some fresh oil around the rubber seal before you reattach it.

  • Check the oil is fully drained, clean the sump plug, and reattach it before you filling up with fresh oil to the right level using the dipstick for guidance.


How to dispose of engine oil

You mustn’t throw away your engine oil uncontained or into your regular bin. It’s insoluble, can be toxic, and is terrible for the environment, so it must be disposed of safely and securely.

Once you’ve drained your engine oil, seal it into a container. Try to use an airtight container with a screwed cap. You should then be able to dispose of your nearest oil bank. Try Oil Care for details of your nearest oil bank.


How much is an oil change?

If you don’t fancy changing your engine oil, and let’s be honest, we don’t blame you, then we would recommend comparing prices at garages closest to you and getting a professional to do it instead. The average cost of an oil change is £81.95.

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