Newer vehicles today are being sold with the misconception that they are maintenance free. As an example the manufacturers have extended the life of oil changes to every 7,500 up to as much as 15,000 miles, instead of what has always been the automotive industry standard of every 3,000 miles. Transmission services have been extended to every 100,000 miles or even that they have “lifetime fluid” that never needs changed. Manufacturers’ suggest that coolant has been changed over to an extended life coolant that is supposed to last up to 100,000 or even 150,000 miles. Keep in mind that our vehicles are machines, just like before, they are more computer controlled every year and are driver operated, but are still a machine. I have personally not seen a machine or a computer yet that did not need maintenance, updating or repair.
In an effort to increase fuel economy and lower emissions, engines in today’s vehicles have been designed with much tighter tolerances than those of the past. Some of the tighter tolerances require lighter oil to flow into these smaller spaces. The duties of oil are to clean, cool and lubricate. One other property of oil is to suspend particulate. This particulate is a normal byproduct from wear and the combustion process inside the engine. This particulate is abrasive and accelerates engine wear. While engine oils have improved in quality in the last 10 to 20 years, they still get dirty! Waiting to have your oil changed every 7,500 to 15,000 miles just adds to the amount of dirt/particulate that the fluid suspends. The goal is to keep the oil inside your engine clean, not allow it to get extremely dirty and then change it. When dirty oil is being used in your vehicle a product we call sludge, which is a build up of particulate matter can start accumulating. This will accumulate inside the oil pan, the valve train area and in worst cases in the engine oil galleys. This sludge can cause a restriction or starvation of the oil getting to the internal moving parts of the engine causing engine damage.
In our next month’s article we will talk more about whether vehicle’s are really maintenance free and what type of oil is best for your vehicle. Happy Motoring!