Why Do I Even Need An Oil Change?

by | Feb 6, 2017 | Auto Questions, Preventative Maintenance

It’s interesting; so many things that we use today just don’t require much maintenance.  When we purchase something like a television or a toaster oven, we don’t ever expect to have to take them to a repair shop. They may require a bit of cleaning now and then, but that’s just about all the maintenance we expect to do.  If things stop working, we just replace them.  It hasn’t always been that way, but with advances in technology and automation, repair costs can easily surpass purchase costs on many common household items.

Maybe there will come a day when even cars don’t need maintenance, but we aren’t there yet — even though automotive technology has changed a lot in the past several years. There are a lot more electric vehicles on the road that don’t require oil changes. But, if you are like most people and are driving a traditional gasoline or hybrid vehicle you need an oil change to protect your engine from damage.

On a basic level engines have many moving parts; we rely on oil to lubricate, clean and cool those engine parts, preventing metal-to-metal contact and the resultant friction and damage that can occur.  We need to change the engine oil because as we use our car, the engine oil starts to deteriorate. The additives start to lose their effect. The oil changes from a golden color to a dark brown to a dark black. The oil starts out slippery and smooth and ends up either runny and thin or thick, gritty and gluey.  Also, the oil filter begins to get clogged with debris and deposits reducing its effectiveness.

This animated video (by Castrol) shows how engine oil circulates through your car, working to protect your engine.

Additionally, the vehicles we drive these days are very complex; most engines have systems that were once only found on high-end or performance cars. The engines idle smooth at a stop light then accelerate away like a sports car. To accomplish this, they utilize variable valve timing.  This mechanism uses the engine oil and the engine oil pressure to change the valve timing. If the oil is not changed regularly, this valve timing mechanism will fail when the small oil passages block up. As a result, not changing your oil can cause a performance problem. These complex systems mean that an engine now costs from $5000 to $15000 (and up) to replace.

Also, there are automotive computer systems now that remind drivers when it’s time to come in for an oil change, but be careful with these systems.  We have seen quite a few cars come through that have waited too long between oil changes, reducing the lifetime of the engine.  This has been particularly true for Audis, BMW’s and MINI Coopers.  Pay attention to your mileage and know how to check your oil level. If you are a BA Auto Care customer, look out for our reminders.  We (and many other shops) let you know when you are due for maintenance because of course, oil changes are just one part of maintaining your whole vehicle. An automobile is made up of many complex systems that should be maintained. Here are a few examples.

  • Antilock braking system
  • Cooling System
  • Power Steering system
  • Transmission

It is important to maintain your vehicle, so you will have a safe, reliable vehicle that does not cost you a fortune to own.

Have you been putting off scheduling maintenance for your car?  Just click on the link below, and schedule your next vehicle service.

We’ve also done a few other blogs on the subject of oil:

This post was originally published in 2011 but has since been updated.


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About the Author

About Brian England

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care), got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD. A few years later, he started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. Brian is a big believe in preventative maintenance, and his philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of a regular maintenance plan.