What is ‘oil life’? Oil life refers to how long motor oil can effectively protect your car’s engine before it needs to be replaced. There is no ‘Oil Expiration Date’ in the traditional sense (new oil can be stored for years without affecting the quality) – oil life refers to the normal process of oil breaking down and becoming less effective after many miles or months of duty in your motor. Oil wears out due to the extreme heat of your engine, and from oxidation as it comes into contact with moisture and air in the atmosphere. There are also additives in motor oil that help clean and flush dirt, soot, and metal particles away from your engine’s mechanical parts. These additives are consumed over the life of the oil and therefore stop doing their jobs – picture dish soap on a sponge that gets used up after washing a bunch of pots. As many motor oil additives are actually detergents, it’s a similar idea. All together, these factors cause old oil to become thicker, dirtier, and more viscous (aka “sludge”) so it doesn’t flow through your engine and lubricate the moving parts as easily.
A full synthetic oil change will allow you to go longer (5,000, 7,500, or even 10,000+ miles) before your next service than a conventional oil change (3,000 miles). That’s because synthetic motor oil is manufactured to have a very controlled and uniform chemical makeup with more predictable performance than conventional oil. You can think of synthetic oil as built from the ground up of specific components, while conventional oil is refined down from naturally-occurring crude oil into motor oil by eliminating unwanted impurities. Synthetic oil holds up better to heat, moisture, and air exposure.
Driving habits play the largest role in determining how often you need to change your oil. You may see maintenance intervals noted as “every 5,000 or six months”. The reason for this is that with frequent short trips, you may be putting fewer miles on your car but you’re actually operating it more often in the most high-wear condition: while your oil is still heating up. Engine oil protects best once it is up to full temperature and can flow more freely in the engine. On a related note, frequent cold starts in the winter or many short trips will compromise how long your oil lasts (not to mention your fuel efficiency). Oil will also last more miles if your driving is gentle highway cruising than if you’re frequently accelerating, pulling heavy loads, or doing anything that taxes your engine.
If oil protects your engine, is it better to get it changed more often? Changing your oil earlier than needed is unnecessary, plus harder on your wallet and the environment. Modern engines are designed to last hundreds of thousands of miles with the proper care; the oil change interval recommended by your car manufacturer ensures oil is replaced before it has ceased protecting the engine. So, as long as you keep up with regular oil changes and aren’t putting your vehicle through specific severe duties, going shorter than the recommended interval isn’t worthwhile. Many modern engines are built to go 5,000-10,000 miles between oil changes through improved engineering and synthetic oil — if your car calls for a 5,000 mile interval and your mechanic recommends changing oil every 3,000 miles “just to be safe,” he is trying to sell you unnecessary services and you should go elsewhere. Many modern cars can calculate your remaining oil life based on your mileage and driving habits to give you a completely customized maintenance recommendation. These systems are a helpful tool to compare with the standard mileage and time intervals to make an informed decision about when to get your oil changed.
For synthetic oil change in New Jersey, Nomad offers convenient at-home service with easy reservations right from your smartphone. If you have questions about getting your oil changed in NJ, or about the oil life in your car, you can speak with a knowledgeable Nomad representative at 973.744.7069.