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Media post: Engine oil urban legends

Engine oil

Get a bunch of car enthusiasts together and sooner or later the topic about motor oil will come up. As the conversation gets rolling, you are bound to hear a pile of opinions and some old time urban legends. Some of these urban legends have been around a long time and really aren’t accurate. In this article, the service staff at Fort Dodge Ford of Fort Dodge, IA, a full-service Ford, Lincoln, Toyota dealer, provided us with some expert feedback on 6 popular myths.

Every 3,000 miles, change your oil

This is an old time rule of thumb. It is a recommendation from the days when oils weren’t as refined as they are now. Experts today agree that the oil in today’s cars should be changed at the intervals specified by the manufacturer. These intervals are typically 5000 to 10,000 miles now. Check your owner’s manual, or check with your dealer, to find out what the manufacturer of your car recommends.

If the oil on the dipstick is dirty, it needs to be changed

Petroleum chemists say this is a myth. Motor oil that gets dark does not mean it is necessary “dirty”. The reason it gets dark is that some of the additives change color as they work. The oil is just doing its job and may not need to be changed at all. As we discussed in the paragraph above, change your oil at the manufacturer recommended intervals not according to what it looks like.

Before long trips, change your oil

This is an interesting one. Experts say that it is possible you hit the mileage that the oil should be changed at during your trip and then it should be changed. One thing that does make sense before a long trip is to look your entire car over before you leave. That means looking for possible failure points like belts and radiator hoses. Be sure to check all the other fluids in your car also.

Once you switch to synthetic oil, you have to stick with it

This is another recommendation from the old days. Today, it is just a myth. In fact, the line between synthetic oil and petroleum-based oil is blurring because the two types of oil are often blended together today. You are free to switch back and forth between synthetic oil and petroleum-based oil as much as you’d like, today.

When you buy a new car, change your oil at 1000 miles

Oil samples taken from engines during the first 1,000 miles of driving do show elevated “wear-in” metal levels. However the manufacturers know this phenomena quite well and put special oils in their cars to use during the break-in period. So when do you change the “original oil?” Once again, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations! If you are unsure what they are, contact your local dealer.

Some oils are better than others

Maybe, but the differences are pretty minor. Some oils have additives that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but they don’t change the characteristic of the oil very much. The most important thing to do is buy oil that is the proper viscosity for your car and meets ASE standards, which almost all do today.

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