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Article published October 9, 2012
Oil is a car’s Lifeblood Many say change is good
By Paula Grubbs, Eagle Staff Writer PENN TWP — The oil coursing through a vehicle’s engine is its lifeblood, and will determine its health and lifespan. Rick Emery of Ram Automotive on Powell Road said the four to six quarts of motor oil in a passenger vehicle’s engine lubricates all the moving parts and reduces friction between the metal components. He said the average sport utility vehicle takes five to six quarts of oil, and the larger, heavy duty pickup trucks can take more. Based on his years of experience, Emery remains a firm believer in changing a vehicle’s oil and filter every 3,000 to 4,000 miles or every three to four months, whichever comes first. Emery realizes his theory may be controversial, as some motorists and mechanics maintain that changing the oil every 5,000 miles is sufficient because of today’s improved oil quality. But Emery said even the most meticulously cared for car will show dirt and engine debris in the oil after 3,000 to 3,500 miles. “I still believe in that and it does help engine life,” Emery said. He said synthetic oil, which is now being recommended by higher-end manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac, can go the longer between changes. Anyone can use synthetic oil, but Emery cautioned that once a vehicle is switched to synthetic, it should never go back. Regarding the three or four main brands of motor oil on the market, Emery said they are largely the same. He said the various off-brand oils available today are probably produced by one of those main companies, and are safe to use. George Moore, store manager at Jiffy Lube in Butler Township, said he prefers Pennzoil because it cleans the oil as it moves through the engine. Moore said his store in the Alameda Plaza changed the oil in 716 vehicles in September. He said severe driving conditions can greatly affect motor oil. Those conditions, all prevalent in Western Pennsylvania, include hot and cold startups, hot and cold temperatures, prolonged distance driving, towing, dry or dusty conditions, lots of quick trips, and prolonged idling. He said these conditions can hamper the viscosity of oil. He said even if a vehicle’s manufacturer recommends the oil only be changed every 5,000 miles, cars and trucks that are regularly subjected to severe driving conditions should get an oil and filter change promptly every 3,000 miles. Moore explained that the word viscosity describes the function of the protectant in the oil that keeps everything lubricated and running smoothly. Moore also believes in changing oil every 3,000 miles because dirt and deposits can be distributed around the engine in higher mileage. Emery said if an engine’s oil supply is allowed to dip below the minimum line, the motorist could notice engine noises like ticking. He said a low oil level could prevent the oil pump from picking up more oil in the oil pan. Emery said in his years at his Penn Township shop, he has seen a few cars come in with damage from a vehicle owner who tried and failed at changing his or her own oil. He said most often, the armchair mechanic is unable to remove the oil filter and punched a hole in it, which would result in the oil draining from the hole. “Then it’ll come down here on a tow truck,” Emery said. Both businesses send their used oil to a recycler, where it is made into recycled motor oil.