Getting your engine oil changed regularly is one of the most important things you can do for your vehicle. Not only does this routine maintenance extend the life of your engine, but it also prevents most powertrain warranties from becoming null and void. There are lots of auto care locations that offer this service, but not all oil changes are created equal. What are the best places to get an oil change? We break down the options to help you make this important decision.
What Does An Oil Change Include?When you get your oil changed, the engine oil and the filter should both be replaced. While it isn’t a requirement, if you don’t change the filter, the new oil will go in clean and come out dirty, negating much of the point of an oil change. A standard oil change typically includes a chassis lube, new oil, and a filter, along with draining the old oil and replacing it with new oil, replacing the filter, and lubricating the chassis.
Finding the Best Oil Change: Things to Consider
Quality of Work:When deciding on the best place to get your oil changed, you should choose a place that does high-quality work. Even though an oil change is a fairly simple process, not all service providers uphold the same standard of quality. For instance, some big box retailers offer oil changes at a low price. But they certainly don’t specialize in automotive work. Wouldn’t you rather go to a car care location that employs automotive service professionals?
Price:Price is another consideration. Unfortunately, this is the factor that influences the decision most of the time. Many people see a coupon or a flyer for a quick, cheap oil change and take advantage of the offer. While it’s true that price should play a role in your decision, paying extra to have the work performed by a qualified professional is a sound investment. Like many services, the cheapest option is likely not the best option.
Oil and Filter Brands:
The next factor is oil and filter brands, which can be a matter of personal preference or specified by the manufacturer. If the manufacturer specifies and oil type and you want to ensure warranty coverage it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. There are people who swear by certain brands, like Mobile, Pennzoil, or Valvoline. If you’re more comfortable with a particular brand of oil or filter, either choose a shop that uses these particular brands or buy your own oil and bring it to the shop when you drop off your vehicle. Some shops might order whatever brand you’d like from the local auto parts store if you call in advance. There could be an added cost for this level of service.
All the Extras:The last factor is what we’ll call the x-factor. This is all the additional services you receive that can be found at a full-service center. Do they wash your car afterwards? Can they have you in and out in a reasonable amount of time? Can you get a free tire rotation and brake inspection if you need it? Do they check your tire pressure, air filter, and top-off fluid levels like washer, brake fluid, power steering oil,and coolant? Will they replace your wiper blades or flush your radiator? These are all questions that can factor into this decision if you want something beyond a basic oil change.
Type of Oil: Conventional Oil Vs. Synthetic OilRegardless of where you get your oil changed you’ll be asked if you want conventional oil or synthetic oil. Synthetic oil is more expensive, but is it a necessary upsell? A synthetic oil change is better for your engine than a conventional oil change. While conventional oil is suitable and provides adequate performance, the higher-quality synthetic oil offers better long-term engine protection.
While conventional oil (i.e., mineral oil) can provide adequate lubrication performance, it can’t compete with the overall engine performance and protection provided by synthetics. There’s also the option of full synthetic or a synthetic blend. Full synthetic oils provide the best protection.
Another benefit of synthetic motor oil is that it generally lasts longer than conventional oil. However, the recommended intervals between oil changes varies by brand and if you have a new vehicle warranty you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s interval levels regardless of what type of oil you’re using.
High-Mileage OilHigh-mileage engine oils are designed for vehicles that have at least 75,000 miles on the odometer and have ingredients to help preserve older engines. They have special seal conditioners that can help prevent leaks. While high-mileage oils won’t repair existing leaks or engine problems, it will help keep a well-maintained engine running longer.
Best Places to Get an Oil Change
1. A Reliable Independent Local Service CenterWe all know a place that’s been recommended by a friend or family member for our automotive needs. A small, or sometimes not-so-small, privately-owned service center that is known for high quality service. If you haven’t found one in your town, you can ask around and look on community forums. This is a shop that basically does all required car maintenance services. These auto repair shops are great because they typically only hire ASE Certified technicians and can still come in lower in price than most dealerships. And since they are privately owned, their tire-and-lube technicians are trained in-house. Owners of these shops know how important word of mouth is for their business, so they are often trustworthy businesses to deal with. But never take a single person or written review as your only indicator. Dig into the shop’s online ratings and comments before you decide to use it. Being a service center, it usually isn’t hard to find one that will include a free tire rotation and brake inspection either, since they do make their money fixing cars and all.
2. Your Vehicle DealershipIn terms of quality, this is usually the top-of-the-line. Not only will your dealership have factory-trained technicians, but there’s no technician more familiar with your particular make of vehicle than someone who works on them all day every day. There’s also the safety of knowing that he/she may be able to tell if there are any other problems with your vehicle through a computer diagnostics check and a short drive around the block that usually comes with a dealership oil change. This can nip unknown problems early before they get to be truly expensive to fix. This doesn’t mean that other service providers can’t use these methods, it's simply that dealership technicians typically work on the same make of vehicle every day; they will know more about what to look for on certain models than general technicians would. Many dealerships also offer little perks like a free car wash after service, but dealers are going to be the priciest choice on this list.
3. Big Name Service StationBy this one we mean a place like Sears Auto Service Center or Wal-Mart’s Tire and Lube Express, or any national chain auto shop that isn’t just a quick lube but, instead, offers additional mechanical services. In terms of quality, this one can be hit or miss. Many of these shops have a high turnover rate for technicians and employ young and inexperienced technicians. As for price, this is the middle of the road. The biggest drawback is that many of these chains only use certain types of oil and filters, so if you’re picky about your parts it may cost you extra.
4. Lube Stop, Jiffy Lube, Pep Boys, Valvoline Instant Oil Change, Any Other 10-Minute Oil Change ServiceRemember when your mother told you that it’s better to take your time and do something right than to have to do it twice? That still seems like a pretty good rule. Quick-stop oil change stations are convenient, but they also suffer the highest turnover rate and least experienced technicians. Because they specialize in providing quick service, sometimes quality can suffer. Oil filters can get stuck, grease fittings can go bad, and drain plugs strip out. When you’re rushing to get a job done, little problems like these can turn into big problems if they’re dealt with hastily. Unless you’re in a pinch or know someone personally who works at one of these stations whom you can trust to work on your vehicle, the quick-stop oil change stations are not the best choice.
5. Do It YourselfIn terms of cost and quality, this one is all up to you. The big question is, do you have the necessary time and knowledge to DIY? As we said before, an oil change is a simple thing, but problems can occur. Most of these problems can be avoided altogether by doing your own work, but you should know what you’re doing for safety’s sake if none other. If you’re a technician or car junkie, and you can safely perform the oil change on your own, this is the cheapest option, and the quality of work is totally in your hands – as long as you’ve got the time and expertise.
When choosing an oil change place, you should always do your research and go with your gut. Whether you’ve had a good experience at an instant oil change service, or have a trusted mechanic to do the job for you, what’s most important is that you change your oil according to your car’s owner’s manual using the correct oil at the right time intervals. Remember that low oil or compromised oil from not changing your car’s oil on a timely schedule could damage your engine and shorten the life expectancy of your vehicle.
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