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Troubleshooter: Should you go for extended oil change intervals?

Troubleshooter: Should you go for extended oil change intervals?
Autos
Many carmakers include automated oil-change reminders that pop up in the instrument panel, and some of them don’t light up for 15,000 km or more. So let’s add to the debate around the benefits and pitfalls of carmakers stretching out their recommended service intervals.

With the drastic reduction in distance driven by the average Canadian, thanks to our current health pandemic, some of these stretches can easily cover more than a calendar year.

No worries, right? After all, many of us are running full synthetic engine oil, so we should be able to get a premium interval for those premium prices. But due to a number of reasons, these extra-long intervals won’t make for a lasting relationship with your vehicle’s engine.

Troubleshooter: Is there such a thing as ‘too much’ maintenance?

First, let’s address those little dash reminders, if your ride has one. Their intervals are chosen by an algorithm that takes into account engine speed, engine hours, engine load, operating temperatures, and a host of other specs. But no matter how advanced or expensive your chariot is, these systems don’t have any components to actually test the oil to determine contaminant levels. They’re an educated guess at best.

So what is the right interval? Unless you’re a high-miler, such as over 20,000 km per year, an engine oil and filter change done twice a year or so isn’t a bad idea. Most will do it each spring and fall. If you’re worried about your carbon footprint, don’t be. All used engine oil is recycled.

Oil being poured into an engine during an oil change. Ake Ngiamsanguan / Getty

So why would my automaker steer me wrong? Remember that its first priority is its corporate good. The company is only responsible for the engine while it’s under warranty, and to a lesser extent, while it’s within the lifespan limits most consumers expect.

Finally, keep in mind that for all the advancements in engine design and build, most of our vehicle undercarriages carry equipment that has seen few changes from that of 50 years ago or so. Some would argue that with lighter-weight materials, these suspension, steering, and exhaust components are even more susceptible than their predecessors to environmental conditions and impacts. So what’s this got to do with oil changes? Getting a knowledgeable set of eyes under your vehicle twice a year is the best way to avoid nasty breakdowns or other mechanical surprises.
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