How Important Is Changing Your Oil?

BYAmanda Flatten
Back in the day, it was a given: You had your oil changed every 3,000 miles. In recent years, that timeframe has extended, with most auto manufacturers recommending oil changes every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Still, some people have a hard time making it to the shop to get that scheduled maintenance. But is that really such a bad thing? What’s the worst that could happen? AAA’s auto experts have the answers.
Engine Problems and Warning Signs
Oil basically keeps your engine and all the intricate parts lubricated and cool. It also contains anti-wear additives that protect metal surfaces to reduce friction and prevent rusting and corrosion. 
So what really happens if you don't get your oil changed? As oil circulates through your engine, the additives are consumed, and over time the oil becomes dirty and ineffective. That’s when your engine can start to have some big problems. All that dirty oil can build up, causing engine sludge. Your vehicle will run less efficiently, and engine components can warp or wear out. The end result could be catastrophic engine failure.
What are the warning signs your oil isn't working properly? Your change oil reminder light isn’t just an automatic timer built in to remind you to get service eventually. That red oilcan light actually is warning you there isn’t enough oil or there is low oil pressure. If you hear a knocking sound in your engine, head straight to the auto repair shop. A routine oil change might only cost around $20, but it could cost you $3,000 or more to replace your engine.
Verify your service technician is using the correct oil type for your vehicle make and model. This should be listed on your oil cap or in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
AMANDA FLATTEN is the managing editor of Highroads.
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