Oil changes usually consist of finding a safe way of getting underneath the car, removing a drain plug, letting the oil come out, replacing the drain plug, replacing the oil filter, and refilling the engine with brand new oil. Sounds simple, but what we left out of this process was the recycling of the old oil and filter, garage or driveway cleanup, keeping your clothes away from dirt and grime, and paying for equipment like latex gloves and an oil pan, not to mention a socket wrench and elbow grease. So before you get all huffity about an oil change shop charging you $40, know that that’s what you’re paying for: the facility and clean up.
Oil changes depend ultimately what kind of engine your car has. If you’re driving a BMW, for instance, the go-to oil brand that was recommended to you might have been Mobil1. In which case, it could end up costing about $10 per quart of oil and with an engine that takes five or more quarts that cost adds up. Oil change shops will charge accordingly. Remember you can ask them to put in whatever oil you want, but it’s always a better idea to go with the recommended oil. In your owner’s manual, there is usually a recommended brand and weight of oil.
Some oil change shops will ask you what kind of oil you want in your car based on the price, and will hopefully tell you what you’re paying for. If they don’t just ask them. If you know a little bit more than the average person when it comes to oil, and more importantly your driving style, feel free to choose the oil you think is best.
No matter what kind of oil you use it’s always best to do as much research as possible before you head into a shop. Some places might try to up-sell you on a more expensive brand that you might not need, in which case it’s better to know what you’re up against than to not know.
In terms of oil filters, they all operate the same fundamentally, but what differs between them is longevity and how well they operate. Again, to find out what’s best you should do as much research as possible. Some oil filters cost a lot more than others, but are extended performance filters in which case are designed to last a long time, and could even stand multiple oil changes, although that isn’t recommended.
Be honest when assessing what kind of driver you are, in order to determine what kind of oil you need. For more aggressive driving, heavier oils are more robust and can take the heat of a performance engine but take a long time to get to proper operating temperature, whereas if you gingerly drive your car down the block to get groceries, a lighter oil is a better option. It all depends on how you drive.
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