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Service Intervals Versus Oil Change Periods (information from Castrol)


While both car engine and oil technology advancements have resulted in dramatically increased service intervals from 4000 to 10000 kilometres, Castrol observes a major problem which it says is becoming increasingly apparent.

Some car owners, it says, are unknowingly imposing upon themselves a false sense of security by assuming that their oil only needs to be changed in conjunction with their 10,000 or 15,000 kilometre mechanical service. Unfortunately, says the company, they are in danger of damaging their engine, therefore minimising its life.

Why? Because owners haven’t checked the section of their vehicle manual to identify personal driving habits, and under what conditions the 10/15,000 kilometre oil change periods do or do not apply. Simple things like constant short trips and constant heavy trafic driving. These conditions greatly affect the life of the engine oil, and consequently the engine. In fact, today’s engines generally last about 200,000 kilometres, but if well looked after, can achieve as much as 500,000 kilometres without major overhauls.

Vehicle manufacturers are designing their engines to take an SAE 1OW- 30 oil and in some instances, even lighter. These reduce friction, help improve fuel consumption and assist in the reduction of exhaust emissions, all very positive benefits if the right driving conditions apply.

The trend to use these lower viscosity oils is becoming more common, but like the heavier viscosity oils such as 2OW-50, they still suffer from fuel dilution resulting in oil thinning. The fuel enters the oil on cold start-up and depending upon the driving condition of the vehicles, may or may not, get the opportunity to be vaporised out.

Castrol says what most drivers do not know is that water vapour, unburnt petrol and blow-by gases from the combustion process overload the oil. These combine to produce sludge deposits. It takes about 20 kilometres from a cold start to fully warm up the engine oil and reduce the rate of fuel contaminations.

That does not effectively take place in engines that do not travel further than 20 kilometres after each cold start . The oil is soon saturated with contaminants and its protective ability is destroyed, no matter what high quality grade it is

Consequently, oil thick with deposits cannot reach the moving parts as quickly when the engine is first started - the point at which most engine damage occurs. It is a less effective lubricant, accelerating wear and leakage, especially now that many modern engines have reduced sump capacities some as low as 3.5 litres, causing the oil to be under lot more stress- particularly as it reaches the end of its effective service life.

Castrol recommends that a vehicle travelling less than 20 kilometres per trip for more than half of its journeys should have an oil change every 5000 to 7000 kilometres. Most manufacturers service schedules recommend oil changes every 6 months - if a vehicle is driven a number of times in a week and does not reach the maximum distance in that time, the oil should be changed. This affects about 80 % of vehicles that do little more than a token stop-start to work, to the station, to school or to the shopping centre and are at risk of increased engine wear and damage compared with a car which travels long enough to vapourise the potentially damaging contaminants.

Other abnormal conditions that should reduce oil change intervals include dusty roads, heavy loads, and sustained high speeds. Also, simply topping up an engine low on oil with new oil is not the same as giving it an oil change. Contaminants left behind increase in concentration each time the oil level drops, accelerating engine wear.

So, to protect your investment, take the time to check the vehicles manual to identify what your driving conditions are and how they affect the oil, even between regular service periods, or simply inquire when you next have your car serviced. Correctly followed, you will maximixe the life of your engine, help contribute to lower pollution and save many thousands of dollars in the long run.

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