Do I Need to Change Oil Before the Cold Months?
It’s fall, and it will be winter in the next few months. In such cold conditions, engine oil can get thick and very dense and have difficulty circulating and lubricating your engine.
Does this mean you always have to do an oil change this fall before the cold months?
Yes, fall is a good time to change oil, but people shouldn’t wait for fall to do so. Let’s look at the practice of changing oil during this season.
Single-Grade vs. Multi-Grade Oils
Before the advent of multi-grade motor oils, it was a must to change the oil every fall (as well as spring). Single-grade oil (SAE 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50) had a specific viscosity or flow rate at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. However, these oils can’t provide the necessary protection your car needs for cold conditions.
Oil technology has improved tremendously. We now have multi-grade oils flowing more efficiently in hot and cold temperatures. Such quality makes these oils ideal for a range of extreme conditions.
5W30 is an example of multi-grade oil. “W” means it’s graded for winter. The first number (5) is the oil’s viscosity at low temperatures. The second number (30) is the viscosity at normal temperatures.
The lower viscosity of 5W30 at lower temperatures means the oil won’t be as thick at normal temperatures. That’s why 5W30 is typically recommended for cold temperatures.
When to Change Oil
Fall oil change has become a tradition, but you don’t need to wait for it to change the oil. If you already see signs that you need to change the oil, then do so.
There are also other situations that demand oil change.
One situation is if you plan to store your vehicle for winter. That’s because as the oil gets older, it gets more moisture and acid in it, which could damage the engine.
You should also change the oil if you intend to drive your vehicle throughout the winter. Cold conditions make oil thicker and harder to flow during start-up. Operating an engine for the first few minutes without lubrication can lead to engine problems.
Other Oil Change Tips
- When you change the oil, run your engine for five minutes. This will warm the oil and ensure it circulates and lubricates your engine.
- Switching oil with the viscosity ideal for cold conditions won’t kill your engine. Just remember to always refer to your owner’s manual to determine the correct type of oil to use. Recommended oils per car will vary, so avoid using the wrong one.
- If you’re already using a multi-grade oil, skipping an oil change this fall is not an excuse. The improvement in oil technology just means you can change oil any time of the year without loss of protection—without the need to wait for the season changes.
- Change oil filters regularly. Thick oil is pushed into your filter during start-up. This creates pressure that can damage other car components. Don’t just use any filter, though. Make sure to use high-quality ones.