I changed the oil in my Celica this weekend to four fantastically fresh quarters of Mobil One, the synthetic motor oil choice of personal finance bloggers everywhere (I made that last part up). My dad has always told me that if you use Mobil One, you’re good to go for a solid year before you’ll need to swap the oil. This, of course, is not based on any sort of automechanics training from ITT Tech but empirical evidence based on thirty-plus years of driving and oil changes.
My dad always tried to learn how to do things himself when it came to maintenance. I think part of it was him not wanting to pay someone else to do something he could do himself and part he didn’t trust the mechanics. You have to remember back in the day (and even now) you’d go in for an $20 oil change and come out with someone recommending you change your struts, brakes, battery, spark plugs, window tint, air filter, and your seats. Oh, and they’ve, as a courtsey, already done the work and printed up a bill. It’s easy not to trust an industry that’s had a history like that.
Changing the oil in a Celica is incredibly easy. All you need to do is get under the front of the car, pop off some snap rivits, remove the plastic small undercarriage cover, and undo the bolt. If you’ve never changed your oil, you need to do a few things first. First, drive your car around the block to get the oil heated up and moving. Then, get yourself a ratchet set before you start because that bolt is impossible to remove otherwise. Finally, be sure to have a bucket and funnel (obviously) and maybe invest in a pair of ramps so you can get under the car more easily.
Many bloggers have talked about the whole 3000 mile myth and how you should check your owner’s manual for how long you should drive without a change. I think that if you’re running a synthetic oil then you’re able to get away with driving it a little while longer. My dad’s recommendation of a year is only really about 12,000 miles or so and not a huge stretch if you’re working off regular oil and a manual that says 7,500 miles.
Want to know why there’s a million people always waiting for an oil change at Wal-Mart? Because it’s easy, it’s $20, and you don’t have to get dirty. You don’t have to buy oil, dispose of it, store the bucket and the funnel somewhere, and you don’t have to wash your hands afterwards. What you should do though is pop open the hood and check that everything’s okay after one of those in case they forgot to put the oil cap on. In fact, on my girlfriend’s Civic they didn’t put the cover on and about a quart spilled everywhere. We didn’t find out until a week or so later until we saw oil dripping out of her grill (our parkings spots are jet black) and lifted the hood. No harm no foul though.
Ultimately, it’s nice to take care of your own things yourself… like changing your oil. It’s not about the money (Mobil One itself costs more than a synthetic oil change at Wal-Mart and they use decent stuff) because more often than not, the time you invest in doing it easily erases any financial gains. It’s your car, you spent thousands on it, and you should know how to take care of the simple things like changing your oil or replacing a flat. It’s laughable how many friends of mine can’t do either (I have some great flat tire changing stories for another day).