An oil and filter change is one of the most important services you can book for your car. Oil is one of the most important parts of any combustion engine and neglecting it can lead to stressful, expensive repairs. Here's what you need to know.
By the end of this article, you will know:
- What an oil and filter change does for your car
- How long engine oil lasts
- How to check engine oil
- When to book an oil and filter change
- The average oil change price
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What is an Oil and Filter Change?
An oil and filter change is the most essential form of car maintenance. It consists of a full drain and refill of your engine oil and fitting a brand-new oil filter.
During an oil and filter change, a mechanic follows five simple steps:
- Remove the sump plug (the bit on the underside of your car that keeps the oil in your car) and drain the oil
- Remove the oil filter
- Replace the sump plug
- Replace the oil filter
- Refill the oil to the correct level (using the right type of oil and filled to the right level)
What Does An Oil and Filter Change Do?
An oil and filter change extends the lifespan of your car. You should book an oil change regularly to keep your car in top condition. A small expense now can save you forking out for much larger car repairs in the future.
If there isn't enough oil in your car, or the oil is dirty, you run the risk of severe engine problems and seeing the dreaded red engine management light. An oil and filter change helps you avoid this stress.
Most importantly, oil goes bad. No matter how well-maintained your car is, dirt and debris will always end up mixing with your oil. This affects its quality and running on dirty oil damages the interior workings of your car.
By regularly changing your oil and oil filter, you can avoid these problems. It ensures your car has high-quality engine oil circulating for as long as possible. This is very important because your car can't work properly without oil.
What Does Oil Do In a Car?
Engine oil lubricates the moving parts of your car's engine, helping them work efficiently during combustion. Your car wouldn't keep moving without engine oil. Metal parts would rub together, causing irreversible engine damage.
Oil needs to remain clean to work properly. But, as it traps dust, dirt and other particles easily, that's not always possible.
That's where the oil filter comes in. Engine oil passes through the filter and any dirt or debris it has picked up is trapped there. This keeps the oil particle-free and an efficient lubricant for as long as possible.
If you don't replace it regularly, the oil filter can become blocked by all this debris. Any blockage will reduce the amount of oil that can pass through it, causing severe damage to your engine.
An oil filter is designed to last the same length as engine oil, so you should always replace them together.
Oil and Filter Change Vs Car Service
There are several differences between an oil and filter change and a car service. While a service always includes an oil and filter change, an oil and filter change doesn't include a safety check like a service does. An interim includes 25 checks, a full 40 and a major service 60.
But these checks do take time, making a car service much more expensive than an oil and filter change.
For example, a full service costs £182.40 on average, whereas you can book an oil and filter change for as little as £50 when you compare and save through BookMyGarage. Combine that with a Vehicle Safety Check (FREE with any service) and you create an effective stop-gap between services. This 16-point safety check inspects your battery condition, brake pads and tyre tread depth among other essential parts.
However, car servicing is highly important as well. You should always look to book at least a full service once a year alongside your oil and filter change.
How Long Does Engine Oil Last?
Engine oil can last between 3,000 and 10,000 miles, but there are plenty of factors that affect this.
Oil becomes dirty as soon as it passes around your engine, so if you maintain your car well, you should need an oil change less frequently. If you can keep dirt and debris from mixing with your oil as much as possible, you'll see the best results. However, there is no definitive lifespan for engine oil, so you should check yours regularly.
What's more, there are different types of oil and each lasts a different length of time.
Fully synthetic oil can last for up to 10,000 miles. These are premium oils that are designed for high-end, performance machines and are quite expensive.
Mineral oils are the least efficient engine oil, lasting only about 3,000 miles. They're very crude and most modern cars aren't designed to use them.
Semi-synthetic oils last 5,000 miles. These take the efficiency of fully synthetic oils and the affordability of mineral oils to form a cost-effective engine oil.
What Oil Do I Need for My Car?
Most drivers need semi-synthetic oil for their cars. If you're not sure what oil your car needs, you should check in your vehicle handbook, with a local garage or on an auto supplier website such as Eurocarparts. You can cause plenty of problems if you choose the wrong engine oil for your vehicle.
Oil Change Prices
The average oil change cost in the UK is £100. However, according to Checkatrade, oil change prices can be as high as £200! When you compare and save on your appointment with BookMyGarage, it can cost as little as £50! What's more, the average price on our directory is £81.08, 19% lower than the national average.
Oil change prices are affected by the size of your engine. The larger the engine, the more oil it needs (and the longer it takes to change the oil). This means that drivers with a larger engine tend to pay more.
However, engine oil itself can also inflate the price.
Engine Oil Prices
We compared the costs of 4 common oil types on Eurocarparts and calculated an average. This reflects the price for a 1-litre bottle of engine oil from Mobil, Castrol, Shell and Triple QX, the four biggest brands.
How Often to Change Oil?
For cars using semi-synthetic oil, you should book an oil change every 5,000 miles. Fully synthetic oil should be changed every 10,000 miles, whereas mineral oil needs replacing every 3,000.
Your driving style can also affect the lifespan of your engine oil.
- Aggressive acceleration can put extra pressure on the engine and the oil and filter.
- High-speed driving can wear engine parts and use up oil faster. This also worsens issues with dirty oil.
- Oil becomes less effective with age, especially if the vehicle isn't driven regularly. While the vehicle is stationary, the engine isn't warm enough so excess moisture forms inside it. This means the oil will deteriorate faster.
You should check your oil regularly to ensure you keep on top of any issues.
How to Check Engine Oil
Checking your engine oil is one of the easiest and most important things you can do at home. It only takes a couple of minutes and it can save you untold stress. Knowing when you need an oil and filter change keeps your car as efficient as possible and avoids any breakdowns or problems.
To check your engine oil, look for the oil reservoir at the front of your engine bay. It should be marked by a dipstick that looks like this.
Once you've found the oil reservoir:
- Pull the dipstick out all the way.
- Clean it fully with a clean cloth. Make sure no cloth fibres end up on the dipstick before you put it back in.
- Reinsert the dipstick all the way. Pull it back out again and check the oil level.
When to Book an Engine Oil Change
If you check your engine oil and the level is between the minimum and maximum lines on the dipstick, you have plenty of oil. However, that doesn't mean that you don't need an oil and filter change.
You should book an appointment if you notice any of the following things:
- Dirty or contaminated engine oil. High-quality oil should look smooth and glossy. If it's sludgy or full of gunk or other particles, you need an oil change immediately.
- Your oil is thick or opaque. Good quality oil should be fairly transparent.
- Your oil is below the minimum line. While your oil level will drop during natural driving, it shouldn't be that low. And that generally means it has been a while since your last oil change. You can top your oil level up to keep your car moving before the appointment as a temporary solution but remember to get a full oil and filter change for best results.
Some modern cars use an oil warning light to alert you about an upcoming service. If you see this or realise it's been a while since your last oil change, regardless of oil quality, book an appointment today.
An oil and filter change is one of the most essential parts of car maintenance. It extends the lifespan of your car by replacing dirty oil with fresh, effective oil. Most drivers should book a change every 5,000 miles, but this depends on which engine oil your car uses. An oil change costs £100 on average in the UK but, by using BookMyGarage to compare and save, you can secure yours for as little as £50. However, the larger your engine, the more expensive your oil change will be.