When you’re a kid, you spend a lot of time riding around in the car. Whether you’re headed to or from a school function, soccer practice or Grandma’s house, you’re often a passenger for many miles each week.

You might daydream about the day when you’ll be in the driver’s seat, but have you ever given much thought to what other responsibilities will come along with that driver’s license? You probably realize you’ll have to pay to put gas in the car. But what about routine maintenance?

Have you ever helped a friend or family member change the oil in a car or truck? Maybe you’ve had to sit patiently at a local garage while a mechanic changed the oil in the family sedan. Have you ever WONDERed why you need to change the oil in a car?

Other things may need to be checked and fixed on a car from time to time, but changing the oil is probably the most important part of routine maintenance for any vehicle. An oil change consists of removing the old oil from a vehicle’s engine and replacing it with new, fresh oil. The engine oil filter is usually also changed at the same time.

Automobile engines have many moving parts. As these parts move and rub against each other, the force of friction creates heat. Oil lubricates the engine and absorbs heat, allowing the internal parts to work together effectively without overheating.

Over time, engine oil breaks down and wears out. When it does, it becomes less effective at lubricating the engine and absorbing heat. As an automobile owner, your goal is to change the oil in your engine before it breaks down and causes major engine troubles.

So how often should you change your oil? It depends on many factors, including the way you drive, how old your engine is and where you live. Many mechanics will recommend you change your oil every 3,000 miles. Automobile manufacturers might suggest a longer interval, such as 5,000 miles. If you use special synthetic oil, you might be able to go 10,000 miles between oil changes!

For most people, an oil change every 5,000 miles would probably be just fine. You might want to consider changing your oil more often, though, if you tend to drive at high speeds, have an older engine or live in an area that is particularly hot, cold or dusty.

Can you change the oil in your car by yourself? Yes, you can! But you will need a few special supplies to do so, including fresh oil, a new oil filter, an oil pan, an oil-filter wrench, a funnel and maybe even ramps or a jack.

Changing the oil in an automobile isn’t a difficult process, but it does take time. It can also be a dirty job if you’re not careful with the oil. Some people choose instead to take their vehicle to a mechanic or an oil-change specialty business to have it done professionally.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do you change the oil in cars?
  • What is friction?
  • How often should you change the oil in cars?

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Try It Out

Ready to learn more about how to change the oil in a car? If you have a friend or family member who changes their own oil, ask them to let you help out the next time they change the oil. It can be fun to get underneath a car to see the process up close!

If you don’t know anyone who changes their own oil, take a field trip to a local business that provides oil change services. Ask them to let you watch the process from start to finish. You never know. They might even let you help out!

One day, when you have a car of your own, it will be important to maintain it carefully, so that it’ll always run the way it’s supposed to. Changing the oil regularly is an important part of routine maintenance. Learning these skills while you’re young will only help you out later!

Still Wondering

Science NetLinks’ Technology and Oil lesson demonstrates how much our society depends on petroleum products and shows how advances in technology have allowed us to find, obtain and transport oil.

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