The oil life percentage is one of those numeric displays on modern automobiles that are not so easy for everyone to comprehend. Besides the math-y appearance of the numeric display, oil life percentage is just what you think it is; the time left before the oil in your engine can no longer provide optimal lubrication for its many moving parts.
Remember, oil life percentage is not the same as oil level. The process of determining the oil life percentage encompasses a lot more than just oil level and basic determinants like mileage. The technology considers other factors like your driving habits, the environment you’re driving in, and the oil quality itself.
It’s Not Mileage-Based Anymore
If you’re like me , then you’re very likely to be familiar with the oil rule of thumb that claims you should change your oil every 3 months or after every 3000 miles. Admittedly, this was quite the golden rule of thumb but that was before manufacturers were making multigrade engine oil, and motor engines didn’t have the high tolerance capacity of modern engines in modern vehicles today.
In the days of monograde oil, fluid replacement schedules were shorter, and attentive motor owners had to more frequently perform engine maintenance routines. Today, unlike monograde oil, the quality and technology of multigrade oil require a complex combo of chemicals, additives, and lubricants, so that determining the oil life percentage is no longer a simple case of calculating the total miles driven since the last oil change. It’s not mileage-based anymore.
When Exactly Should I Change the Oil?
I get various versions of this same question all the time, “When exactly should I change my oil?” My answer is more or less the same: consult your owner’s manual. These days that you’ll have to count through your fingers and toes, and you still wouldn’t have gotten all the vehicle makes and models rolled out each year, we can’t just generalize like before and say, “everyone should change their oil every 3 months,” or “every 3000 miles.”
Remember, if you don’t have time to study your car owner’s manual, the mechanic will have plenty of time for your money. If I may be so bold, I’d say, consider your owner’s manual your car maintenance bible. I’m all for brainstorming, but when it comes to oil life, I say, don’t rely on other people’s past experiences because cars and car engines have come a long way in as recently as the past ten years. Now, let’s take a quick look at some basic rules of thumb.
How Often Should I Check the Oil Level?
As you can imagine, whatever prolongs the health of your oil prolongs its life. So, it’s important to know all you can about oil and oil system maintenance. Make a habit of checking on your oil level at least once a month, and don’t postpone repairs at the first sign of a leak. As mentioned earlier, let your manual be your Bible and follow the automaker’s recommendations.
Some newer automobiles have electronic car oil monitors, while older ones come with the traditional dipsticks for manual inspection. Dipsticks have markers on them (Usually two pinholes, or the letters L and H, or the words Min and Max) to help you read the oil level. If the topmost part of the oil streak is within the marks, the level is satisfactory, but you need to add oil if it’s beneath the minimum mark.
Finally, pay attention to the color of your oil; it should appear black or brown. If it has a light milky appearance, it could mean the coolant is leaking into the engine, and that’s not good.
Keeping tabs on your engine oil life percentage is just as important as checking the oil level. The oil life determines the oil’s capacity to properly lubricate the engine’s parts. Don’t rely on “outside” sources for advice on when to change your oil. Your owner’s manual is your best source of advice for how frequently you should change your oil for your specific automobile make and model. Can’t find your owner’s manual? Web resources like Edmunds and Car Manuals can help.