Here are answers to all your questions about only changing your oil once a year
I shudder to think what our cars will be telling us in a few more years! Seriously though, your car is simply telling you that you have driven a set amount of miles since the timer was reset. More advanced cars actually have a complex algorithm that factors in mileage, idle time, operating temperatures, etc. Regardless of methodology, your car is assuming that you are using the most basic minimum specification conventional oil. When using the grade of oil I do this is simply not a concern.
So how do I reset the oil light?
My favorite answer to anything I don’t know: Consult Google. A quick search online will render countless articles on how to reset your particular vehicle’s maintenance light.
How do I know if an advertised synthetic is a “true” synthetic base?
Unfortunately this is a tough one. I have spent hours researching this and it is not easy to find out. Basically, oils that are true synthetics — those made with Group IV base stocks — will typically be advertised as such. They are proud of that fact, so they usually tell you somewhere in their marketing material, but not always. I do know that Amsoil and Redline are true synthetics. I happen to be partial to Amsoil for many reasons — the diversity of its product line being one of them. I have also had tremendous success with my vehicles my customers' vehicles and equipment using Amsoil's products.
Is there any situation where you don’t suggest synthetic oil for my vehicle?
Yes, two situations; if your car is either burning or leaking oil. In either case you will be having to top off your oil frequently, which undermines the savings you are trying to achieve. Aside from that I adamantly recommend synthetics. If you have an older vehicle that you want to run forever, I would make the switch. If a seal starts leaking for the aforementioned reason than you know you had a bad seal that needed to be addressed anyway. Replace the seal and start enjoying the future savings and convenience. If your car burns oil, you need to decide if it’s worth fixing so that you can receive the benefits synthetics offer.
I thought mechanics check out your car during regular oil changes to catch problems early on?
They do — at least they should. I know we did that in my shop. An oil change is the perfect opportunity to get under a customer’s car and identify issues that are developing. In no way am I suggesting you skip this. You just don’t need to pay for an oil change to get the inspection. My suggestion would be to have your mechanic change your oil at the 20,000-mile/1-year mark and then go in for an “inspection” six months later. A good repair shop should offer a complimentary inspection for its customers. That way you’re covered and don't pay for an unnecessary oil change. In my opinion, that’s being a smart consumer.
So where do I find the products you’re talking about for my specific vehicle?
Send me an email, and I will explain the products you should look for. In the future, I will have a site that explains more about these products.
I want to be sure anyone who is considering switching to extended oil drain intervals realizes one very important detail: You must check your oil at least once a month! Going 20,000 miles/1 year on an oil change is a great convenience, but you absolutely must check the dipstick regularly. If your oil levels drops during that period, which is not uncommon, you will want to add a little back into your engine to ensure the proper level on the stick.
I have been asked to write additional automotive articles. Please feel free to leave comments below telling me topics you would like to see me address in the future.
Zak Anderegg opened Utah’s first full scale do-it-yourself repair shop in 2009, which was featured on numerous local TV networks. He also works with business fleet managers. Feel free to email any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org.