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December 19, 2012
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Tahoe car care: Get on a schedule with your oil changes

TAHOE/TRUCKEE - If you read this section last week, you know that changing your engine oil regularly is one of the most important maintenance items you can perform on your vehicle.

Irregular oil changes, or using the wrong product, is damaging to the engine and could result in a hefty repair bill down the road. How often to change your oil, a seemingly easy question, is not always that straightforward.

Nearly every vehicle manufacturer has an oil change schedule for "normal" driving conditions and another for "severe" driving conditions. Here are some standards for "severe" driving conditions.

• Operate in dusty, wet or muddy terrain,

• Frequent driving in stop and go traffic,

• Repeated short trips without sufficient warm up,

• Ambient temperature extremes, high and low,

• Operating in mountainous/high altitude areas; and

• Trailer towing.

It leaves little to guesswork that vehicle owners in our region should follow the guidelines for "severe" driving conditions.

For most people living in the Tahoe area who are using standard (non-synthetic) oil, the standard of 3 months or 3,000 miles is appropriate. Taking your vehicle beyond this guideline, using an inferior oil product, or using the wrong oil product, can be damaging to an engine.

You may not see the results for miles to come, but the consequence could be more frequent repair bills down the road. Find a local repair/maintenance shop that you can trust and will remind you that is time to get an oil service.

Look for a shop that offers a premium oil service versus an oil change. Take it upon yourself to ask about the quality of the oil, oil filter and if they are using the product that is specified for your vehicle. A good shop will be able to provide this information and will probably be happy that you asked.

The use of synthetic oil will extend the intervals for most vehicles to 6 months or 6000 miles and save you time and money. Originally developed for aircraft jet engines because of its ability to reduce friction and wear on engine parts, synthetic oil is a non-petroleum product that is cleaner and able to withstand the higher temperatures of today's modern vehicles.

Most late model European vehicles from about the early to mid-2000s require the use of synthetic oil. Asian and domestic vehicles, although not required to use synthetic oil, could benefit from the use of synthetic oil with reduced engine wear and fuel consumption.

There is a positive environmental impact as well. Fewer oil changes result in less waste product to dispose of. Additionally, synthetic oil is not a petroleum-based product so you are consuming fewer fossil fuels.

A synthetic oil change will cost more, but the benefit of changing oil less often will actually leave you with more money in your pocket at the end of the year.

- This article was submitted to the Bonanza from Quality Automotive and Smog, located at 11357 Deerfield Drive in Truckee. Learn more about the business at www.qualityautomotiveandsmog.com.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 19, 2012 03:17PM Published Dec 19, 2012 03:15PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.