Motor Oil: Your Car’s Lifeblood

motor oilThe number one rule of car maintenance is to take care of your vehicle’s motor oil. Motor oil is the lifeblood of your car; without it, your engine would quickly die.

There are numerous misconceptions about motor oil, though, and confusion about how to best care for it. To take care of your car’s oil, you need to know how things can go wrong and how to identify any problems.

There are several ways in which motor oil can go bad:

  • Wrong viscosity. Viscosity essentially refers to the thickness of the oil. Each engine is designed to work with a certain viscosity. Viscosity changes with temperature, though, which is why cars in northern states may require a lower-viscosity oil during the winter months.
  • Contamination. Oil can and usually does become contaminated over time with moisture, smoke particles or dirt. This is a bigger problem if you drive short distances or live in a humid climate, such as Florida.
  • Heat. If you live in a hot climate, put your engine under a heavy workload for an extended period of time or have your car overheat due to a coolant problem, it can both lower your oil’s viscosity and scorch the oil itself.
  • Sludge. Heat, contamination and age can also cause oil to turn into sludge. Sludge is more akin to grease or tar than to liquid oil and is just as likely to clog your engine as to lubricate it.

You can prevent some of these problems by regularly changing the motor oil.

Between changes, you should regularly check the oil and look for signs of problems:

  • If the oil has a white or milky color, it’s likely contaminated with water.
  • Sludge will be thicker and blacker than regular oil.
  • Low oil levels indicate burning oil or a leak.
  • High oil levels likely indicate a major contamination problem.

Changing the oil can help keep your car running like new, but sometimes you do just need to change the car itself. If you have questions about getting into or out of a car lease, please contact us at

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