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posted: 8/18/2013 12:10 AM

Problems with long oil change intervals

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I feel like a broken record on this but I feel like it bears bringing up again because we continue to see cars coming into the shop with little or no oil in the crankcase.

The longer car manufacturers push out the oil change interval, the more drivers get a false sense that the oil is just another one of those maintenance-free parts of the car.

When you drive 6,000 miles between oil changes, you had better check your oil a couple times in between those changes because there is a good chance you need to add a quart once or twice before the next oil change. This is what we are seeing in the shop.

Some of these smaller cars today only hold 3 quarts and if you go down 2 quarts, that puts your engine at great risk. As the oil gets low, it will get dirtier and have a tendency to sludge.

The other thing you need to know is that oil in today's engine does more than just lubricate. It is used as a hydraulic fluid for controlling different engine functions, like variable valve timing or cylinder canceling. If you use the wrong oil, or the oil turns to sludge in the engine, you can damage these components or render them inoperative. This will result in running problems and check engine lights.

As I have mentioned in the past, the day of the three month or 3,000 mile oil change is gone for newer cars. But this does not apply to every situation. Depending on how you drive, waiting for the full manufacturer's recommended change interval may not be good, either.

Work with your service provider to find the proper interval for you and your car. Always, always use the correct oil in your car and no matter when you change it, have it checked between oil changes. It could save you an engine.

New air filters

We get a fair amount of questions about a filter in the car called a cabin air filter. This is a relatively new feature on some cars, but most of the newer ones have them. It is a filter that serves the same function as your home's furnace filter; it filters particles out of the air before it vents into the passenger compartment.

Sometimes this filter is a little tuff to get to, but if you let it go and it becomes plugged, it will affect the performance of your heating and air conditioning. If the filter gets really dirty, we have seen them stress the blower motor because of excessive heat.

You can have this filter checked once a year or minimally follow the manufacturer's recommendation for changes. We have fixed a few A/C problems just by changing the filter.

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit Send questions to

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