Latest Reader Question (April 16, 2018)

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Victoria asks: Eric, I am a long time fan. You’ve become my go to source for car information. My car needs an oil change. I want to be able to keep this car for at least a decade so I’d like to try to take care of it. I’ve tried consulting the owner’s manual and some basic Googling but I am having trouble finding out exactly what are the best parts for my car.

I was hoping that if anyone knew where to find that kind of information it would be you. I have a 2016 Hyundai Elantra Sport with the 2.0 engine and manual transmission. The owner’s manual does say that Hyundai recommends Quaker State oil API SM/ ILSAC GF-4 or above (so fully synthetic). I’m not opposed to doing it myself but I think I am lacking a number of necessary tools. I’ve always used a local chain named Benny’s that does an oil change, inspection and car wash for one price except when I leased a Mini Cooper because the Mini lease included scheduled maintenance. It used to cost me $30 bucks to get an oil change and a car wash. I don’t drive a lot – barely more than 5,000 miles a year – so I feel weird letting the oil sit in the car for as long as they say synthetic oil can but I am feeling a bit of sticker shock compared to what I used to spend. Please advise. I live in deep south, so it’s hot, humid, and rainy.

My reply: The critical thing is to use exactly the grade and viscosity (thickness; e.g., 10W-30) as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer and to change according to the specified mileage and time intervals. If you use oil that does not meet specifications, it could result in problems (modern car engines are much more finicky about oil than engines were years ago, when they could use almost any “off the shelf” oil and you’d probably be ok) and void your warranty coverage.

Your turbocharged engine needs synthetic oil; do not skimp! And don’t leave it in the engine for longer than specified, either. Surprisingly, “light use” (low mileage accumulation) can be just as hard on the oil as continuous use, or even more so. The oil does not wear out, per se – but contaminants do build up inside the crankcase over time.

In any event, be sure that whatever brand of oil you use, it meets the Hyundai-specified criteria.

This brings up the Quick Lube Issue. These places advertise convenience and low cost, both of which are of course appealing. However, you want to be certain they do not use sub-standard (for your car) oil – such as conventional/mixed rather than the full synthetic specified – and that they use a quality filter (not a cheap generic) and that they fill the engine with the right amount – not too much or too little. These places are fairly notorious for over/under-filling engines. And for overtightening oil pan drain bolts, damaging the threads and so on.

Check the oil level on the dipstick before you leave the lot. Look under the car for any signs of leaks. And be certain you get a written receipt indicating the type of oil used, the viscosity and so on as well as the brand name and type of filter used. Save this, in the event you ever have an oil-related warranty claim.

On DIY service: If you’re mechanically inclined and have some basic tools, you can probably do this job yourself, which will save you some money and give you the peace of mind of knowing for certain the right oil and filter was used, and that the right quantity of oil was put in the engine.

In general, you’ll need a way to safely raise and support the front end of the car (so, a floor jack to raise it and then jackstands to support the weight once raised) and a basic socket set or wrenches (metric) to loosen and remove the oil pan drain bolt and then a correct type oil filter wrench to loosen/remove that. Plus a funnel (to get the fresh oil in the engine without making a mess)!

Be sure you know where to place the floor jack (and jack stands) before jacking up the car!

The drain plug is obviously located on the bottom of the oil pan and should be easy to access. The filter may be on the side of the engine or even up on top. It varies from car to car and some are easier to get at than others.

I recommend buying a service manual for your car. For an oil change and basic service, it’s not necessary to get a factory manual (more expensive and more involved). One of those Haynes of Chilton’s manuals they sell at most car parts stores ought to have the info you need.

Keep us posted!

 . . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. While I don’t disagree with any advice eric has given here I just wanted to point out the newer the vehicles, the faster the engine gets to temp and so the oil has a “better” life than it would in something like my old ’93 Turbo Diesel that ran waaay cool. Of course in my case, there are virtually no short trips.

    As an aside, I want to point out some stupid crap that happened to a company pickup I warned the guys doing maintenance to not do but they did so anyway. I’m just a stupid old man and I wasn’t doing the work…blah blah blah. So they went ahead and installed Rotella T 15W40 in a 2007 5.3 Chevy pickup that ran flawlessly. I had warned them that oil would ruin the top end and not do the bottom any favors but I had a hotshot load to run.

    Not long after the top end is clacking like crazy on that engine that had always run perfectly. Stupid is as stupid does. Oh, and the “company mechanic” was the same one that warned me to be sure and add 2 gallons of water to that “concentrate” coolant, just regular Prestone, not a pre-mix. Well, that answered the reason that 60 series Detroit had a 1 inch hole in the block after single digit weather. Refer to Forrest again.

  2. Eric,

    Many newer cars now have covers that shield the entire bottom of the engine from rocks, water, road oil and soil. Some covers are easy to remove. Some aren’t. The cover on my wife’s 2016 Honda Civic LX is in the “isn’t easy to remove and replace” category. The cover has two bolts that attach it to the front bumper fascia assembly. Four plastic twist lock poppers and two metal twist lock poppers. All of the connecting point holes have to be perfectly aligned for the poppers and bolts to be inserted. Oh forgot, there are two slots that have to be aligned and slid onto hooks that protrude from the floor pan of the car.

    This alignment issue with the cover evidently caused the dealership to incorrectly install the cover. Additionally, they left off the two front bumper bolts for the cover and failed to install the two metallic poppers. This caused the bottom cover to drag the ground in certain instances. Needless to say, the dealership no longer changes the oil on the car.

    I obtained all the missing fasteners and reinstalled the cover properly. Admittedly, there were more than a few colorful metaphors issued during the exercise. I now have Firestone change the oil and inspect the lower cover to insure it is installed correctly.

  3. Follow up question…

    You talk about jack stands, etc. What about a pair of ramps? They are relatively inexpensive and safe. Plus, the oil drain plug usually drains to the rear so you should get all the old oil out. Right? And what about changing the metal gasket on the drain plug?

    Also, make sure you don’t overtighten or strip the drain plug.


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