In the end, decision on when to change oil is up to you

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND
  • Updated: September 23, 2011 - 3:43 PM

The dealer advises oil changes when we reach 20 percent of oil life remaining, but waiting 11,250 to 14,100 miles between oil changes raises some worries.

Q We bought a new Chevy Equinox that now has 5,768 miles on it. The vehicle computer indicates we still have 59 percent of oil life remaining. In the past I have always changed oil between 3,000 and 4,000 miles. The dealer advises oil changes when we reach 20 percent of oil life remaining. We really like this vehicle, but I'm a little nervous about 11,250 to 14,100 miles between oil changes.

A After nearly 30 years of doing this column, I've learned that there are two basic categories of car owners: those who take care of their vehicles, and those who aren't interested or don't really care. The fact that automakers now install "oil life monitoring" systems, sealed transmissions with no dipstick, and long-life coolants is confirmation that most owners fall into that second category.

For all of us who do care, the oil monitoring systems present a conundrum: Do I change oil when I want to, or when the car tells me to? There's no question that today's engine designs, manufacturing techniques, materials and computer controls operate far more efficiently, generate far less debris and contamination and thus allow longer oil and filter change intervals.

But the one question to which there is an absolute answer is this: Who owns and is responsible for the vehicle? You are, so you make the decision on when to service your vehicle, whether it be an oil change, tire rotation or new wiper blades.

I vote with my wrench and wallet -- I change oil and filter at 4,000-mile intervals on my newer vehicles, a bit more frequently on the older ones. What's your vote?

QI have a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am GT V6 with 110,000 miles on it. It hesitates when I shift from park to drive or reverse to drive when car is warm. When cold, the car shifts fine, but when it's warm I can sit for several minutes, then have to rev up the engine a little before the car starts to move. Any ideas would help.

AHas the transmission fluid and filter ever been serviced? Although Pontiac doesn't call for routine transmission service under "normal" driving conditions, their service recommendation calls for fluid and filter changes at 50,000 miles under "severe" service conditions.

I suspect the transmission is suffering from low hydraulic pressure when the unit is fully warmed up. This could be because of high operating temperatures, worn seals and components in the valve body or cumulative wear and tear. The problem is what to do about it. Ideally, you'd have the transmission scanned for fault codes that might identify specific problems, have the unit's hydraulic pressure tested and drain, flush and replace the fluid and filter -- and that's just to identify the problem. Then, it may well be time for an overhaul or replacement transmission -- a questionable investment in a 12-year-old vehicle.

So, try this. Add half a can (8 ounces) of SeaFoam Trans-Tune to the transmission fluid through the vent/fill cap. The solvent action and high-quality lubricant may improve transmission performance measurably.

QMy wife ran over a skunk with her 2003 Acura MDX, and now there's a nasty skunk odor permeating the whole vehicle. I've washed the car multiple times and have flushed the undercarriage. I've placed dryer sheets and baking soda in the interior and have wiped down the interior with automotive cleaner. The smell has slightly diminished but is still there. Are there any other solutions to removing skunk odor? Should I replace the cabin air filter?

AYou've given it your best, but now it's time for the pros. Find a detail shop that will disassemble and clean the air vents, use an ozone machine in the cabin, replace the cabin filter and do their magic to rid the vehicle of the skunk smell.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 114 FINAL
LA Lakers 108
LA Clippers 107 FINAL
Golden State 125
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters