Motor Oil & Filters: Checking the Pulse of your Car

November 27th, 2020 by

A gloved hand is holding an oil filter up during an oil change service.

It’s a situation that has happened to all of us. You know that you probably need to get your oil changed but can’t seem to find the time or motivation to do so. Before you realize it, you’re overdue for your oil change service. This begs the question: Why change your oil filter? Not changing your oil filter can result in contaminants entering your engine, leading to expensive and sometimes irreparable damage.

This damage is not usually a simple fix, either. It can be expensive, time-consuming, or, worst of all, completely irreparable. Plus, the technician fixing your car is probably going to start telling you about all of the other things you need to have repaired or replaced. You can only turn down that air filter replacement so many times before you start to feel like you’re doing something wrong.

As it turns out, getting regular oil and oil filter replacements are very important to the overall health and longevity of your car. Changing your oil and changing your oil filter are essential to avoid incredibly expensive repairs or a totaled engine. Plus, most places like Thomas Nissan offer express service for simple things like oil and oil filter changes. We get you in and out in no time, saving you hours or even days if your engine breaks down the road because you put off this routine service. Save time now, and save time later.

Your Car’s Lifeblood

The ability of your car to even function depends on the oil being clean and in good condition. Oil serves to lubricate all of the moving engine parts to reduce friction, reduce corrosion of the parts, and prevent the engine from overheating. As the oil makes thousands and thousands of cycles through your engine, it immediately begins to pick up flakes of metal, dirt, and other debris particulates. As time goes on, the grunge begins to gunk up the oil, and then things start breaking down because the oil isn’t doing its job anymore. The oil filter aids the oil by removing the contaminants that the oil collects as it works.

One of the critical purposes of the oil in your engine is to lubricate metal on metal contact of moving parts. Without that lubrication creating a smooth contact, the metal will start to heat up and eventually weld together, causing your engine to seize and stall. You probably don’t need us to explain how that is bad. Now what should have been an inexpensive check up to get your oil and oil filter changed is a pricey mechanical fix that could mean replacing the entire engine, or worse, your entire vehicle.

If you go a little bit over your expected oil change mileage, your car won’t immediately break down. You do have a little bit of wiggle room, though it isn’t recommended to go over 1000 miles past your scheduled oil change. You will know you are well overdue when you begin to notice things like sluggish acceleration, unusual metallic sounds under the hood, low oil pressure indicated on your display, or changes in your exhaust color. If you notice any of these issues, get to a mechanic immediately.

Anatomy of a Filter

A cross section shows the inside of an oil filter.

Getting your oil filter changed is incredibly important. The filter works hard to remove as much waste and particulate as it can from your oil, leaving it running smoothly. Of course, it can’t reliably filter everything, which is why we get our oil changed regularly as well. As the filter is used, it builds up gunk, and eventually, if it isn’t switched out, it will damage your engine rather than preserve it. The oil filter doesn’t just clean your oil, of course. It has many parts that ensure the oil is where it needs to be.

  • Tapping Plate: The tapping plate is where the oil enters and then exits the filter. It resembles a typical drain design with a central hole surrounded by smaller ones. Your car’s motor oil gets filtered through the smaller holes, passes through the filter material, and then continues to your engine through the central drain.
  • Filter Material: A mesh of synthetic fibers is what makes up your filter. It acts as a colander to intercept grit and grime and remove it from your oil. It is designed with pleats to offer as much surface area for catching waste as possible.
  • Anti-Drain Back Valve: To ensure that your oil doesn’t seep back into your filter from the engine when your vehicle is off, this anti-drain back valve pops shut to seal it off.
  • Relief Valve: In cold conditions, your motor oil reacts by becoming slightly sluggish and more viscous. When that happens, the relief valve disperses some unfiltered motor oil providing a boost to your engine as it begins to warm up.
  • End Discs: The last thing you want is a leaky oil filter and getting oil where it isn’t supposed to be. There are two discs often made of metal or fibers on either end of the filter. These are designed to prevent any unfiltered oil from passing into the engine.

Timing is Everything

Oil is being poured into an orange funnel in an engine bay.

So we’ve talked about the purpose your motor oil serves and the parts and function of the oil filter, but how often should you replace it. This is a factor that is different from one manufacturer to another and may even be different based on the make and model of the vehicle you drive and your personal driving patterns and habits. There are some good stand by pearls of wisdom to go by, which we can use as a baseline.

Most people would advise getting your oil filter changed every 3,000 miles or every 3 months. By this time, your oil has already traveled through your engine over 12,000 times. However, this number will change as engineering becomes more sophisticated and synthetic motor oil becomes more advanced. Also, most newer cars will tell you what your oil life is and when you are getting close to needing a change.

For some newer cars that use state-of-the-art motor oil or have cleaner cycling technology, some experts advise going between 5,000 to 6,000 miles between oil changes. That basically doubles the amount of time between visits. These synthetic motor oils tend to run more expensive; however, they are likely to last you a lot longer. So with fewer visits to the mechanic, you end up saving money every year on oil changes.

That could change based on your driving habits. If you are a regular commuter and putting miles on your car every day, that may do fine. However, if your trips are far less regular and taking you less than 10 miles, you may need to change your metric for your oil change visits. Experts recommend getting your oil filter changed once every 1000 miles or every six months if you drive fairly infrequently.

Without regularly going higher speeds (like you might on the highway), your engine won’t reach the right hot temperature needed to boil off condensation. When that builds up in the system, it can cause your motor oil to degrade faster. Additionally, something many people don’t know is that the bulk of the damage to your car occurs when you start it up. Even if you aren’t driving very long or far, you are still putting wear and tear on your engine, which can cause long lasting damage if neglected.


Ensuring our oil and filters for the oil is changed regularly is the easiest maintenance we can do to guarantee we are getting the most out of our cars. From new to used cars, the fastest way to cause damage to the engine and begin the avalanche of costly repairs and returns to the mechanic’s shop is by ignoring the oil filter. Luckily there are plenty of easy and convenient options when it comes to getting your oil and filters changed.

With convenience and relatively low cost, it should be a no brainer. Don’t do yourself the disservice of neglecting your car’s checkups and oil, or you’ll pay ten times the amount you would have undoing the damage caused by thinking you can go another 3,000 miles. Stop by Thomas Nissan today to take advantage of our express oil changes, and make sure your car stays running smoothly. We are happy to help out anyone in the Joliet, IL area, with their oil and oil filter changes.

Posted in Oil Change Service