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Top 10 Misconceptions: Fleet Vehicle Oil Changes

Oil changes are one of those maintenance items that ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your fleet vehicles. Seemingly simple, fresh oil and filters are the lifeblood of any vehicle, especially those that rack up miles when used daily by businesses.

Going too long between oil changes can lead to more expensive issues like warped cylinder heads, cracked engine blocks, and even total engine replacement.

Working with a trusted fleet mechanic for oil changes can help you establish an optimal maintenance schedule for your fleet vehicles.

In the meantime, let’s break down 10 of the most common misconceptions about fleet vehicle oil changes to get you started.

1 – More Frequent Oil Changes are Always Better

While regular oil changes are essential, changing oil too frequently might not provide significant benefits. It’s also a waste of money and resources to change your fleet’s oil and filters before it’s truly needed.

You should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your fleet vehicles. Also consider factors such as vehicle usage, oil type, and operating conditions before deciding on oil change intervals.

Synthetic oil pours from a container.

2 – Synthetic Oil Lasts Forever

Synthetic oil has a longer lifespan than conventional oil. However, that doesn’t mean it’s immortal. It can still break down over time and with heavier use, compromising the health of your fleet vehicle’s engine and coolant system.

Regular oil changes are necessary, even with synthetic oils, to ensure proper engine protection and performance. Your fleet mechanic can recommend the best intervals for service.

3 – Any Oil Works in Fleet Vehicles

Not all engine oils are created equally. Using the wrong type of oil or viscosity of oil can lead to engine damage that requires expensive repairs.

Incorrect oil type or grade also decreases the performance of your vehicles and reduces their fuel efficiency. Always use oil that meets the manufacturer’s specifications.

Engine oils when fresh look amber in color like this oil droplet.

4 – Oil Color Determines the Condition

This is a misconception based on partial fact. Yes, the color of your oil can indicate there’s a problem. However, it’s not a reliable way to determine if your engine is healthy or whether the oil is nearing the end of its lifespan and needs changing.

Fresh oil is amber in color. However, it darkens quickly as it collects contaminants. Conducting an oil analysis is a more effective way to determine the oil’s condition.

5 – Changing the Oil Filter is Enough

Oil changes can eat into your vehicle maintenance budget, especially if you have a large fleet to maintain. It might seem tempting to replace only the filter instead of the oil and the filter, but we never advise this shortcut.

Changing the oil filter is important, but a fresh filter can’t protect your fleet’s engines from degraded oil. Over time, even the highest quality synthetic oil breaks down, losing its ability to protect the engine. To avoid more expensive repairs in the future, never skip changing the oil when you change the filter.

6 – Higher Viscosity Oil is Better for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

This is another one of those misconceptions that might seem like a good idea. If you have a fleet of heavy-duty vehicles, you might buy into the notion that the higher the viscosity, the greater the protection.

Higher viscosity oil can hinder the flow and lubrication in colder temperatures. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations (or those of your fleet mechanic) before choosing an oil viscosity.

Engine oils additives in three different size containers

7 – Oil Additives Can Replace Regular Oil Changes

Just like a fresh filter can’t substitute for replacing the oil, using oil additives isn’t a viable alternative for regular oil changes, either.

While oil additives can provide certain benefits, they shouldn’t be treated as a replacement for fresh oil. Additives can’t prevent the breakdown of oil from heat and contamination.

8 – New Vehicles Don’t Need Immediate Oil Changes

Buying a brand-new fleet vehicle might come with the mistaken belief that you don’t need to change the oil until you hit a magic mileage number. However, this misconception is dangerous because it can lead to engine damage.

Newer engines can produce metal shavings during the initial break-in period, making an early oil change important for maintaining engine health. Ask your trusted fleet mechanic when you should schedule your first oil change for a new vehicle.

9 – You Can Extend Oil Change Intervals with Premium Oil

Premium oils offer enhanced performance, including increased gas mileage. However, the benefits don’t extend to longer periods between oil changes.

Operating conditions play a critical role in oil change intervals, even with premium oil flowing through your fleet’s engines. Challenging conditions such as frequent stop-and-go driving, towing heavy loads, or driving in extreme temperatures cause increased wear and tear and contamination of engine oil.

Always consult your manufacturer’s guidelines on oil changes and check with your fleet mechanic to determine the best schedule for fresh oil.

A fleet mechanic inspects a vehicle to determine if it needs engine oil replacement.

10 – Oil Changes are Just a Way to Sell More Services

Yes, service centers make money on oil changes. However, they’re a crucial component of maintaining engine health for your fleet.

The cost of regular oil changes pales in comparison to more expensive repairs or replacements you may need if you try to skip this essential maintenance item to save money in the short term.

Regular Oil Changes Maximize Fleet Vehicle Performance

Imagine if you went through life without paying any attention to your health. You’d feel sluggish and would probably develop serious health problems. Fleet vehicles are no different. Without regular oil changes, their life expectancy is limited.

Following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your fleet vehicles enhances their performance, longevity, and overall efficiency.

Regular oil changes are part of routine upkeep. Failing to keep your fleet’s engines properly lubricated now can lead to more expensive repairs later.

In this blog, we answer some of the most common questions about regular oil changes for fleet vehicles, including:

Why are regular oil changes essential for fleet vehicle performance?

You need a fleet of vehicles that perform reliably and consistently. Regular oil changes ensure the engine operates at peak performance, delivering adequate power. Vehicles with well-maintained engines exhibit smoother acceleration and responsiveness and have a longer lifespan.

Some of the other reasons why sticking to an oil change schedule is important include:

  • Engine lubrication and cooling. Engine oil serves as a lubricant, reducing the friction between moving engine parts. Proper lubrication prevents excessive wear and tear, allowing engine components to work smoothly and efficiently. Additionally, oil helps dissipate heat to maintain optimal engine temperature to prevent overheating.
  • Minimized wear and tear. Some fleet vehicles cover significant distances, putting extra stress on their engines. Clean and fresh oil provides a protective barrier between engine parts, reducing friction, and minimizing wear.
  • Optimal fuel efficiency. Clean engine oil improves engine efficiency, which contributes to better fuel combustion. The improved fuel economy, coupled with reduced fuel consumption, leads to substantial savings for fleet operators over time.
  • Prevention of contaminant buildup. Over time, engine oil accumulates contaminants such as dirt, debris, and metal particles. These impurities hinder engine performance and can cause damage. Regular oil changes drain out the old, contaminated oil and replace it with clean oil to prevent the buildup of harmful substances.
  • Compliance with warranty requirements. If your fleet vehicles are new and have a manufacturer’s warranty, failing to follow the recommended schedule for oil changes can void the coverage.
A driver sits behind the wheel of a fleet vehicle.

What’s the connection between regular oil changes and engine lifespan?

The connection between regular oil changes and the engine lifespan of a fleet vehicle is rooted in the critical role that engine oil plays in maintaining engine health and overall vehicle longevity.

One of the biggest benefits of regular oil changes that directly impact how long your fleets’ engines last is the removal of contaminants from the oil. Regular oil changes rid your engine of any debris, dirt, or metal particles and replace them with fresh, clean oil.

Other ways changing your oil helps extend engine life include:

  • Prevention of engine damage. As oil circulates through the engine, it collects contaminants. Over time, those impurities form sludge in your engine, which clogs oil passages and restricts lubrication. Clean oil prevents the buildup of sludge, reducing the risk of engine damage caused by poor lubrication.
  • Dissipation of heat. Engine oil works with your fleet vehicle’s cooling system to carry heat away from critical engine components. Overheating causes stress on engine parts and leads to premature wear. Regular oil changes help maintain the oil’s cooling properties.
  • Protection from corrosion. Engine oil contains additives that prevent corrosion and oxidation of engine parts. Over time, these additives break down, leaving engine components vulnerable to corrosion. Regular oil changes ensure that these additives are replenished, preventing corrosion-related damage, and extending the life of engine parts.
  • Preservation of resale value. Fleet vehicles with documentation of consistent maintenance records fetch a higher resale value.

How do oil changes prevent breakdowns and costly repairs?

Think of engine oil as the lifeblood of your fleet vehicle. It lubricates and cools engine components and provides energy for efficient operation. Without it, your fleet vehicles wouldn’t perform to standards.

One of the most costly mistakes fleet owners make is to think they can push back the time between oil changes to save money.  Failing to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for oil changes can end up costing you more money in the form of expensive repairs.

Effective engine lubrication reduces friction and prevents metal-to-metal contact. It stops excessive wear on bearings, camshafts, and pistons, which keeps your fleet’s engines humming along smoothly.

Regular oil changes offer the opportunity for the early detection of other issues. Mechanics inspect the engine for signs of damage, leaks, or other abnormalities while changing the oil. Catching problems early allows for timely repairs and reduces the likelihood of a breakdown.

Fleet vehicle oil changes require the right type of oil. A mechanic pours engine oil into a fleet vehicle during an oil change.

How do you know what type of oil to use?

Like passenger vehicles, fleets have specific guidelines for what type of oil works best for maintaining engine health. The first and most reliable resource for determining what type of oil to use is your owner’s manual.

Fleet vehicle owner’s manuals typically specify the recommended oil viscosity, type (conventional or synthetic), and any other manufacturer-approved oil standards.

Some of the other factors that affect what type of oil to use include:

  • Age and mileage. Newer fleet vehicles might require synthetic oils because of their improved durability and performance. Older vehicles might still benefit from conventional oils. However, synthetic blends provide enhanced protection.
  • Operating conditions. If your fleet vehicles operate in extreme conditions such as high temperatures or pulling heavy loads, you may need oils with higher viscosity or specific additives to handle the stress. Stop-and-go or frequently idling vehicles might benefit from oils designed for that kind of driving.
  • Fuel filter type. Some filter types are designed to work optimally with specific types of oil. When changing the oil, make sure the filter and oil are compatible. You can find this information in the owner’s manual, or by consulting a fleet mechanic.

When in doubt, ask a trusted fleet mechanic which type of oil works best for protecting and extending your fleet vehicle’s engine life.

What are some common misconceptions about fleet oil changes?

There are several misconceptions about fleet vehicle oil changes that can lead to incorrect maintenance practices. Addressing these misunderstandings is crucial for maintaining the health and performance of your fleet.

Some of the most common false impressions include:

  • Frequent oil changes are always better. While regular oil changes are essential, changing oil too frequently might not provide significant benefits. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and consider factors like vehicle usage, oil type, and operating conditions before deciding on intervals.
  • Synthetic oil lasts forever. Synthetic oil generally has a longer lifespan than conventional oil. However, that doesn’t mean they never need changing. Synthetic oil still degrades over time, risking contamination.
  • Any oil works for my fleet vehicles. Not all engine oils are created equally. Using the wrong type or viscosity can damage your engine, decrease performance, and reduce fuel efficiency. Always use oil that meets manufacturer recommendations.
  • Changing the oil filter is enough. Changing the filter is important, but it doesn’t replace the need for fresh oil. The oil degrades over time, losing its ability to protect the engine, even if the filter is replaced.
  • Higher viscosity oil is always better for heavy-duty vehicles. Choosing a higher-viscosity oil for heavy-duty vehicles might seem logical. However, it can hinder the flow and lubrication of engine oil in colder temperatures. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate viscosity.

Creating an effective strategy for fleet oil changes

Rio Grande Automotive’s skilled fleet technicians can help you create an effective strategy for your fleet’s regular oil changes. Our team has extensive experience in keeping your fleet at peak performance.

Stop by our shop or give us a call to schedule a service appointment. We can handle even the largest fleet’s needs.

Comprehensive Guide to Oil Changes for Fleets

Maintaining fleet vehicles is no small feat. Whether you’re running a delivery service, managing corporate transportation, or operating a logistics company, ensuring your fleet’s smooth operation is essential for your business’s success.

Amidst the bustle of managing day-to-day operations, it’s easy to overlook the importance of regular oil changes.

In this blog, we dive into the nitty gritty of why oil changes are an important part of maintaining your fleet. Changing oil regularly is more than just swapping out a few quarts of oil and installing a fresh filter. Oil changes are a pivotal part of extending the life of your fleet.

In this comprehensive guide, we answer the following common questions about oil changes for fleets:

Why are oil changes crucial for fleet vehicles?

Regular oil changes are important for all types of vehicles. However, they are especially important for fleet vehicles that get a lot of daily wear and tear. Fleets typically are driven more often and for longer distances than most personal vehicles.

They’re more likely to need regular inspections and maintenance that includes oil and filter changes.

Extending the life of your fleet vehicles’ engines is just one reason to commit to regular oil changes. However, there are other reasons why you should make oil changes as a part of their routine maintenance.

  • To protect the engine. Engine oil lubricates the engine’s moving parts, which helps prevent wear and tear. Over time, oil breaks down and becomes contaminated, reducing its effectiveness. Regular oil changes ensure the engine has fresh, clean oil that can protect it from damage.
  • To improve fuel economy. Fresh oil helps the engine run more efficiently. When your fleets’ engines are humming along at peak performance, they’ll get better gas mileage. That can save you a bundle at the pump.
  • To prevent breakdowns. Dirty or contaminated oil can cause the engine to overheat or fail in a fleet vehicle. Regular oil changes prevent these problems, saving you time and money.
  • To boost power and torque. When a fleet vehicle’s engine is maintained properly, it can deliver more power and torque, which in turn improves acceleration and towing capacity.
Some fleet vehicles that are driven more frequently and for longer distances need oil changes more often. This tractor trailer is getting an oil change now.

How often should fleet vehicles get oil changes?

How often fleet vehicles should get oil changes depends on several factors, including how often and how far they’re driven, and the type of oil used in them.

Like personal automobiles, fleet vehicles come with owner’s manuals from the vehicle manufacturer. These manuals provide a recommended maintenance schedule. How often to get an oil change is part of the recommendations.

However, these are just standard suggestions based on ideal conditions. You’ll want to check with your trusted fleet mechanic on how frequently they think your fleet needs fresh oil and filters.

Some of the factors your mechanic might consider when deciding include:

  • The type of fleet vehicle. Light-duty vehicles typically need oil changes more often than heavy-duty vehicles.
  • The driving conditions. Vehicles driven in harsh conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, may need more frequent oil changes.
  • The type of oil used. Synthetic oil lasts longer than conventional oil before breaking down, so using it means a longer time between oil changes.
  • The vehicle’s maintenance history. Well-maintained vehicles may not need oil changes as often as a vehicle that previously was not taken care of properly. This is especially true for used fleet vehicles.

How do you select the right oil for your fleet vehicles?

You should always defer to the manufacturer’s recommendations when deciding which oil is right for your fleet vehicles. That information is included in the owner’s manual.

Another consideration is the type of fuel used. Fleet vehicles that use diesel fuel may need a different type of engine oil than vehicles that use gasoline.

There are two main types of oil you can use in your fleet: conventional and synthetic.

Conventional oil is the most common. It’s made from petroleum and contains additives that help to protect the engine.

Synthetic oil is made from artificial ingredients and doesn’t contain as many additives as conventional oil. It’s more stable and can last longer than conventional oil, making it a popular choice among fleet vehicle owners.

You also have the option of:

  • Heavy-duty oil is designed for fleet vehicles used for heavy-duty applications. It’s thicker than conventional oil and can withstand heavier wear and tear.
  • High-mileage oil is designed for fleet vehicles that travel longer distances more frequently. It contains additives that help to protect the engine.
A mechanic inspects fleet vehicles for a company to see if they need oil changes.

What are signs that fleet vehicles need an oil change?

Ideally, if you follow the maintenance schedule recommended for your fleet vehicles, you shouldn’t need to worry about monitoring signs that it’s time for an oil change. However, even when you take proper care of your fleet, engine problems can still happen.

Here are some of the most common signs it’s time to visit your trusted fleet mechanic for an oil checkup and change:

  • The oil light on your dashboard is on. It’s the most obvious sign that your vehicle needs an oil change. However, it’s usually the last sign your fleet’s engine sends before experiencing major issues.
  • The oil level is low. Between oil changes, you should monitor the oil level using the vehicle’s dipstick. If the level is low, add some oil, and check it again the next day. If the oil is low again, it could signal a leak or other serious issues.
  • The oil is dirty or dark. When you check your oil, if it appears dirty or darker than usual, it might be breaking down and need changing.
  • The engine is making strange noises. When oil breaks down, it loses its lubricating properties. This can cause your fleet vehicle’s engine to make unusual noises like clicking or grinding.
  • The engine is overheating. If your fleet vehicle keeps running hot, that’s a tell-tale sign the oil isn’t doing its job of keeping the engine cool.

If you notice any of these signs, give your mechanic a heads up and get your fleet vehicle in for an inspection and troubleshooting.

Can you change the oil yourself in fleet vehicles?

Can you change the oil in your fleet vehicles yourself? Technically, yes. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Here’s why.

For starters, it’s not the best use of your time. Changing the oil in each one of your fleet vehicles yourself can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. It’s often more efficient to have a professional mechanic do it for you.

There’s also the possibility you could make a mistake that could damage the engine. Forgetting to change the filter or using the wrong type of oil can lead to costly repairs.

Lastly, it’s possible you could void the manufacturer’s warranty. Some warranties require you to have your fleet vehicles’ oil changed by a qualified mechanic. Check the terms and conditions before you even think about trying an oil change yourself.

A screenshot of Fleetio software for tracking oil changes for fleet vehicles.

Can you use software to track fleet vehicle oil changes?

Software exists to help fleet vehicle owners keep track of oil changes. Managing day-to-day business operations can get hectic. It’s easy to overlook when it’s time to change the oil in your company’s vehicles.

Using software designed for this purpose can help you keep on top of oil changes and other scheduled maintenance.

Some of the most popular options include:

  • Fleetio is a fleet management software that helps businesses track their vehicles, including oil changes. You can create custom oil change schedules based on the manufacturer’s recommendations, driving conditions, and other factors. The software sends notifications when it’s time for an oil change.
  • Force™ by Mojio is another fleet management software that uses telematics to track vehicle data, including oil changes. It automatically generates oil change reminders based on a vehicle’s mileage and driving conditions. You can track and generate reports on oil change costs and compliance for your records.

When deciding which software solution to use, consider the features offered, how easy it is to use, the cost, and the level of customer support.

What are some common oil change challenges in fleet management?

Oil changes are a necessary part of fleet maintenance. However, they can be challenging to manage. Some of the most common obstacles business owners encounter when trying to manage the health of the fleet include:

  • Scheduling oil changes
  • Tracking oil change history
  • Managing oil change costs
  • Ensuring compliance with government regulations (when applicable)

Using fleet-management software is one way to effectively get a handle on all these issues. There are several options from which to choose, so pick one that meets your needs and your budget.

You also can opt to work with a qualified provider that specializes in oil changes for fleet vehicles. Rio Grande Automotive has skilled fleet mechanics who can handle all your maintenance needs, including routine oil changes.

Give us a call to schedule your next oil change or to discuss setting up a maintenance schedule for your fleet.

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