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RegulaR oil changes keep an engine sludge-fRee


Dear Car Talk:
Am I negligent? I assume so, since I
have not had the oil changed in my
2011 Hyundai Tucson since 2015. I
put lots of short trips on this car, and
it doesn’t even have 40,000 miles on it
yet. Yikes, I fear. What say you? — Steve
Don’t worry, Steve. I’m not going to
yell at you or publicly embarrass you.
You were right to come forward and
’fess up so we can help you. Steve, you

idiot! Sorry, that slipped out. As you’ve
correctly surmised, what you did is not
great. The reason we change our oil
every 5,000 or 7,500 miles (or 10,000 or
more if it’s synthetic oil) is to keep the
engine properly lubricated. With the
metal parts inside your engine rubbing
against each other thousands of times
per minute, good lubrication is the
difference between your engine having
a long life and a short life marred by
lots of burning oil. And oil provides
more than just lubrication, as crucial as
that is. Oil also picks up contaminants
and dirt inside the engine and holds
them in suspension.

the worst cases, we’ve seen more than
an inch of sludge in the valve train.
Those engines are toast. You may be
lucky, Steve. Maybe the automotive
gods were smiling on you, and, despite
not changing the oil for the past
20,000 miles or so, there’s no sludge in
your engine. That’d be great. Then all
you have to worry about is that poor
lubrication will lead to oil burning
down the road. And you can solve
that problem by selling the car to your
brother next week. That’s what I always
did. But if it were me, I’d want to know.

I’d ask my mechanic to take off the
valve cover and peek in there. If there’s
If the oil gets saturated with dirt, an inch of sludge in there, you’re either
and can’t absorb any more, that dirt’s looking at an engine rebuild, or a new
going to stay in your engine. And in vehicle as soon as voluminous plumes

of blue smoke start billowing out your

tailpipe — which won’t be long from
now. If the valve train looks reasonably
clean, then you should thank your
lucky stars, change the oil and set a
recurring event in your calendar to
change the oil every six months. Then
set about 15 or 20 reminders so you
can’t ignore it.
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in
care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive,
Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the
Car Talk website at
© 2020 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug
Berman Distributed by King Features
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