Change or Top Off? What to know For Your Next Oil Change Service

Oil Change Service

It’s natural to want to stretch your dollars as far as they can go, but when it comes to oil change service, putting it off can cost you more in the long run. In this article, we’ll help you determine if you simply need to add oil or have your oil and oil filter changed.

Topping off the oil in your car is one way to avoid a conventional oil change (or any other kind of oil change). There is only one time this is a good idea, and that’s when your oil is very low and you need to get to your auto shop right away. Other than that, it’s best not to cut this particular corner. 

Drivers have many questions when it comes to their oil change service. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and do the fast thing rather than the best thing. Do I need a full synthetic oil change or semi-synthetic oil change? Can I just fill up the oil reservoir with new oil and not drain the old oil out? What about the oil filter? Should it be changed every time? Should I go for the cheapest oil and oil filter? 

Read on for the answers.

What Is the Difference Between Topping Off and Changing the Oil?

Topping off the oil in your vehicle means adding new oil to the oil that has been circulating in the car since your last oil change. The problem with this option is that the oil already in the car might be contaminated. It certainly isn’t as clean as the new oil being added. This new oil being used to top off will immediately become dirty, too. So, what has been gained? And the potential loss is an engine.

Changing the oil refers to draining all the oil out of the car and replacing it with new, clean oil. This protects the engine by keeping it lubricated and the parts all working well together. It’s natural for oil to get dirty and degrade over time. Periodically, it needs to be changed to prevent unnecessary engine wear or worse. 

As you check your own oil every other fill-up as recommended, the oil level shouldn’t be going down significantly. If it is, you may have an oil leak. Call BRAKEmax or use our online scheduler to make an appointment for an inspection. Simply adding oil to the reservoir is only a short-term solution.

How Do I Check the Oil in My Car?

It’s a simple task and an important one. Recommendations by auto specialists say to check your oil about once every other fill-up. You don’t want any expensive surprises later, so here are the steps to checking the oil in your vehicle:

  1. Let the engine cool down.
  2. Park the car on a flat surface.
  3. Locate the engine oil dipstick. It usually has a plastic orange or red pull-tab.
  4. Take it out and wipe it with a clean cloth. 
  5. Put the dipstick back in, pushing it all the way in.
  6. Wait for a few seconds.
  7. Take it out again.
  8. Look at where the oil level stops on the dipstick. Compare that to the proper oil level indicator engraved on the dipstick.
  9. Also examine the smell and color of the oil. It shouldn’t smell sweet or like gasoline. The color should be a clear amber, not pink, green, or red. 

If you check the oil and the level is consistently low, this is one time you can top off the oil so that you can get to the auto shop safely. Don’t make it a habit, though, to top off the oil just because it’s easier. Make sure your engine stays fully protected: Head to BRAKEmax for a full-service oil change, including a new oil filter. 

Shop for Tires
The BRAKEmax Difference
  • Southern Arizona’s trusted auto service company since 1997
  • ASE-Certified Master Technicians
  • Commitment to superior Customer Service
  • 15 convenient neighborhood locations
  • Hours: Open Monday – Friday 7:30am – 6pm; Saturday 8:00am – 5:00pm, CLOSED on Sunday
Make an Appointment