Why your car needs a spring break – Part 2

Posted on March 24th, 2021 by Rob Marshall

Why your car needs a spring break - Part 2

In the second part of investigating how cars suffer from infrequent use, Rob Marshall focuses on engine oil


It seems illogical that low-speed short trips are tougher on many parts of a car than longer commutes but this is especially true with engine oil.


Oil quality is essential to long engine life. Not only must it lubricate but it also protects against harmful deposits and acids, produced from burning petrol and diesel. This is why old engine oil darkens with age, because its detergent and dispersant additives are keeping various contaminations suspended, rather than allowing them to build and form tar-like lumps inside the engine. These deposits can then block-up small oil passages that can starve the engine of oil, causing rapid wear.

While quality engine oil provides adequate protection in cold weather, it works at its best at around 80-90 degrees Celsius, which takes at least five miles of driving. If it does not warm sufficiently, water (and other impurities) cannot evaporate. This weakens the oil’s protective qualities, by causing thickening and oxidisation.


This explains why most independent technicians recommend annual oil changes or earlier intervals than those specified in the vehicle’s service schedule.


Fewer miles: more attention

It may seem strange but short, low-speed local trips are harder on a car than longer commutes. The main issue is that most of the mechanical parts do not reach their normal working temperatures. This causes several issues, from increased fuel consumption to enhanced wear. These situations have been made worse by 2020/1’s relatively cold winter.

Many carmakers, therefore, class the driving conditions that many private motorists have experienced over the last year as ‘severe’ and the majority of them specify a shorter maintenance interval as a result.

Therefore, now that the days are getting longer and spring is around the corner, dig out your service book and plan your car’s next service. We recommend strongly that you take your garage’s advice for any extra preventative work that may be needed, to ensure your car remains reliable until its next service interval.

Our following few technical blogs will highlight specific parts of your car that can be harmed during short trips and why it is a good idea for them to receive extra attention at service time.