Your car’s oil is already 100 million years old—another year won’t kill it

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oil piston splash
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Hythem Zayed writes: I own a 1965 Mustang with a V-8. From March through October, I drive it about once a week. In the winter months, I start it every week and let it run for 15 minutes. At most, I put a couple hundred miles on the car each year. I have read different opinions on how often to change the oil in this kind of situation, and I cannot seem to find a definitive answer. I figure it can’t hurt to change the oil, but am I wasting money and energy by unnecessarily doing so?

This is really a judgment call based on your personal comfort level. While oil is not hygroscopic like brake fluid (which does attract and absorb water) and doesn’t spoil from sitting like gas does, a small amount of condensation can occur when a warm engine cools off. Regular drives, longer trips, and a properly functioning positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve give the engine a chance to cook off that moisture as well as unburned fuel that may have found its way into the oil during hard starting and overly rich warm-up.

Some of my cars have a similar usage profile to yours, and because my garage is a little humid, I’ll typically change the oil after two years, even if the cars have racked up fewer than a thousand miles. On my lightly used 1999 BMW M coupe, I may go three years, as that car starts instantly and has a more sophisticated crankcase ventilation system. I don’t, however, have data from an oil analysis to support any of this. It’s just what feels right to me.

1973 Datsun 240Z light brown metallic
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Jim Steinman writes: Where do you come down on the issue of color-changing a car? I’m prepping my 1973 Datsun 240Z for paint, and I’ve never been thrilled with the light brown metallic color.

I’m firmly in the “It’s your car, paint it any color you want” camp, but here are some of the issues. All factors being equal, a mint correct car wearing its original color is going to be worth more than one that has been color-changed, but most cars aren’t mint or correct, so the changed color just becomes one of any number of value factors. There’s no question that a quick exterior-only respray—one where opening the hood reveals the original color—will substantially affect the value of a car. But if that car has been stripped to a shell for body restoration anyway, and if you love this particular car either for sentimental reasons or because you found one with a solid body you could afford but you still dream of owning a fill-in-your-favorite-color-here one, take the plunge. Life is short. After going through the pain of restoration, you should love the color.

Thirty years ago, I repainted one of my cars Signal Red (it was silver), and I’ve never looked back. Notably, Ralph Lauren color-changed his 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic coupe, possibly the most valuable car in the world, from Sapphire Blue to black during the car’s restoration. Be aware, though, that the further away your chosen color is from the original manufacturer’s color palette, the more the color will be an expression of your personal taste. That is, you may love the purple metal flake on your E-Type, but if you ever decide to sell it, you’ll likely find that your aesthetic choice has a narrow fan base.

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