Change your oil, change your habits

By Staff

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Engine oil is very important. It allows your vehicle to run, and enables each of its parts to function in harmony without bursting into flames or sending sparks flying from beneath your hood. It is literally a necessity. Many think that the suggestion to have your engine oil changed every 3,000 miles is some sort of conspiracy to boost engine oil sales and get folks to spend their hard earned dollars at Jiffy Lube. Others say it is essential to keep your engine running smoothly.

Collegian File Photo

I for one usually stretch that 3,000-mile suggestion into five or six before I unenthusiastically hand my ride over to a mechanic and sit in the waiting room for half an hour. But, in a time when we cannot help but be confronted with how our spending decisions play into the big picture, I have found myself trying to get my oil changed at locally owned auto bodies, instead of corporately owned chains.

There is, of course, something to be said for supporting local businesses and stimulating the local economy with fiscal habits; it is a good example of the little things people can do to make change in the way our world revolves, like buying chicken at the farm down the street rather than the supermarket or recycling your cans. But taking my Jeep to local auto bodies didn’t seem like enough in the moment that I looked at the mileage on my car and wished I could avoid the transaction of begrudgingly forking over 30 bucks for a change. I decided, I would turn over a new leaf, a “do it yourself” leaf.

I asked a friend what I needed to perform the procedure at home and went on my way to purchase some engine oil. With clear instructions and all of my tools in hand, I shimmied my way under the Jeep and laid on my back looking for something that might look like it could maybe hold engine oil. A friend sat on standby and talked me through the whole process: I emptied the oil from the tank, closed it up, found my filter, replaced it and poured the new oil in through the clearly marked opening under the hood. Piece of cake, I whipped the engine oil off of my hands, and felt like I had somehow grown as a person by taking the steps to learn how to do this at home. Sure, I still had to pay for oil and a new filter, but it cost less than taking it to a shop, and I had learned a new skill.

When it came time to dispose of the engine oil, I learned that some auto bodies, including Ren’s Mobil Service in the center of Amherst, have special oil burners that recycle used engine oil for heat. This idea fit right in with the do-it-yourself grove; auto bodies took time to create a burner that would recycle oil and save money on heat.

Even though purchasing the filter and oil to do it all at home is indeed making a purchase, and supporting the manufacturer of the engine oil (which you don’t typically find produced on a “local” scale), it is a step.

Even making the smallest adjustments to how and where you spend your money makes a difference. Without the support of all the individuals who utilize convenient franchises, large corporations wouldn’t have as much power as they do. The occupation of Wall Street is meaningful, and necessary, but while protesting against something you believe to be wrong, as a people, is a good thing, it is important to try and make those changes as individuals on a daily basis once you’ve done your time on the front lines picketing and demanding change.

For example, if you have the space to do so, growing your own vegetables cuts out walking into a supermarket and paying a large, corporately owned chain for something that you can grow yourself or buy at a farm stand from your neighbor. Every step you take towards bringing the power of your dollars back to your community, keeps that money away from the top of the food chain; the big corporations and politicians with all of the money and the control.

An oil change made me take a moment to remember that the basics are good, and meaningful. People are occupying Wall Street, protesting the way this country runs and the evils of humans with power, but the best way to make a change is to demand it with your actions. Every decision you make contributes to the way things work on a national scale, from politics to the economy, to the spirit of your community. So even if changing my oil doesn’t really represent anything drastic, or make a noticeable and immediate change, it definitely counts.

Cassina Brown is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]