How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
Every vehicle uses oil to keep its engine running properly, and changing the oil regularly is a foundational part of routine maintenance. But how often should you have it changed? You’ve probably heard that you should get your oil changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but the actual answer is more complicated.
How Often Should You Get Your Oil Changed?
Your car’s oil plays the important role of keeping your engine from breaking down due to the heat and friction caused by driving. Over time, the oil will collect debris and break down itself, requiring it to be replaced.
Every vehicle has its own specifications for the type of oil it uses. The two main options are conventional oil and synthetic oil. Conventional oil is made from crude oil. Synthetic is man-made and created from chemical compounds that mimic conventional oil but have fewer contaminants. Synthetic oil is more expensive, but its resistance to breaking down means it lasts longer than conventional oil. Synthetic is also useful for people who live in extremely cold climates or those who regularly drive for short periods of time — because during short drives, conventional oil may not get warm enough to successfully remove contaminants.
Many late-model vehicles use either full synthetic or a synthetic blend, but the exact type and weight of oil is determined by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Check your car’s manual to find the right oil for your vehicle. The local auto shop you go to can also provide recommendations. If your manual recommends conventional oil, don’t make the mistake of using synthetic; you’ll only waste money because your car isn’t designed to use synthetic oil to its full effectiveness.
Older vehicles tend to have a mileage schedule for oil changes. There are two schedules you can follow: “normal” service and “severe” service. A car’s use is considered to be severe if it is driven:
- For primarily short trips (usually 5 miles or fewer)
- In extremely hot, cold or dusty conditions
- With sustained stop-and-go movement
- With heavy loads or for towing
Depending on the conditions under which you drive your older vehicle, you may decide to follow the normal or severe maintenance schedule. Your owner’s manual will tell you how often you should get an oil change with an outline of both schedules with recommended mileages to follow. Whatever the situation calls for, following our oil change best practices can help you understand the importance of regularly scheduled oil changes.
Due to advances in technology, newer cars can go much longer between oil changes — sometimes up to 10,000 miles. Most newer cars have oil-monitoring systems that keep track of how many miles have been driven since the last oil change and how strenuous the trips have been. While some systems are simply time- and mileage-based, newer versions can also sense when the oil begins to degrade.
Your car will alert you when it’s time to change the oil by illuminating a light on your dashboard. When you get your oil changed, it’s important to have the technician reset the monitoring system. You can also do it yourself by following the instructions in your car’s manual.
Newer cars need less frequent oil changes, so it’s crucial to check their oil levels every month and top up as needed. Maintaining the proper oil level will help you avoid costly engine problems caused by wear and tear. If you have a vehicle that you don’t drive very often, you should still have the oil changed every six months, or once a year at the absolute minimum.
Save Money With the Right Number of Oil Changes
While it’s tempting to simply follow the 3,000-to-5,000-mile rule for oil changes, doing so may actually waste your time and money. Your car’s manual will detail your ideal maintenance schedule, dictated by the needs of your specific vehicle, and should be your go-to whenever you have a question about the right maintenance timeline. If you drive a newer car, you can save hundreds of dollars a year just by waiting until your dashboard’s oil-change light turns on.
It’s also important to do your research to find the right shop for your oil change. Shops offer different pricing, incentives and complimentary services, including tire rotation, brake inspection and fluid top-offs. Exploring the options available to you, knowing what a full-service oil change is and comparing prices can help you make the right decision for your vehicle’s needs — and your wallet.
If you have any questions or concerns, bring your vehicle to an auto repair shop in Akron, Ohio you can trust. The technicians will inspect your car and recommend the right services. By keeping up with your car’s necessary routine maintenance, you can prevent unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs. You’ll also extend the life of your car and its components by having issues addressed when they are still small and manageable. Following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule will keep your vehicle running smoothly for years to come.
Up Next: What Is a Full-Service Oil Change?