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How Often Do You Need Your Oil Changed?

How Often Do You Need Your Oil Changed?

Oil changes are just one of many minor car owning issues, but they are crucial to keeping the car in good shape. Therefore, if you don't switch your oil on time and with the right products, the car's warranty can be void. Researchers now claim, though, that the standard oil change cycle of every three months— or every 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) — is old news, and most vehicles can go a little further before replacing the need for oil. When you change your oil more often than needed, it won’t be helping your car. Nor does it help, but you are wasting money, time, and energy. Keep in mind, however, that the recycling of oil that is still available puts environmental strain.

There are four major "recommended" oil change periods depending on your and your car's specific factors:

  • Every 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) or every six months
  • Every 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers)
  • Every 5,000 to 7,500 miles (8,046 to 12,070 kilometers)
  • Every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or every six months (16,093 to 24,140 kilometers)

Let’s dive into the circumstances for each.

 

Change Every 1,000 Miles

First, if some experts say that 3,000 miles is very often, why would those same experts recommend intervals of every 1,000 miles? It all depends on your habits of driving. If your driving routine is mostly around 10 miles or less, for two reasons, you should consider changing your oil more often than every 3,000 miles. 

  • If you don't make long trips at high steady speeds (like on a highway) then the motor doesn't get warm enough to steam off the accumulated condensation in the system That may cause oil to break down faster.

 

  • Most of the wear and tear on your engine happens when you start your car, and if you're not going very far, most of your driving is of the type that's very hard on your engine. More frequent changes in oil will help to minimize the damage.

 

In short, if you rarely drive your car, as in much less than the mileage of your recommended service period, you should still change the oil once a year as the oil degrades with time.

 

Change More Frequently

Some car experts suggest that the 3,000-mile interval is simply for the benefit of oil-change shops, because the more often you come in, the more money they make. Nonetheless, if you've got an older model car that supports this period, you're probably better off sticking to it.

Scientific American argues for longer intervals, particularly every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, based on the fact that this is recommended in the manuals of most car owners. The duration of 5,000 to 7,500 miles is becoming more common although some vendors advise that you also take into account your driving style and habits

For example, if your car is fairly new and you usually drive 20 minutes or more and get fairly steady speeds (as opposed to stop-and-go traffic on the entire drive) you are a prime candidate to increase the time between oil changes. However, if your car is older, it's best to stick to the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule.

 

Change Every 10,000 Miles

If your car manufacturer recommends synthetic oil, or if you decide to switch, you could travel as many as 10,000 miles or more between oil changes. Although synthetic oil is much more expensive than regular oil, it has more benefits. It works better than regular oil and is better for the environment.

However, the opinion differs as to whether the upgrade is worth it. While some experts suggest doing so in most circumstances, Consumer Reports says that, generally speaking, if your car doesn't need it, you shouldn't switch to synthetic. If you frequently take heavy loads, synthetic oil can help ease the extra strain on your engine.

 

What The Dashboard Lights Mean

It's best to keep track of the miles you're driving between oil changes, though some cars make this easier with a dash indicator that tells you it's time to go to the shop as part of what's called an oil life monitoring system. These systems track your mileage and also use the driving data that your car's computer analyzes to determine when your car needs an oil change. When the light illuminates, it's best to change the oil as soon as possible, but it's not necessarily urgent.

It's best to keep track of the miles you're driving between oil changes, though some cars make this easier with a dash indicator that tells you it's time to go to the shop as part of what's called an oil life monitoring system. These systems track your mileage and also use the driving data that your car's computer analyzes to determine when your car needs an oil change. When the light illuminates, it's best to change the oil as soon as possible, but it's not necessarily urgent. 

 

Get used to checking your oil at least once a month to make sure your car doesn't leak or burn oil. Add oil if the level is low. Good oil should be a clear brown-black color, although the American Automobile Association warns that color is not the only indicator of oil life. If the oil is dark or opaque, it may be time for a change, and if it's milky, the coolant may leak to your engine. However, if your car has one of the oil monitoring systems mentioned above, you may not have a dipstick to check the oil.

 

Bottom Line

The moral of the story? If you don't know how often to change your oil, or how to check it between changes in oil, consult your owner's manual. These habits will help to ensure the longevity of your engine.


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