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How Often Does My Car Need an Oil Change?

Driving in extreme temperatures requires more frequent oil changes.
The age of a car factors into how often it should receive an oil change.
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  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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How often your car needs an oil change depends on several factors, including the type of car you drive, how old your car is and the type of driving that you do. For years, car manufacturers and service stations recommended changing your car's oil every 3,000 miles (4,828 km). This is no longer the standard in most cases, however, and many people consider changing a car's oil that frequently to be wasteful and unnecessarily costly. Most experts recommend getting an oil change no more than every 5,000 to 8,000 miles (8,047 to 12,875 km), and some cars can go 20,000 miles (32,187 km) or more between oil changes. It is always a good idea to check the recommendations in your car owner's manual and pay attention to your car computer's diagnostic readings, if your car provides them.

Oil's Role in a Car Engine

Motor oil is used to lubricate the moving parts of automobile engines. It prevents the metal surfaces from grinding against each other and becoming worn or damaged from friction. Oil also prevents corrosion, helps cool the engine and helps keep the engine clean by soaking up the byproducts of combustion, such as silicon oxide.

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Factors that Affect Oil Life

When a car's oil becomes contaminated or begins to break down, it will start to do its job less effectively and should be changed. How long it takes before this is necessary can vary. Different types of cars can have different engines that will use oil differently, so they might need oil changes at different intervals. A car that has an older, less efficient engine likely will need an oil change more frequently than a newer car that has a more advanced engine.

Another factor is the type of driving that you do. Taking short drives, driving in stop-and-go traffic or using your car to tow something, such as a trailer or another vehicle, might shorten the life of your car's oil. If you often drive in temperatures of more than 90° Fahrenheit (32.2° Celsius) or less than 10° Fahrenheit (minus-12.2° Celsius), or if you often drive in extremely humid weather, you also might need to change your car's oil more often. If your car has a computer that automatically monitors its oil system, it likely will tell you how much life your oil has remaining and when it is necessary to change the oil.

Oil Changes

An oil change usually is a relatively simple and inexpensive procedure. There are many oil-change stations that specialize in this service, and some of them do not require you to make an appointment. You also can learn how to change your oil yourself to save a little money, but you should make sure to do it properly, because driving your car without enough oil can ruin the engine. Also, it is important to make sure that your car has the right kind of oil. Your car owner's manual should provide recommendations for the best oil to use.

When to Change the Oil

Check your car owner's manual to see the manufacturer's recommendations for how often you should get an oil change. Keep in mind that these recommendations often are based on severe driving conditions — such as short trips in stop-and-go traffic during very hot weather — so you might consider them to be the maximum frequency for oil changes. For example, if the manual says to change the oil every 5,000 miles (8,047 km), you likely do not need to change it before that distance, and you might even be able to wait until you have driven about 8,000 or 10,000 miles (12,875 or 16,093 km). On the other hand, if you have a car that sits unused for months at a time, you might have to ignore distances and have the oil changed at least once a year or so.

The Old Standard

The recommendation to change a car's oil every three months or 3,000 miles (4,828 km) is no longer considered the best practice for modern cars and oils. Getting an oil change before it is necessary wastes oil and increases the cost of maintaining the vehicle. Many service shops still use this recommendation, however, and critics say that this is done only to increase business, without regard to whether such frequent oil changes are necessary.

In some cases, companies offer leases or loans on new cars with service agreements that allow the owner to have the oil changed and have routine maintenance done for free or for a low cost. Additionally, a leased car agreement or warranty might specify that the car owner must abide by normal servicing requirements. In those cases, it might be necessary to have the oil changed every 3,000 miles (4,828 km) to avoid paying additional fees or voiding the warranty.

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Discuss this Article

anon357860
Post 23

My oil light is on and there plenty of oil in the car. It is a Toyota avensis 1,6 vvti 2002 model.

anon354445
Post 22

Can having bad black oil make my car not start?

anon333795
Post 21

My car is 10 years old had a service two months

ago. My oil light came on and we checked the oil and it showed no oil. The Toyota man came out and put oil in it and was saying it was an old car, but the miles are good for its age, but it's using the oil up soon.

anon328139
Post 20

I think the best practice is to follow the manual to see the oil the manufacturer recommends, since the manufacturer knows the best oil for its products.

anon259355
Post 17

I have a problem with people saying it is not true that a specific brand does not go 15,000 miles on an oil change interval without mentioning what an independent lab analysis will show.

I've sent in an oil sample and it came back "Replacing the engine oil not required" after 3,000 kilometers past the recommended oil change interval.

anon251312
Post 16

If a manufacturer tried to sell a car that needed oil changes at 3,500 miles, it would rust apart on the lot waiting to be sold in Europe. The oil codes for those cars are listed on all synthetics in the U.S. so they are the same oils. Most cars sold in Europe go 15-20,000 miles between oil changes. You know, the same cars they ship here.

The cars are not any different than U.S. cars. Engines are designed using the same technology! They're the same.

The 3,500 mile oil changes are for dealers to get you in their shops to sell you repairs you don't need. Oil shops too, with their 3,500-mile next change stickers.

Read your manual and quit listening to the dealers! My 2000 Infiniti manual states 7,500 miles and people get 300,000 miles on them easy. Yes I said "2000 model." It's been that long ago when it all changed. They just don't tell you.

StevenD
Post 15

They used to say you need to have an oil change every 3,000 miles you travel. Nowadays, most mechanics will inform you that it is overkill. But regular oil changes are still crucial, and need not be done by an expensive professional. It's a fairly simple job, and much more cheaply done in your house.

anon173845
Post 14

i live in the uk and most cars here don't need an oil change until 20,000 miles.

anon148950
Post 13

the people who post about changing the oil with Amsoil and any other high mileage oil change interval oils need to get with reality. there is physics involved; like sludge does not lubricate. and that is exactly what Amsoil does in an engine.

i have been working on cars for 18 years. i have sent in many oil samples from multiple cars and oils. with all petroleum oils you have to change it every 3k or major engine failure will happen (some people get lucky). amsoil; yes even the SSO series, can go no longer than 8k. i have sampled one recently on a 08 honda civic si and it had 9500 miles. there was a lot of metal and the viscosity was down. it showed it should have been changed 2k miles ago at least. he drove slow and on the highway mostly.

and anyone who thinks synthetic motor oil is environmentally safe is delusional. nothing synthetic is even remotely good for the environment. the only oil that is environment safe is G-OIL. it also comes from a renewable source, it tested better than amsoil, mobil 1, and cost less (by a lot). G-OIL is the first oil i have ever seen that does not sludge up.

all petroleum and synthetic oils will go back to their original form sludge. G-OIL comes from animal fat, which is a natural lubricant. so it never goes to sludge, it only loses its additive. so you still have to change it before 10k.

anyone who thinks the indicator on the dash can really analyze oil, also needs to get checked. if we have to send oil off to a lab and wait a week to find out, then your $20k car isn't going to be correct. also vehicles have changed their gas mileage standard since the 70s and they still have the same operating temp, and since those are some of the major factors in how far between oil changes, i would say that 3k for regular and synthetic oil is what you should do. then if you use amsoil 5k-8k if you drive on the hwy. and G-OIL can get 5k-8k also, but at a better price, renewable source, no petroleum, grown and made in the USA, and it will not harm the earth. it biodegrades 90 percent in nine days (in the ground).

anon110710
Post 12

From Logikal1: Your information is way out of date! 3 thousand is only recommended by those making money off oil changes and wastes huge amounts of oil, time and money. Next year, JiffyLube plans to stop telling customers 3,000 miles and is going by the vehicle make, model, year and how one drives. Bet they raise prices to compensate!

For absolute facts on your car and when to change oil (plus any problems you have but don't know of) do what I did. Write to Blackstone Laboratories in Fort Wayne, Ind., one of the best-known places for engine oil analysis and get a free kit. You send back a small oil sample and for $25, they’ll tell you all sorts of things about your car, including how often to change the oil and filter.

Also, keep track of your driving. If average trips are under 15 minutes/eight miles, that's severe driving, so change oil at 5,000. If trips are 20 minutes-plus, that's light and you can safely go up to 10,000 between changes and filters.(The hotter an engine runs the better the filter works and the cleaner the oil gets).

My cars would routinely go over 200,000 before I got new ones: now I've decided short of a major accident I'm keeping my cars forever. They're paid off so why waste money making dealers rich? They have 100 percent/10 year warranties anyway and I can buy repair warranties to extend those.

I added a $62 water4gas system (took 30 min to install) and get 54mpg-plus now burning water and have way fewer emissions. My oil tests clean to 20,000 miles! It doesn't void the warranty, either!

Your site needs to get with the modern technology.

anon103880
Post 11

going every 15,000 miles on an oil change on amsoil is crap. i have more people coming in for oil changes using that oil and are switching because it's not true.

anon78916
Post 9

I use to go 3,000 miles between oil changes until about nine years ago, then I changed my oil in my suburban to Amsoil. At that time I could go 15,000 miles but as of two years ago they had a third party develop their own Amsoil filters which are good for up to 25,000 miles with all of Amsoil's products (does not include the XL series though).

There is one oil 0w30 (SSO series) which is good for 35,000 miles between oil changes but remember the oil filter is only good for 25,000. I first wondered how they could do this, but after seeing the plant up in Superior WI, It helped me understand the thought process and technology they are at.

They stand behind their products 100 percent, because if you have a malfunction because of bad oil, they will replace/fix the motor/drive train for you. Certain rules apply.

This oil does cost more but when you look at the cost factor, you save money in the long run.

On the lubrication market they were at 2 percent for years but new vehicles are requiring a better grade oil and some are even listing Amsoil as one of them (they were listed as 5 percent on the oil market earlier this year).

Be careful when you see synthetic oil listed on a bottle, and look at where it is manufactured because my terminology of synthetic is much diff. than our government's terminology.

European cars have had a longer range of oil changes for years, and it is about time the US gets on the same page.

anon48712
Post 8

My new car also does the continuous test. Over the last 1000 miles the "oil life" indicator only dropped from 71 percent down to 65 percent. Probably about 30-40 percent I will switch it out to amsoil with the better filter as well. I think 3000 miles is hyped to make more money.

anon41050
Post 7

does an eletric car need the oil changed the same as gasoline engine car?

anon39298
Post 6

i had my engine rebuilt, do i really need to change my oil after 500 miles?

anon35625
Post 5

Now they have the synthetic oil that says 5000 - 10000 miles

trish
Post 4

If your car is not driven often, maybe once a week. Does it do damage to your oil by sitting undriven. Is this reason to change it more or less often?

anon22918
Post 3

If I had to change oil every 3000 miles I would have to do it every month or so. as I drive mostly highway, I change it every 10,000 kilometers (8000 miles) or thereabouts.

nobreather
Post 2

i think that the "3000 mile" suggestion made sense many years ago, but with most recent cars, 5000 miles is probably plenty.

many new cars have a technology where the car actually tells the driver when to change the oil. some of these devices are just connected to the odometer and indicate when a certain number of miles have been driven. but, some of these actually test the oil, and indicate when you really need to change the oil. ini some cases, this can be as much as 12,000 miles!

also, i have read about a company that is developing a oil-purifying technology that will push the oli-change interval to 30,000 (thirty thousand) miles! if their product ever comes to fruition, imagine the impact this would have on the oil-change industry.

somerset
Post 1

I have the oil changed in my car every three months or 3000 miles. It might be too often, and possibly not necessary, but it gives me a sense of comfort in knowing that all the fluids are checked and replaced or added if needed. It might be more for my peace of mind than anything else.

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