How Often Should You Get an Oil Change?

February 18th, 2022 by

Oil changes are one of the most basic forms of vehicle maintenance. Every car owner should be aware of the oil change schedule for their vehicle based on the make, model, year, and use. Understanding a little bit more about your oil change schedule will give you a better understanding of how you should care for your car.

Why Are Oil Changes Important?

5 containers of motor oil next to a white jar

Free Ford Image” licensed under Unsplash by anstoxx

The oil in your vehicle acts as an essential lubricant, helping the engine components move safely and smoothly at high speeds. Without enough lubrication, the engine parts will experience excessive friction, creating heat. This friction can do a significant amount of damage to your engine. Over time, oil breaks down, turning to sludge. It can also become diluted by water. In the course of regular operation, the oil gradually accumulates dirt particles as well, which can cause corrosion in your engine.

Keeping up with regular oil changes will improve your gas mileage and extend the life of your vehicle. This routine maintenance task is quick and easy. You can get an affordable oil change at nearly any auto shop or service center.

Oil changes are also of particular import for cars that are under warranty. If the manufacturer’s warranty still covers your vehicle, you must keep up with scheduled maintenance to keep that coverage in place. Check the terms of your warranty agreement to determine how often you need to schedule oil changes.

How Often Should You Change the Oil for an Older Car?

If you have an old car or classic car, you will need more frequent oil changes. This is one of the rare instances where you may still want to follow the 3,000-mile rule. At the most, you might wait 5,000 miles between changes. Changing the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles will help an older vehicle stay in the best shape possible and enjoy a long lifespan. If you’re not driving your car enough to accumulate this amount of mileage within six months, you should go ahead and change the oil anyway.

Check your owner’s manual for more detailed recommendations on oil changes. You will probably see one recommendation for regular use and another for severe service. You should follow the recommendations for severe service if:

  • Most of your trips are less than 20 minutes.
  • Your vehicle pulls a trailer or carries heavy items.
  • You drive in extreme weather conditions.
  • You deal with a lot of stop-and-go traffic.
  • You drive on dusty, muddy, sandy, or gravel roads.

How Often Should You Change the Oil for a Newer Car?

A newer vehicle can go much farther than the traditional 3,000 miles between oil changes. You will only need an oil change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles for most vehicles. You can lean toward the longer intervals if most of your trips are at least 20 minutes and you drive your vehicle regularly. This is the most efficient way to maintain your car, and it puts less wear on the engine. If most of your trips are under 20 minutes or you stay at home more than two or three days a week, you should stay closer to the 5,000-mile mark.

As with an older car, the manufacturer’s recommendations are a good starting point. Check your vehicle’s manual for more detailed information on when you need to change the oil.

How Often Should You Change Synthetic Oil?

If your vehicle uses synthetic oil, you can typically stretch out the time between oil changes to an impressive 10,000 or even 15,000 miles. This rule applies to most newer vehicles. Synthetic oil is more efficient and delivers enhanced performance for a longer period. However, you should only use synthetic oil if it’s recommended for your vehicle. If you have an older car that doesn’t recommend synthetic oil, it’s typically better not to switch. Synthetic oil is best for vehicles that tow heavy loads or those prone to sludge issues. 

How Often Should You Change the Oil if You Drive Infrequently?

As mentioned previously, you should plan to change the oil in your car at least once every six months, even if you’re not driving it very often. Oil degrades over time whether you’re using your vehicle or not. You may end up changing your oil after as little as 1,000 miles if you don’t use your car much, but this maintenance is worth it.

This practice is because short, infrequent trips can actually do more damage to your oil than regular driving. If you don’t drive far enough, the oil and engine won’t get hot enough for the water in the system to evaporate. This leaves an accumulation of water vapor in the oil, which dilutes it. 

Short trips also tax your engine because a greater portion of the running time is dedicated simply to starting and shutting down the engine. These simple actions cause more wear and tear than prolonged periods of driving. Getting frequent oil changes under these conditions will help protect your engine.

What Oil Viscosity is Best?

Your vehicle’s manual will give you the most important guidelines as to what type of oil is best. However, you will also have some options based on your climate and the time of year. Oil viscosity is listed as #W-##. The first number is the oil flow when temperatures are below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the number, the less the oil thickens in the cold. Thus, a 5W-30 oil is better suited to cold temperatures than 10W-30.

The second number on the oil is the viscosity at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the number, the more resistant the oil is to thinning at high temperatures. For this purpose, a 10W-30 oil will thin faster than a 10W-40 oil.

If you’re in the Cleveland area and are due for an oil change, you can schedule your vehicle service with our team at North Coast Auto Mall – Cleveland. Our service center can handle all essential maintenance tasks, including tire care, alignment, brake service, and oil changes.

Posted in Vehicle Service