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How Often to Change Your Oil: An In-depth Guide to Car Oil Changes

Oil changes are a part of car ownership. Every car calls for them at some point, but no one ever really tells you exactly when that time is. It may be a real gamble, especially if you don’t know where to begin when your car needs an oil change. Failing to know can lead to you getting it changed either too frequently or not often enough. Both of these instances come with their own negative effects that are totally preventable. To assist you, this piece will be your guide into the slick and gritty world of oil changes, covering everything from how often to change your oil to how your driving habits impact your car’s service needs.

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

Giving a definitive answer for how often you should change your car’s oil is a bit of a tricky one. It is hard to say at what exact point every driver should get an oil change because every car is different. How you go about driving can also greatly impact when you get an oil change. In general, many recommend going for an oil change after you hit a certain mileage. The industry standard used to be after every 3,000 miles, but that has since been adjusted due to technological advancements in cars. Now, the recommendation for oil changes falls more in line after every 7,000-10,000 miles. The thought is after one of these milestones; your car should be taken to the shop. However, only going based on mileage can be a bit problematic. What has been outlined above should help give you a rough idea, but there are more personal factors that will go into ultimately determining when to get an oil change.

Factors That Effect Oil Change Frequency

As previously mentioned, recommendations for oil changes can be based on a variety of factors. Driving circumstances, like weather and road conditions, should be taken into account. Part of it also depends on your car. Your car’s warranty may be a determining factor when you take your vehicle into the shop. Its age and milage are also important. While certain milestones can be a useful guide, the factors outlined below are just as important when considering an oil change.

Car Warranty

The status of your vehicle’s warranty can have an effect on when you go for an oil change. Generally, in order to avoid voiding your warranty, you should consult your car’s owner’s manual for when to take it in for an oil change. This will help keep the warranty valid and may end up being what is best for your new vehicle. When your car is out of warranty, you are still welcome to consult the owner’s manual for advice on oil changes. Just keep in mind that as your vehicle gets older, when to change the engine oil can depend on other things.

Driving Conditions

When it comes to oil changes, they may vary based on your driving conditions. This is usually divided into two categories: normal and severe driving. This concept will come back again in a later section, but for now, we will be looking at the driving conditions that are considered severe driving and will typically call for more frequent oil changes.

There are many roads in America that are not paved. A lot of drivers like to utilize them to take the scenic route or just because they enjoy off-roading. Whatever the reason may be, if you find yourself frequently driving on dusty, sandy, or gravel roads, you may be putting your oil and the oil filter at risk. Such debris can get congested in your car, leading to mechanical issues you will need to address.

Another driving condition that can affect your car and is considered severe is frequently driving through extreme weather. Driving in hot weather can put quite the strain on your car. At the same time, how you drive your car in freezing temperatures will also affect your oil service recommendations. If you only experience such weather every now and then, it may not have a noticeable effect on your car but if you live somewhere that often sees such conditions, be mindful of driving.

Miles

Your vehicle’s mileage plays a pretty big role in how often you will need an oil change. After you have driven a set number of miles, you should consider going in for an oil change. For modern cars, this could be after 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If your vehicle runs on synthetic oil, which we will touch on more later, it could be as high as 15,000 miles. With older cars, you should make sure you look beyond your vehicle’s mileage in order to make an educated guess on when to go in for an oil change. If all else fails, your owner’s manual will still be there as a resource.

Driving Habits

Much like what was touched on in the section about driving conditions, your habits as a driver will affect how often you should go in for an oil change. If you find yourself taking short trips (under 5 miles), this can put a strain on your car. Constantly starting and stopping the engine is stressful for your vehicle. Similarly, finding yourself in continuous stop-and-go traffic will also affect your car. You should also be mindful of transporting any heavy items. Long-distance transportation of a trailer can be considered severe driving, which can lead to service recommendations being shorter than anticipated.

Some Cars Have Built-In Sensors

If you have a newer vehicle, you may not even have to make a note of your driving habits or changes in mileage. Many modern cars are beginning to feature an alert that will tell you when you need to go in for an engine oil change. The car’s oil life monitoring system will track your mileage and analyze your driving to let you know when an oil change is necessary. As soon as the dashboard light goes on, you should consider making an appointment with the auto repair shop of your choice. The light does not mean it is urgent, but certainly don’t ignore it. It just serves as a guide for recommending that your engine oil should be changed.

Problems With Frequent Oil Changes

Make sure to keep a record of every time you go into the auto shop for an oil change. Frequently having your oil changed may not be a problem for your vehicle per se, but it can sure put a strain on your wallet. This can be annoying, especially if your car doesn’t exactly need servicing. Some shops may advise you to get an oil change after a certain mileage, and while they could be helpful, you should turn to your owner’s manual for more personalized advice, as long as your car is not in severe conditions often. If your vehicle is under more stress due to gravel roads or extreme weather, that may call for a new oil change time. It would be best to make note of when your vehicle is in the shop and be aware of driving habits. If you go in too frequently for oil changes, while it will not help or harm your car, it can affect your budget greatly.

Should You Switch to Life-Long Oil?

There are some oils on the market claiming to be “life-long.” These types of oils are meant to last for longer distances, going possibly as far as 15,000 miles before needing to be changed. They are synthetic oil, which many newer cars already utilize. If your vehicle is older, you could opt to use life-long oil to get farther without needing frequent oil changes. Not only are they meant to go longer distances, but this type of oil can also resist high-temperature breakdowns better and help your oil filter collect dirt better. But with these positives does come some negatives. Synthetic oils are more expensive and may not be fit for every vehicle. Consult your owner’s guide before making the switch. It should also be noted that even if your oil does not need changing, your oil filter will. It is not really possible to make any adjustments that will allow you to ignore your oil system for a long period of time.

The Take-Away

In general, you should be changing your car’s oil regularly. Taking your car in twice a year (every six months) may be a good starting point, but every driver and vehicle is greatly different. Some recommend checking your oil system at least once a month. This can be useful as it may help you catch issues right away. Your car’s owner’s manual will usually be your best reference when it comes to deciding when to get your oil changed. It will help you get a sense of what your car’s manufacturer recommends. You should also be mindful of your driving habits, the severe conditions your car sees, and how many miles you put on it. All of these may lead to you needing an oil change sooner than you thought. If you have a newer vehicle, keep an eye out for the dashboard indicator alerting you that you need an oil change. No dashboard lights should ever be ignored. Being a mindful, educated driver will help you develop better habits when it comes to oil changes.

Be Smart With Oil

If you have the knowledge and confidence, it is possible to change your oil at home. While this may save you a few bucks, you should be mindful when it comes to disposing of oil. Many auto repair shops and car part stores will take your used oil at no charge; just make sure you double-check with their guidelines before donating. Doing this will ensure that your old oil is being recycled properly and not contaminating the area. Whatever way it gets done, your car will thank you for taking the time to change its oil with a smooth-running engine.