Answers range from every 3,000, 5,000, 7,500, 10,000 or even as much as 15,000 miles! In many newer vehicles that are equipped with oil monitoring systems, the manufacturers suggest you only change the oil when the vehicle's monitor system indicates that this is necessary, which can be up to 15,000 miles. The problem with the automated oil monitoring system’s is that they have not been around enough years to determine if following their oil change intervals will prevent the engine from sludging up when it has higher mileage and is out of warranty, which is often when this problem occurs. So, how do you know what’s right for your engine? The answer for your specific vehicle can only be determined by two things – your owner’s manual and common sense (yours, or your favorite knowledgeable technician’s). There simply is no specific interval that applies to “most” vehicles any more.
The engine and oil in your vehicle is similar to your heart and vascular system, so following the right oil change intervals is likely the most important maintenance that you can perform to protect and extend the life of your engine. However, to determine the most beneficial interval for your specific conditions and driving habits, you not only must be sure to read the fine print in your owner’s manual, but you must not believe everything you read online and/or in print. We’ve seen many automotive blogs and articles that appear to be written by people who have very little automotive experience (or none at all in some journalist’s cases – they just report what they read somewhere). To complicate things even further, many auto manufacturers and oil companies are touting that with their automobile, or by using their products, you can let your car go 10,000 or more miles between oil changes. While it’s true the all vehicles do not need their oil changed every 3,000 miles, we, like everyone who’s worked at a repair shop, have also seen what happens when some of the more extended oil change intervals are followed. The oil filter shown below, is from a German brand car that shall remain unnamed (it begins with “B”), is just one example. The customer told us that the vehicle had been serviced at a dealership at every required maintenance interval since it was new. Since it was a dealership performing the servicing, we are presuming they used the correct oil that meets the European specifications required, so the only reasonable explanation is that it just went too long between oil changes. The sludged engine example shown below from an Asian manufacturer also went too long between oil changes and had to be replaced.
Another important point to keep in mind is that the “normal” interval’s listed in owner's manuals apply to vehicles driven under “ideal” conditions.
While your driving habits and operating conditions may seem very normal to you, they may still fall under the severe driving category. Some conditions that constitute severe driving include:
- Frequent short trips (less than 10 miles, especially during cold weather)
- Stop-and-go city traffic driving
- Driving in dusty conditions on salted or gravel roads, etc.
- Driving at sustained highway speeds during hot weather
- Towing use
- Diesel or turbocharged engine
Are you still skeptical? Here are a few more things to consider:
- Clean quality oil not only helps lubricate and protect your engine in both extreme hot and extreme cold temperatures, but also prevents corrosion and sludge build up with complex additives and detergents.
- Testing shows that when oil exceeds its intended life span in the engine, it still lubricates, but the depletion of critical additives may no longer allow the oil to offer the same protection and benefits.
There are many factors to consider around this issue, such as;
- Are you using a full synthetic, a semi-synthetic blend or inexpensive mineral based oil? You do “get what you pay for” so the frequency of oil changes needs to be adjusted according to the quality of oil.
- Does your car burn or leak oil? We very often see cars come in with their oil level very low. It’s hard to remember to check your oil level yourself. Wouldn’t it be better to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles than to forget to check it, run it too low and ruin your engine?
- We find that even people who are trying to follow the 3,000 mile interval end up going at least 1,000 to 2,000 or sometimes even further over the 3,000 mile goal. If you push that goal out to 5,000, our concern is that they will end up going over that as well, and possibly do some real damage.
- Sometimes there are other issues with a vehicle that are found out while the car is in for an oil change, thus preventing an inconvenient breakdown and potential towing charges. The longer cars go between visits, the more of a chance that something develops without being noticed.
- We sometimes receive panicked calls from our customer’s, who’ve decided to get a quick oil change at one of the “Big Box” franchises, and are being told that they need some big job – headgaskets are a classic example, and are being quoted a few thousand dollars. They bring their car to us, and in most cases, they don’t really need the big job they were quoted, and in some cases, the shop put the wrong oil in the car to boot!
- The price of a replacement engine can be $3,000 to $20,000 – many times exceeding the value of the car at the time it’s needed. The cost of a couple additional oil changes per year – by comparison, priceless!
The Bottom Line… Proper Maintenance Helps Extend The Life Of Your Vehicle. The key word being “proper” – much like your doctor, be choosy with whom you trust the health of your car, and make sure it gets regular check-ups.
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