When to Change Your Oil Has Never Been More ConfusingTwenty years ago vehicles weren’t as efficient as they are today and needed more frequent oil changes. Today’s driving patterns as well as breakthroughs in automobile and oil technology have influenced the rules a bit. Factors such as oil type, driving circumstances, weather factors and the auto manufacturer recommendations, all play a role in deciding the right choice for you and your car.
Twenty years of auto repair experience has taught me; engines that regularly have the oil and filter changed at least twice a year or every 5,000 miles go the distance and are more economical to maintain. A basic rule of thumb I tell customers; if you operate your vehicles more than 75% on the highway you can extend the interval towards the higher end of 5,000 miles. Whereas if you drive in city conditions, with a large number of short jaunts and stop-and-go traffic, you would be wise to have your oil and filter changed closer to the 3,000 mile range.
Who to believe?
Many manufacturers recommend changing your oil once a year or at 7,500 mile intervals. Oil shops recommend 3 months/3,000 miles and write it on your window reminder sticker. It’s confusing!
Consider that auto manufacturers recommend 7,500 miles based on ideal driving conditions. If you make short frequent trips less than 10 miles, sit in bumper to bumper traffic and start your car when temps are below 0, those are NOT ideal driving conditions! Auto manufacturers also use their recommendations to calculate cost of operation. The fewer oil changes, the lower cost of ownership.
Oil Change shops want you to come back as frequently as possible. You can’t fault them, they’re doing nothing wrong. It is better to change your oil frequently! But is it really necessary? Only you and your mechanic can accurately answer that question.
Engines typically work harder when subjected to short, frequent excursions. Starting a car puts as much strain on the engine as traveling at 55 mph on a highway. So does sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Another consideration is if you’re using conventional or synthetic oil. Synthetic oil performs better in harsh conditions thus enabling the interval to be marginally increased. Oil manufacturers readily advertise that synthetics are not intended to extend oil change intervals but to rather assist hard working engines and improve gas mileage. Another consideration is the mileage on your vehicle. New vehicles can be extended whereas older vehicles should be routinely checked. Also don’t overlook the fact that engines, by design, can and do burn oil. Regardless of when you replace oil, you will still want to have the level checked at least once a month or every 1,000 miles.
My best advice is DO NOT merely follow your car’s computerized reminder system. Many will go up to 8,000 miles before alerting you to replace the oil. Not good! We have worked on an abundance of engines where the owner Only followed the computerized reminders and have found a significant degree of destructive sludge. In my opinion, an Oil & filter replacement is an economical formula to peak efficiency and longevity when compared to replacing or rebuilding an engine that costs several thousands of dollars. Often times you can find great oil change coupons in your local paper, mailers or here on Wise Auto Clinic’s website. If you can’t bring your vehicle in to us, we still recommend that you keep up with oil changes or you’ll be in for more expensive auto repairs sooner or later.