How Often Does Your Oil Need Changed?
How many different answers have you heard to this question? Estimates vary as to when you need to change the motor oil in your car. Which numbers are right?
The simple answer is that oil changes rely on a number of mitigating factors to determine when a refresh is due. Knowing what factors affect the cleanliness of your oil can help you make a more informed choice tailored to your specific vehicle’s needs.
A good starting point is with your vehicle’s owner manual. Inside, it will supply you with a recommended maintenance number – usually between 5,000-7,500 miles. Since the manufacturer actually built the car, this estimate is very credible advice, but not necessarily 100% accurate. The manufacturer recommendation is based on ideal driving conditions (i.e. driving short distances, never over the speed limit – the kinds of factors that average drivers are hard-pressed to accomplish). As such, it’s usually more accurate to follow the “severe conditions” maintenance schedule that’s approximately every 3,000 miles or so.
In order to make your own judgement call on how to adjust your own estimate, there are a few specific factors that can help you determine your best timeline. Hard driving is one of, if not THE biggest factor that affects the major wear and tear on your car. If you live in an area or frequent driving in an area with extreme weather conditions (both hot and cold), stop and go traffic, dirty or dusty roadways, or tow anything off of your vehicle, you’re going to require oil changes more frequently.
As your car gets older, oil change intervals should occur much more frequently as compressed fuel and air is more likely to leak into the engine. Over time, grime and soot build up on the engine’s rings making them slightly permeable and resulting in contaminated oil that needs to be changed more regularly. Synthetic oil is recommended for both longer engine life and better engine performance.
So as you can see, there are a few factors to consider when changing your oil and as much as we’d all like to change our oil less often, by erring on the side of caution, you’ll help extend the life of your car which will pay off in the end. When in doubt, take it in!