This used to be a rather straightforward question, how often should you change engine oil? However, with new types of oil, new engine technology, and other factors, it’s not such a cut-and-dry answer anymore.
Trying to figure out the answer to this question means you have to know the type of car engine you have. Let’s look at some of the factors you should consider and the answer to this question.
How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
If you have a manual that came with your vehicle, it will likely give you the answer for your specific vehicle. However, it also depends on your driving habits and the type of oil you use.
For older vehicles, you will likely change the oil based on the miles driven. You will need to check the level of the oil occasionally. Most older vehicles will only require two oil changes a year if you don’t drive super often.
However, the rule of thumb used to be, every 3,000 miles you needed an oil change. You can likely get the oil changed twice a year and just top it off with clean oil every few months, however.
It’s common for a newer vehicle to actually have an oil-life monitoring system. This will tell you when you run out of oil. While this is fine, if you run out of oil, it’s a pretty big issue. You need to get your oil changed well before this happens.
Some newer vehicles will cover the cost of oil changes within the warranty. This will likely determine when you need an oil change. Details can be found in your owner’s manual.
Top 4 Factors Influencing How Often You Need to Change Your Engine Oil
1. Car and Engine Type
How often you change the oil in your car starts with the type of car you have and its’ engine. Diesel engines are different from gasoline engines, just as turbocharged engines are different from regular engines.
The owner’s manual will help to tell you how often to get your oil changed.
2. Type of Oil Used
You can choose conventional oil or synthetic oil for your vehicle. While conventional oil is often cheaper, it will require more frequent oil changes. Most oil change stores will recommend changing conventional oil every three months or 3,000 miles.
Synthetic oil is formulated to last longer. It’s a more stable option at high temperatures. Commonly, you will only need to change this engine oil every 6,000 or 7,000 miles.
3. Driving Conditions
Rough driving habits, uneven terrain, and extreme temperatures can have a large impact on how long your oil will last. An older car used for shorter trips might require a different frequency for oil changes compared to a newer vehicle used for heavy towing or off-roading.
Colder weather may also have more of an impact on your oil than warmer weather. If you notice the oil is dark, it’s time to consider getting an oil change.
4. The Oil Levels in Your Car
You want to check your oil when you fill-up the gas tank. If you notice the oil level is low, you might need an oil change. If the oil is still rather clean, you can add more oil to top it off.
Should I Choose Synthetic or Conventional Oil?
The decision to choose conventional or synthetic oil may depend on your budget. Conventional oil is cheaper than synthetic oil, but synthetic is known to last longer. It’s also known to provide benefits for your vehicle due to the lack of impurities found in the structure. It’s more consistent compared to conventional oil.
According to Hot Rod Magazine, when the conventional oil was swapped out of a 2006 Dodge Charger with a 5.7L Hemi, it resulted in a gain of 1 mile per gallon for gas mileage, along with a gain of 4.4 horsepower.
With synthetic oil, you also get more time between oil changes. Some oil manufactures say you have as many as 15,000 miles before you have to change the oil. Compared to the maximum found with conventional oil at 5,000 miles, you get three times as long.
Does the Oil Filter Matter?
Yes, if you never have the oil filter changed, you will end up needing to change your oil more often. This is due to the contaminants getting left behind in the filter. Whenever you get an oil change, you should have the filter changed, too. This can help you keep your oil changes on the right schedule.
When do I need to change the oil more often?
You might hear the terms normal service maintenance schedule and severe maintenance schedule when trying to figure out how often to change engine oil. These are different routines based on a few factors. For most people, a normal service maintenance schedule is fine.
However, if you fit any of the following, you will likely need to change the oil more often on a severe maintenance schedule:
- If you do any track driving
- If you do heavy towing at longer distances
- If you make short trips up to five miles or less only
- If you make short trips up to ten miles or less under freezing temperatures regularly
- If you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, specifically in very hot weather
- If you drive at below-average speeds for longer distances
- If you drive on many gravel, dusty, muddy, or sandy roads often
- If you fit any of these categories, you probably need to change your oil every 3,000 miles.
The best way to find out the answer to how often you should change engine oil is with your owner’s manual. Usually, you will find a regular maintenance section that will not only tell you how often to change the oil, but also when to perform other routine maintenance.
If you have an owner’s manual, you should start by consulting it. If not, consider the type of oil you are using, your engine, and your driving habits before deciding on the frequency to change your engine’s oil.