Frequent oil changes are part of owning a vehicle, especially if you’re covered under a warranty. Whether you change your own oil or have someone else do it for you, it seems like it is always time to get it done.
You might be asking yourself “do I really have to change my oil so often?” With so many people leading busy lives, following the 3,000-mile oil change interval might seem like an aggressive maintenance schedule.
I’m debunking the old myth of changing your oil every 3,000 miles and if that’s actually true with more recent vehicles.
Do You Really Have to Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles?
The old standard recommendation of changing your car’s oil every 3,000 miles has been popular for many years. However, as it turns out, it might not be true. Newer vehicles simply do not need their oil changed as often as the older models did a few years ago.
Car manufacturers have improved driving conditions and the overall lifespan of your vehicle which allows some drivers to go longer than 3,000 to change their oil. New cars have a longer mile interval now that oil filters can remove contaminants better, which helps surrounding parts work better like your car’s engine.
Why Don’t You Have to Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles?
More Effective Lubricants
One of the main reasons you don’t have to change your oil as frequently as you used to is the fact that modern motor oil is more efficient. Synthetic oils, for example, are designed to resist thickening and can be used for a much longer period of time than conventional oil. This enables you to wait a while longer before taking your car into the shop.
Even modern conventional motor oils have better longevity than they used to. They have fewer impurities and can protect the engine for longer based on their clean chemical makeup. You don’t need an oil change as often if your oil isn’t breaking down easily.
Oil Life Monitors
Newer vehicles come with an oil life monitor in the dashboard instrument cluster. This gauge has an oil can icon and gives you the temperature as well as whether or not it is time for an oil change or need engine oil. Many vehicles also have this monitor in their digital display, which shares all kinds of warnings and routine maintenance alerts.
The rule that you should change your oil every 3,000 miles comes from a time when vehicles did not have this kind of monitoring capability. Most of the time, car owners had to guess as to what condition their oil was in, or check the dipstick. This is why the idea of changing the oil so often came to be so popular. It was meant as a safety precaution when there was no easily available way of knowing when an oil change was due.
Sheltering in Place
More and more people have been sheltering in place, meaning cars are driven less. Many believe driving your car less means car maintenance can take a back seat, but the complete opposite is true.
While you may not be driving as often, you’ll still need to ensure you’re following the recommended oil change interval in your owner’s manual. There you can find if your vehicle needs synthetic motor oil or one with specific additives.
How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
Every 5,000 to 7,000 Miles
While the popular consensus used to be that you needed an oil change once every 3,000 miles, you can instead refer to your owner’s manual for a better estimate. Most drivers realistically only need to change their oil once every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, which is still a fairly conservative estimate. Depending on your driving habits, you may even be able to wait longer.
At Least Twice a Year
No matter how often you drive, you’ll want to change your oil at least twice a year. Oil eventually thickens and starts to deteriorate, no matter what kind of mileage is put on the car. Doing this routine maintenance ensures that the oil does not start to break down from atmospheric heat, even if it is sitting in the driveway or garage most of the time.
Refer to Your Vehicle’s Owner’s Manual
When in doubt, you should always refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual regarding routine maintenance, such as how often you should change your oil or when to get a tire rotation. Every car is different and you’ll want to make sure that you are doing everything you can to keep your car in good working order. Your owner’s manual will give you insight into this.
Who Should Change Their Oil More Often?
People With Older Vehicles
If your car is more than 20 years old, you’ll want to perform routine maintenance on a regular basis—that includes oil changes, tire rotations, or replacing windshield wipers. Older vehicles are more likely to have issues with cooling and other processes that can cause the oil to break down more easily. In this case, it is a good idea to change your oil every 3,000 miles.
People Who Drive More Than 40 Miles Per Day
Commuters and people who regularly drive more than 40 miles per day should also get an oil change more frequently. Cars that get more use are more likely to burn through oil since it is running more cycles through the engine. Getting an oil change every 3,000 miles will keep your car reliable during the commute.
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Frequently Asked Questions: Oil Changes
Does Oil Go Bad if You Don’t Drive as Often?
Even if you don’t drive often, oil can still break down and separate. This can be dangerous for your vehicle’s engine. To avoid this, change your oil at least twice a year, even if you rarely drive.
Can I Add More Oil Instead of Getting it Changed?
You should not add more oil in place of changing it. However, checking your oil level is a good idea no matter how often you plan on getting it changed out. It can give you a picture of whether or not your car is burning through oil, which can be a sign of a more serious issue.
How Long Does Unused Oil Last?
Motor oil is fairly stable and can sit unused for upwards of five years. If you keep it in a cool, dry place, it can be usable until it starts to oxidize. In order to keep your unused motor oil from deteriorating, keep it somewhere where it won’t freeze or be exposed to high levels of heat.