How Often to Change Oil in a Car

How often to change oil in a car? Get a definitive answer to this important question with oil change frequency advice from a real mechanic.

Oil Change Frequency - Myths vs Facts

"How often to change engine oil in my car?" used to be a simple question with a direct answer: every 3,000 miles. That's what many people have been taught growing up. But that standard answer has been outdated many years ago.

The reason this "3,000 miles" "myth became so widespread is because manufacturers had a maintenance checklist that was based on abnormal vehicle use (dusty conditions, lots of stop and go driving, racing, etc.) and then they produced another maintenance checklist for regular vehicle use.

The root of problem started to take hold as mechanics and auto repair stores realized that they could make much more money by telling the customers that they needed to have their oil changed every 3,000 miles because that is what the car manufacturer recommended.

It also probably didn't help when people who did use their vehicle in an abnormal or heavy manner shared that they indeed needed to change their that often.

The vast majority of car owners need to go by the regular maintenance schedule listed in their service manual. A trusted mechanic can tell you if you are using your car in such a way that requires you to change your oil more often. 

How Often Do You Need to Change Oil?

To find out how often to change oil in your car, you should turn to your owner's manual. Most cars these days go anywhere from 7,500 miles to 10,000 miles or more between oil changes.

Many vehicles have a calculator built into the cars computer that will calculate oil change frequency for the engine. This calculator takes things into account like temperature, crankshaft rpm's, mileage, etc. and it will make a calculation based on pre-set conditions. The it will display how many miles you have to go until your next oil change. These systems are reliable and there is no need to have your oil changed before your vehicle says it is time to do so.

Even if you don't have this feature on your car or truck just go by the oil change interval listed in your owner's manual. Changing the oil more often than the manufacturer will give you very little benefit and will cost you a lot more money over the life of the vehicle. 

How Often to Change SYNTHETIC Oil

Almost all cars used to use standard motor oil and that is what most maintenance service schedules were designed for.

However with the newer synthetic oils, an engine can go many more miles between oil changes. Synthetic oil breaks down much more slowly than conventional oil so if you are using synthetic motor oil in an older car you should be able to go about twice as many mile between oil changes. Be sure that you don't have an active oil leak if you do this though as you would run the risk of too much oil leaking out without noticing. 

Some car manufacturers are specifying that synthetic oil should be used in their engines. If this is the car with your car or truck, then that is what you should use. It is more expensive, but you can also go much further in between oil changes so the cost balances out.

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