Oil Change

Share on:

How Often Should You Change the Oil in Your Car

Regular oil changes cost, on average, $120 for an entire year maintenance. That's less than the typical American's average monthly grocery bill and less than a family of four's average weekly grocery bill.

What's more, that $120 is nothing compared to the consequences of neglecting your oil changes. The average engine swap price? Four-thousand dollars.

So why then, are regular oil changes brushed off as unimportant? And why as cars age do we change their oil less, when in reality older vehicles need frequent oil changes?

While there's no definite answer it's a good bet that most people can't tell you their vehicle's recommended oil change schedule; even though it's written down in their vehicle's manual.

That's a huge issue and has our vote for why most people skip out on oil changes. Today, we're bringing you our guide on how often should you change the oil in your car.

What Happens If You Wait

Put simply, waiting to change your oil puts extra strain on your engine. How long you wait determines how much damage actually occurs. A few hundred miles might shorten your car's lifespan, while a few thousand might ruin your engine.

Oil 101

Engine oil lubricates your engine and contains special additives that prevent soot, dirt, and grime, from building up and increasing friction. Each specific vehicle needs oil with a different viscosity to keep its components moving freely.

It's a fairly straightforward process. Choose the correct oil (either natural or synthetic) and fill up your vehicle at the predetermined mileage numbers.

Dirty Oil Consequences

Though for something so simple failure to change your oil has extremely expensive consequences. Because oil touches every part of your engine there's unlimited potential for damage.

An overheating engine is usually the first sign of dirty oil. When your oil collects debris and dirt friction increases within the engine. This friction decreases your engine's efficiency and stresses its components.

Worn out engine parts mean expensive repairs and an overheating engine can leave you stranded. Combine towing and future repair costs and you'll spend far more money than an oil change.

Moving beyond the "minor" damage, particles in dirty oil can grind down engine components separate from friction. Instead of components rubbing against each other, it's actually the oil itself that causes the abrasion.

When your oil starts harming components you're in real trouble. It's expensive to repair small engine components buried within the engine block.

Furthermore, after enough miles, oil stops lubricating your engine altogether. When this happens the engine "seizes" which means the components can't move freely. The only solution is a brand new engine.

When to Change Your Oil

Your oil change schedule depends on several different things, including the oil type and your vehicle make and model. Let's break down how each variable affects your oil change schedule.

Conventional Wisdom

Variables non-withstanding conventional wisdom says to change your oil every 5,000 miles. Edmunds now recommends 7,500 - 10,000 miles, but even then acknowledges that every vehicle has different circumstances.

For this article we're recommending that you don't listen to conventional wisdom.

The Car Handbook

Every car comes with a manual that lists maintenance details about the vehicle, including the proper oil change schedule. For most cars that ranges anywhere from 3,000 (the extremely low end) to 15,000 miles (the extremely high end).

In addition to the vehicle's oil change schedule, the manual also includes information on oil viscosity, commonly written as "10W/30."

Always use the vehicle manual recommendation as your baseline oil change schedule and then adjust based on the following variables:

Synthetic Versus Conventional

Without getting into too much detail, synthetic oil lasts longer than conventional oil. While both derive from crude-oil, synthetic oil undergoes a chemical reaction that results in uniformly sized molecules.

Uniform molecules reduce friction and thus heat and engine wear. Plus, compared to conventional oil synthetic oil has higher-quality additives that keep your engine cleaner for longer.

Synthetic oil also lacks conventional oil's paraffin wax, meaning synthetic flows faster and lubricates better over short trips.

If you choose synthetic oil expect several thousands more miles between oil changes when compared to conventional engine oil. Though it's important to look at the oil manufacture's recommendations for more information.

Your Driving Habits

Most people qualify as a "severe" driver, which just means you drive short trips (less than 4 miles), don't let your car warm up, drive in stop-and-go traffic, and accelerate harder than normal.

While it's termed severe driving it's really just commuting. However, no matter what you call it severe driving decreases the miles between oil changes. The wear and tear quickly deplete oil additives, leaving you with more friction, dirt, grime, and heat.

And most 7,500 - 10,000 miles recommendations are based on ideal driving conditions, which means commuter driving habits significantly lower those recommendations.

So How Often Should You Change the Oil in Your Car?

When someone asks, "how often should you change the oil in your car," there's no straight answer. It all depends on your vehicle's manual recommendations and other variables like driving habits and oil type. No two vehicles have the same ideal oil change schedule.

That's why it's important to find a mechanic that can handle your vehicle's oil maintenance. They'll make recommendations on specific oil types based on your vehicle's condition.

What's more, they'll also get to know your car and catch small problems before they become expensive repairs.

If you're in the market for a garage to handle your vehicle's oil changes and general maintenance, get in touch with us. We specialize in vehicles of all makes and models and would love to make you part of the family.

Our team makes sure we're not just changing your oil but taking care of your car!