It’s the age-old advice passed down by every grandfather who fixes his own brakes or uncle who helped you change your first tire. Change your oil every 3,000 miles on the dot and your car will last forever. One of those things everyone knows isn’t true – your daily driver car won’t last forever. But now, neither of those things are very true.
Why the 3,000 Mile Mark is Outdated
30 years ago, there were fewer choices in the oil that was put into a cars engine and fewer ways to make an engine efficient. The oil itself would break down faster, resulting in build-up that would ‘gunk up’ the engine and could eventually cause harm.
Today, many car manufacturers recommend synthetic blend oil or full synthetic, which takes longer to break down. This allows the car to go farther with less worry, resulting in a longer gap before you need to take it in for a change. Engines themselves are also often simply more efficient, doing more with less, which helps reduce the need for changing your oil.
How Do You Know When to Change Your Oil?
Many new cars have sensors for absolutely everything built in, including this. When your car hits the mark and the oil starts to break down, a sensor goes off and will tell you to take it in to get changed. Many people don’t always ‘trust’ this technology, though, and some don’t have it at all, so let’s look at other ways.
The first thing to do is to check your car’s manual. How often does it say? Most cars made in the last ten to twelve years are going to recommend an oil change every 5,000-10,000 miles, depending on the make, model, and year. This should be your golden rule, especially if your car is relatively new or has lower miles.
As the age of your car increases, you might consider lowering the number of miles before you go in again. Every time you take your car to your mechanic, they’re not just swapping your oil. They should be looking at timing belts, spotting rust, and seeing any damage or issues that could come up, so you’re not blindsided when they do happen.
…Or Every Six Months
“Change the oil every 3,000 miles or after six months.”
“Change the oil every 5,000 miles or after six months.”
“Change the oil every 10,000 miles or after six months.”
Get the point?
Pretty much every manual is going to tell you to change your oil every six months, even if you don’t hit your mileage. This isn’t a gimmick to get you into the shop more, but a real recommendation that can help extend the life of your car.
If you’re driving it the allotted amount, then you don’t have to worry about it. But if the car is just sitting for most of its life, the oil is going to turn to sludge inside of your engine. Parts no longer coated with oil will start to rust, damaging internal components. Moisture can get into the oil, which isn’t a big deal as a hot running car will evaporate that pretty quickly… but what about a car that isn’t running? It is just going to sit and speed up the rust process.
Twice a year is a good base minimum for changing your oil, but don’t spend 100’s of dollars on changing it every 3,000 miles if your manufacturer recommendations state that every 7,500 miles is just fine. When you do get it changed, take it to a reputable mechanic who will include a look over on all the major parts, and you can set your car up for a long life of running well and getting you where you need to be.