Making Sense Of Oil Change Recommendations

When it comes to changing your oil, the rules used to be simple: replace your oil and filter every 3,000 miles and go on your way. While this one-size-fits-all approach made a certain amount of sense before synthetics became widely prevalent, it may no longer be the best advice. In reality, oil change intervals are more complicated than you might expect.

Oil changes are a necessary part of car ownership because engine oil can become contaminated and lose its lubrication properties over time. Improper lubrication can damage internal engine parts and even cause your engine to run much hotter than it should. Oil changes are clearly essential, but how often is enough? And how often is too often?

The Cautious Approach: 3,000 Mile Oil Changes

Although it may not be necessary for all cars in all conditions, there is no harm in replacing your oil every 3,000 miles. Outside of extremely limited circumstances, such as heavy off-road usage or weekend track days, a 3,000-mile oil change schedule will ensure that your oil always offers the best lubrication possible.

One possible edge case is any vehicle that still uses conventional (or "dino") oil. If you aren't using synthetic oil in your car, then you will not be seeing the longer life benefits offered by newer oil formulations. In this case, sticking to the traditional wisdom of 3,000-mile oil changes may be your best option.

The Easy Road: Manufacturer Recommendations

If you haven't looked at the service schedule in your car's owner's manual, then it may be time to check it out. Most manufacturers are now recommending oil change intervals of 6,000 miles, 10,000 miles, or even more. When your car is under warranty and you are changing your oil at the dealership, it may be best to stick with these extended intervals.

Note that manufacturer-recommended oil change intervals assume you will be sticking to recommended manufacturer oil specifications. If you choose to continue using manufacturer intervals, then be sure that you only use the oil specified in your owner's manual. If in doubt, contact your dealer service department to ask for oil recommendations.

The Middle Ground: Observation and Testing

If you aren't sure what the right approach is for your car, then a good option is to choose a middle ground. Changing your oil slightly more often than your manufacturer recommends can be a good way to ensure that you aren't waiting too long. Sending a sample of your old oil away for an oil analysis test can help to let you know whether you are changing your oil too often or not often enough.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you stick to a regular oil change schedule. As long as you change your oil at least as often as your manufacturer recommends, your engine should remain happy and well-lubricated. For more information, contact an oil change service in your area.