How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

Oil change intervals can be vastly different, and the common three-month, 3,000-mile oil change isn’t all that common anymore. Today, there are even some vehicles that can go up to 15,000 miles before it needs to be done. The first step in establishing a reliable oil change schedule is to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual as it will contain manufacturer-recommended guidelines for oil change intervals specific to your make and model. These recommendations are based on extensive testing and engineering to ensure the engine’s longevity and performance.

Understanding Oil Change Intervals

Keep in mind that these guidelines typically provide a mileage range rather than an exact number. It’s common to see recommendations like ‘every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.’ The exact interval within this range may depend on various factors, such as the type of oil used and your driving habits, which we’ll explore shortly.

The Role of Oil Types in Interval Selection

Oil types play a significant role in determining how often you should change your oil. Two primary categories of engine oil are synthetic and conventional. Synthetic oil, although more expensive, generally offers better performance and durability. It typically lasts longer and provides superior protection against heat and engine wear, although that doesn’t necessarily extend the interval if your car doesn’t require synthetic.

Conventional oil, on the other hand, is more budget-friendly but usually requires more frequent changes. Depending on your vehicle’s requirements and your budget, you may choose either option. Keep in mind that some vehicles may explicitly recommend synthetic oil or a synthetic blend, so always refer to your owner’s manual first.

Factors Influencing Oil Change Frequency

One of the most critical factors affecting your oil change frequency is your driving habits and the conditions you encounter on the road. If you primarily drive in stop-and-go traffic, tow heavy loads, or frequently travel on dusty, unpaved roads, your engine works harder and generates more contaminants that can degrade the oil. In such cases, you might need to change your oil more frequently, possibly closer to the lower end of the recommended interval.

On the other hand, if you have a daily commute on smooth highways and avoid extreme driving conditions, you might be able to stick to the longer end of the recommended interval. Remember, though, that even in ideal conditions, oil still degrades over time due to exposure to temperature variations and moisture.

The type of oil you choose also affects your oil change frequency. Synthetic oil’s superior performance and resistance to breakdown mean it can last longer between changes. This can be a cost-effective choice in the long run, as you won’t need to change it as frequently as conventional oil.

However, if you opt for conventional oil due to cost, you should follow the lower end of the recommended interval. Regular oil changes become even more crucial when using conventional oil to ensure that your engine remains adequately protected.

When Your Vehicle Needs an Oil Change

There are a few ways you can tell that your vehicle needs an oil change:

  • There’s a warning light on. Some vehicles have an indicator like a wrench icon or a ‘service required’ message that illuminates on the dash when an oil change is due.
  • The oil life is below 10%. For vehicles with an oil life monitor, you’ll want to change the oil before the percentage ticks all the way down to zero.
  • You’ve reached the oil change sticker mileage/date. If you’ve reached how many miles to change the oil according to the maintenance schedule, it’s time to get it done.
  • The oil is dark, milky, gritty, or otherwise contaminated. If the oil condition is poor, you should change the oil regardless of when it was done last.
  • The engine is ticking or knocking, or the oil light is on. These are indicators that the oil level might be low or extremely dirty.

Remember, changing your oil too frequently can’t hurt, but waiting too long certainly can.

Consequences of Neglecting Oil Changes

It’s easy to let the oil change interval slip past longer than you should, but that’s not healthy for your engine. The effects can be minor or devastating, including:

  • Engine damage from lack of lubrication
  • Reduced performance as there’s more resistance internally
  • Worse fuel economy
  • Engine overheating
  • Higher maintenance and repair costs to deal with the neglect
  • Worsening emissions
  • And unreliability

Can You Change Your Oil By Yourself?

As mentioned, changing your oil is a service any DIYer can tackle. All you need are your new oil and filter, an oil filter wrench, a funnel, a clean rag or cloth, a drain pan, and the correct wrench for your oil drain plug. Some cars might need a new washer for that drain plug too. You can Learn how to change your oil with AutoZone’s comprehensive guide.

Once your oil is changed, recycle your old oil so it doesn’t contaminate the environment. Bring it to your local AutoZone store and we can dispose of it for you.

By doing an oil change yourself, you can save time and money compared to bringing it to a shop. But if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, have it performed by a professional so you aren’t getting behind on maintenance.

Ready to change your oil? We have the oil and filter you need, as well as any tools and supplies to get the job done right.

FAQ/People Also Ask

How often should I change my car’s oil?

You should change your car’s oil according to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended intervals, typically every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

Can I rely on the oil change sticker on my windshield?

While the oil change sticker on your windshield can be a helpful reminder, it’s essential to follow your manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals for your specific vehicle.

Is synthetic oil always better for longer intervals?

Synthetic oil can often extend oil change intervals, but it’s essential to follow your vehicle’s recommendations, as some cars may require synthetic oil for optimal performance.

What happens if I don’t change my oil as recommended?

It can lead to engine damage, reduced performance, and increased maintenance costs.

Are DIY oil changes safe and effective, or should I visit a mechanic?

Yes, it’s safe and effective if done correctly, but if you’re unsure or uncomfortable, visiting a mechanic is a reliable option for professional service.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

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