In the past, it was a common piece of advice for drivers to change their oil after every 3,000 miles. The conventional reason for this is to prevent engine wear.
But, is it right? Most importantly, when should you change your oil?
Well, there have been lots of critics of this traditional wisdom. We can’t blame them because they have every reason to be critical. So, in this post, we’re going to get a starker view of oil change intervals.
Stay with us to learn more.
The 3,000-Mile Rule
Some auto experts used to swear by the 3,000-mile rule. For the most part, this rule seemed to be working for many car owners. But, can the same be said now?
The truth is, motor oil and engine technologies have evolved over the years. As such, this has rendered the old wisdom obsolete. Many manufacturers now have oil change intervals at 7,500 to 10,000 miles.
Your car manual should give a detailed guide on when to change the oil. It’s advisable to follow the instructions in the manual to ensure optimal performance and lubrication for your engine.
But oil change is not all about miles. Even if you don’t drive your car often, you still need to keep the oil fresh. Also, if you drive fewer miles than what your automaker recommends, getting an oil change at least twice a year is helpful.
Those with Older Cars
Ideally, if you have an older car, your oil change intervals will depend on mileage. Older cars also have two maintenance schedules depending on the driver’s habits and the driving environment.
For example, driving in severely hot, cold or dusty climates and carrying heavy loads means you’re overworking your engine. This means your vehicle use falls under the “severe service” definition.
As such, you’ll need to maintain a rigorous oil change schedule.
However, if you have an older car, but it’s under the “normal conditions” definition, avoid spending money on oil changes your car may not need. Typically, normal conditions mean you do primarily short trips, and you don’t engage your car in burdening tasks.
Most people with older cars are usually uncertain about your oil change intervals. For that reason, it’s advisable to work with professional auto services to determine your schedule.
What About Newer Cars?
As noted before, engine and vehicle technologies have evolved to ensure fuel efficiency. Now, many SUVs, pickups, and cars have service reminder monitors that alert drivers when to change the oil.
These systems work by monitoring the number of miles your vehicle has traveled. They also use time to make calculations. Today, there are advanced systems that assess your vehicle’s operating conditions to determine when your oil will start to degrade.
It’s wise to get an oil change soon after receiving an alert. After an oil change, you or the service technician should reset the oil-life monitoring system.
With these monitoring systems in place, most manuals for newer cars do not feature “severe service” recommendations. This is because the systems shorten the oil change interval when it detects heavy-duty operation.
Even if you have less frequent oil changes, it still helps to check your oil level monthly. Many engines use less than a quart of oil between changes. But, there are some that use as a much as a quart every 600 to 700 miles.
Checking Your Oil Levels
Whether you have an older or newer car, it’s important to check your oil regularly. You should check your oil at least once a month.
For older cars, you’ll use the traditional dipstick for manual oil inspection. Your car’s manual will provide the instructions for doing this. Ideally, you must park the car on level ground before the test.
Make sure the engine is off to avoid potential hot spots under the hood. Also, clean the end of the dipstick to remove any traces of oil. Then, insert it back into the tube and push it down. Pull it out and check where the oil level ends.
Your dipstick should have indicating markers, such L and H (low and high) or MIN and MAX. If the level is between the two marks, then it’s fine. However, if it’s below the L or MIN mark, you need to add oil.
For newer cars, you should have an oil monitoring system that alerts you when the oil falls below the minimum level. This makes checking your oil levels quite a breeze and effortless.
Use the Right Oil
Getting an oil change doesn’t mean you should just use any type of oil. Engines have specific specifications and performance levels, which require a particular type of oil.
You shouldn’t be talked into trying synthetic oil when your engine doesn’t need it. If you have a newer car, you should see the weight of your motor oil on the cap where you add oil. Knowing what’s recommended by your automaker is essential before visiting a car care shop.
You should only use synthetic oil only if your manufacturer recommends it. This is because it’s costly as it can cost about two to four times as much as traditional motor oil. The good thing is that it holds up better and serves your car for more miles than conventional oils.
However, your choice also depends on several factors. For example, if your car is prone to accumulating sludge, you may need to use synthetic oil. Also, if your car is under the “severe service” definition, synthetic oil is your best friend.
When Should You Change Your Oil? – Final Thoughts
Today, the conventional wisdom of after every 3,000 miles or 3 months does not apply.
As such, if you have an older car, it’s best to work with professional car care services to determine your ideal intervals. For newer car owners, you can benefit from the oil-life monitoring systems that automakers offer.
At Lee’s Car Care, we can help you take the guesswork out of your oil change. We’re an independent shop, and we offer a variety of service to help you maintain your car well.
If you have any question, including “when should you change your oil?”, feel free to reach out to us.