Most of us heard the same advice from our dad growing up. You were learning to drive and how to take care of a car. You were told to religiously change your oil every 3,000 miles. This advice is still repeated today, but it may not be totally accurate.
Over the years, both car and oil manufacturers have improved their technology and manufacturing processes. This means that both your car and oil can run for longer before needing a change. But this may only confuse the answer even more. This guide will help you understand how often you should change your oil.
How Often Should I Change My Oil?
The answer to this question will depend on the make, model, and age of your vehicle. Older vehicles will still benefit from getting an oil change every 3,000 miles. Many newer vehicles need an oil change every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Some luxury vehicles can go as many as 15,000 miles before needing an oil change.
Another way to determine if it’s time to change your oil is by time. Oil breaks down and degrades over time. So even if you aren’t driving many miles, it may be time to change your oil. The traditional advice was every three months. If you drive a newer vehicle, then you’re safe getting the oil changed every six months or so. For vehicles that are rarely driven or kept in the garage a majority of the time, then you should change the oil at least once a year.
- Check With Your Manufacturer
So far, we’ve given general guidelines. The safest thing to do is check with your vehicle manufacturer. They were the ones who built the car and will have the best answer for how often your specific vehicle should have its oil changed. A good place to look is in your owner’s manual or ask the dealership.
- Your Driving Style
The guidelines that you have here and the advice you get from your vehicle manufacturer are only a starting point. Harsher driving conditions will require you to change your oil more often. This could mean more severe driving, such as regular towing, off-roading, or racing. It can also mean more extreme climates, such as especially hot or cold temperatures.
Why Should I Change My Oil?
Changing your oil keeps your engine running smoothly. Clean oil will lubricate the different metal components in your engine and clean away burnt fuel or metal filings that break free. Regularly changing your oil will extend the life of your engine by preventing corrosion and wear.
What Happens If I Don’t Change My Oil?
If you fail to change your oil, you will eventually ruin your engine. This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Think of the oil in your car as the circulatory system that keeps everything moving smoothly.
When oil becomes old and degraded, it can no longer lubricate and clean contaminants effectively. This will cause your engine to gum up and overheat. The extreme temperatures can cause the components to warp. The entire engine can overheat and blow a gasket, or the entire vehicle will seize up and be worthless.
- Your Vehicle Warranty
Another thing to consider is that if your vehicle is newer and still under warranty, failing to change your oil can void it. This means you no longer have the protection given by a warranty, so if something goes wrong with your car, you’re on your own.
How Do I Know If I Need to Change My Oil?
The best way to tell if you need an oil change is to check the current state of your oil. This will help you determine if you need to change it sooner rather than later.
If your car is newer, then your vehicle may have an electronic oil monitor. The car will track the quality of the oil for you and give you an alert when it’s time to change it. Checking your oil this way requires you to sit in the car and either use your gauge cluster panel or infotainment panel to check the status of the car.
If you drive an older vehicle that lacks this advanced technology, then you’ll need to check your oil the old fashioned way. Start by parking the car on level ground and let the engine cool. If you try to check the oil too soon after driving, you’ll be at risk of getting burned from the heat of the engine.
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While your engine is turned off, lift the hood, and find your dipstick. It’s typically located on the engine and will have a bright yellow finger loop. Pull the dipstick out and use a clean cloth or paper towel to clean the stick.
Put the stick all the way back in place and pull it back out again. This time look at both sides of the stick. Your stick will indicate the ideal oil level range with either two dots: L and H, or max and min. If your oil level is between these two markers, then your oil is at the right level.
Next, you need to check the oil’s color. Newer oil is a clear amber or brown color. Older oil will look almost black.
If you see metal filings or a milky appearance, then there are bigger mechanical issues with the car, and you need to take it to a mechanic.
Can I Change My Own Oil?
Yes, you can! It doesn’t take a lot of mechanical knowledge to change your oil. You’ll need a few supplies before you get started.
Wait until your engine is cool and then drive your car up onto the ramps. Open your hood and check your engine for oil leaks. Your next step is to release the drain plug underneath your vehicle. It’s located on the oil pan. You may need a wrench to remove it.
Be ready. As soon as you release the drain plug, the oil will start pouring out. So have your catch pan or bucket ready to catch the oil as soon as it starts pouring. If not, you’ll have a huge mess on your hands.
Leave the pan under your vehicle and wait for all of the oil to drain out. Once all of the old oil has drained out, you can replace the drain plug. Make sure it’s secure so that you don’t leak new oil. Now go back under the hood, replace the oil filter, and pour in your new oil.
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Put your new oil filter in and make sure it’s secure. Your final step is to back your vehicle off of the ramps and let it run for a few minutes. This will heat up the engine and evenly distribute the new oil throughout the engine.
Different Types of Oil
If you decide to change your car’s oil yourself, you need to buy the right type of oil. Check your owner’s manual so that you buy the correct type. There are four types of oil, as well as countless viscosities.
You may be tempted to put high mileage oil in your vehicle so that you don’t have to change your oil as often. Don’t do this. This oil is specially formulated for vehicles with over 75,000 miles. This oil has unique additives to help reduce oil burn-off and prevent oil leaks that commonly happen in older engines.
Synthetic oil is most often used in newer vehicles. It functions better in your engine and can last for longer than conventional oil. However, if you have an older vehicle, such as a collector car or antique, you may be required to continue using conventional oil to maintain the operation of the engine.
The viscosity is how thick or thin the oil is at certain temperatures. Pay attention to this because you’ll want to have the right viscosity for the climate you drive in. Oil that is too thick or too thin won’t lubricate your engine properly.
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How Much Does an Oil Change Cost?
The cost of your oil change will depend on where you get it done and the quality of the oil you use. You’ve probably seen drive-through services advertising oil changes for $25 or less. These services use the lowest quality of bulk oil. If you’re in a rush or on a tight budget, then this may be the way to go. Just know that it isn’t the best option available to you.
Changing your own oil is the next most affordable option since you pay for just the oil and the filter. Your cost will depend on the filter you need and the type and amount of oil you need. Most people can change their own oil for around $30 to $50.
The most expensive option is to take your car to the dealership. You could easily pay $50 to $100 for an oil change. Some high-end luxury vehicles can cost even more. This is because you’re paying for both the oil change and the labor.
Take Care of Your Car Today
As you can see, regularly changing your oil will help your car run better for longer. The oil is the lifeblood of your engine, and by regularly changing it, you keep your engine running smooth and cool.
You can check and change your own oil with a little know-how and time. But if you’re in a rush or not confident, then taking it to someone to have your car serviced is the best way to go.
So what are you waiting for? Go check your oil and see if you’re due for a change.