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How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

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If you want to keep your engine running properly, you’ll have to change the oil as needed. Find out how frequently you need to do an oil change.

Every car owner knows (or at least they ought to know) that the oil in the car will need to be changed every now and then. But how often should this be? In the old days, mechanics will tell you to play it safe by changing the oil every 3,000 miles. But over the years the auto industry saw a lot of tech improvement, so now you may find some people changing their oil every 7,500 miles. Some may even stretch this to 15,000 miles before the next oil change!

So what’s right? To help you through the confusing advice you’re likely to get from other experts, here’s a simple guide that should help you out. It all depends on several key factors:

If Your Car Is New

This means your car is still covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty. The rule on the oil change is then simple: follow the instructions as stated in the owner’s manual. This means you have to change the oil after a certain number of miles driven, or a certain period of time has passed, according to the manual. You also have to pick the oil type specified in the manual.

Failure to do this can cause the manufacturer to void the powertrain warranty. So if you lost your manual, download it online.

Still, this shouldn’t be a problem at all. You’ll probably be required by the warranty to take your vehicle to the dealer for mandatory maintenance and inspections, and during these occasions the oil will be changed as well.

Does Your Car Have a Built-in Oil-Life Monitor?

We are not talking about the traditional oil-pressure warning light that shows a red light when you start the engine. If you get this light when you’re idling or driving, you better just park and turn the engine off. The red light means you have a serious engine problem or you’re out of oil.

What the new oil-life monitor does is to use various high tech systems to monitor different factors to determine when it’s time for you to change the oil. The high tech can include software, sensors, and the proper algorithms. The factors monitored will include the number of cold starts, the number of driving hours and idling hours, drive temperatures, and engine revs.

All these factors are taken into account, and then the car can give you a service alert when it’s time to change the oil. In some systems, you may also get an idea of the remaining oil life percentage.

Just remember that these calculations also assume that you’re using the oil brand or type recommended in the owner’s manual. The calculations won’t be as accurate if you don’t get the right type of oil.

If Your Car Is No Longer Covered by the Warranty

Even if this is the case, you may still want to just follow the recommended oil change interval specified in the owner’s manual. However, you may want to change oil more frequently depending on how often you drive in severe conditions. These conditions can include the following:

You take a lot of short trips of less than 5 miles in normal temperatures

You take a lot of short trips of less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures

You do a lot of stop and go driving in hot weather

You drive for long distances at slow speeds

You travel on suboptimal roads, with lots of dust, mud, salt, sand, or gravel

You’re towing a trailer for a long distance

You’re going all out on a track

The more frequently you drive in these severe conditions, the more frequently you need to change your oil.

Why Do Dealerships and Oil-Change Shops Recommend More Frequent Oil Changes?

These places may tell you that you ought to change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. It’s true that more frequent oil changes won’t actually damage your car engine. But you’ll also certainly hurt your finances. These places recommend more frequent oil changes simply because it makes them more money if you do.

These places can then also inspect the rest of the car during the oil change and recommend that you replace certain worn parts. So during these times, you may have to get new shocks, tires, coolant, or brake pads, and these places will be very eager to sell you these things.

Additional Tips

You may want to think about using longer-life oils, which means you won’t have to change oil more frequently. However, you may not enjoy a lot of savings when using them because they will cost more.

You should replace the oil filter every time you change the oil.

Don’t leave oil in the crankcase for more than 1 year, regardless of the mileage.

With older cars, check the oil level using the dipstick at least once a month.

Heed all these tips, and you should be able to change oil just frequently enough that you take care of your engine and you don’t overspend. Just remember that if you want to be sure, you should just err on the side of caution. It’s always better to change oil too frequently rather than too infrequently!

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