How Often Do You Really Need to Change Motor Oil?

We’ve all read the automotive user manuals and heard from mechanics who encourage us to change motor oil motor every 3 months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. It’s the sort of advice that’s become mainstream—such an ingrained part of our culture that we no longer question why or how it came into being.

In reality, you may not need to change your oil quite so often.

The original guideline of 3 months/3,000 miles was created decades ago, when engine technology and oil chemistry were vastly different from what we know and use today. Car manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve the efficiency of our vehicles, which includes finding ways to maximize oil output. That’s why, if you have a car that was made in the past fifteen years, you can actually slow down your oil changing cycle to up to 5,000 or even 10,000 miles for some models.

Determine How Frequently You Need to Change Motor Oil

Of course, no two car makes and models are the same, nor are the ways you use your vehicle. How long you wait between oil changes depends on your unique situation. For example:

  • New cars can typically go longer between oil changes than older models.
  • Going long distances is less damaging to your oil reserves than constant start-and-stop driving, so pay attention to your daily driving habits.
  • Excessively muddy or dusty roads contribute to dirtier oil (and dirtier cars!).
  • Extreme cold temperatures, like those here in the Salt Lake Valley, mean you need to change your oil more often.
  • Your oil change light often knows more about your car than you think. If it’s been 3,000 miles and the light hasn’t come on yet, you might be okay for a few thousand more.

You can also get a more concrete answer about what to do by reading up on your specific make and model or even sending a sample of your oil into a laboratory to get a reading. This will put to rest any fears you might have of damaging your car, and can also tell you other information about how efficiently your engine is running.

It’s also important to remember that every time you change your oil, it is being thrown away or recycled. Over time, the environmental impact of this discarded oil can take a toll, especially if you’re getting more oil changes than you really need.

There’s no reason why you can’t keep changing your oil every 3,000 miles, but it might be a good time to re-assess your reasons why. You might find that you can save money by getting away with fewer oil changes each year—money you can use to keep the exterior of your car running as smoothly as the engine!

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