Asking the AutoZone Experts: How Often Should I Be Changing My Oil?

Some of the most common auto maintenance questions are about how often to do oil changes. For many years, the standard recommendation was to change the oil in a car or truck every 3,000 miles. Many shops continue to use this standard, as more frequent changes mean higher profits. Find out how often should I change my oil to plan ahead for a do-it-yourself oil change or scheduled service.

What Type of Oil Does Your Vehicle Use?

The 3,000 to 5,000 mile guideline for oil changes refers to the performance of conventional oil. Many vehicle manufacturers now recommend the use of semi-synthetic or synthetic oil.

With either of these types of oil in your vehicle, you may be able to drive for up to 7,500 miles, 10,000 miles or even 15,000 miles between oil changes. If you choose to pay more for synthetic oil, it might be necessary to replace other components, such as an oil filter or Melling oil pump shaft, before you need to change the oil.

What Are Your Driving Habits?

A sport utility vehicle or truck that you drive off road or in other harsh conditions will need more frequent oil changes than a car with a lot of highway miles. You can save money by investing in a three prong oil filter wrench and other tools and parts to do oil changes yourself.

Other conditions and habits that can degrade oil faster include extreme temperatures, a lot of stop-and-go driving or towing heavy loads. Even if you stay on paved roads, taking frequent short trips can keep the engine operating temperature from ever getting hot enough to burn off water condensation. The resulting sludge buildup will make an oil change necessary sooner rather than later.

What Do You See When You Check the Oil?

It is a good idea to check the oil in your vehicle once a month. Park on level ground and open the hood when the engine is cool. Remove the dipstick and wipe oil off of the end with a cloth before inserting the stick back into the tube. Push the dipstick all the way in, pull it back out and examine both sides. 

In addition to checking the oil level, you should also observe the color and consistency. Motor oil should be brown or black. A light color or milky appearance indicates a coolant leak. Particles of metal could be shavings from the cylinders resulting from engine damage. You can gradually top off a low oil level one-half quart at a time, but other issues could require more extensive repairs.

Does Your Vehicle Have An Oil Life Monitoring System?

Many late model vehicles come with oil life monitoring systems. These computerized systems use operational sensors in the engine and driving data to determine when it is time for an oil change. If your vehicle does not have a monitoring system, you can decide when you need an oil change based on mileage, the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule or by manually checking the oil.

By Edward Robinson

Looking to share my thoughts and opinions on a range of topics. Robinson aims to make an enjoyable corner of the internet that brings a bit of lighthearted entertainment to readers' days. As the site develops, he intends to bring on a few other bloggers to add additional voices and expand the range of subjects covered beyond just his personal interests. Robinson sees long-term potential in becoming a popular online destination.

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