Like most questions, the answer depends on who you ask. If you ask the manager at your local Jiffy Lube or your grandfather, they are going to tell you that your oil should be changed every 3,000 miles or three months. And while this used to be true, there have been significant advances in both car engines and oils since the time when this 3 month / 3,000 mile interval was recommended back in the 1960’s.
- Engines run a lot cleaner now than they did 40 years ago. In the “old days,” engine oil would become fouled with un-burned fuel, coolant, and combustion residue. In the last two decades, engine tolerances are much higher and combustion is much more efficient.
- Modern engine oil is much better now than it was even 20 years ago – it’s more stable, so you can use the same oil longer. Additives have increased it’s resistance to heat damage while also ensuring the oil stays viscous at low temps.
Therefore, if you’ve purchased a new car in the last twenty years or so, chances are that it can go a lot longer than 3,000 miles between visits to the mechanic. How long, however, will depend on your car and how you drive it…
Look It Up
The best place to look for information about any routine maintenance your car requires is in your vehicle owner’s manual. If for whatever reason you cannot locate your car’s owner’s manual, there is a helpful tool online at CheckYourNumber.org that can give you a rough estimate of how frequently you should change your oil. HOWEVER…the number that you get from either your owner’s manual or the CheckYourNumber.org website and your actual interval are not necessarily the same. If you use your vehicle in a way that is considered severe duty, you may need to change your oil on a shorter interval.
For example, the website just told me that my 2008 Saab 9-3 should have an oil change every 7,500 miles. However, this mileage is for “ideal” driving conditions. Severe conditions include:
- Frequent driving in stop-and-go conditions, especially in high heat
- Driving that only consists of short trips (you never get out on the highway and never drive for more than 15 minutes)
- Excessive idling (like a taxi or a police car)
- Frequent towing or hauling
- Especially hot or dusty conditions
- Extreme cold
- Racing, sanctioned or otherwise
Because I drive my car in 100 degree heat every day here in Phoenix, my driving conditions would qualify as severe. Therefore, Saab recommends oil changes ever 5,000 miles rather than 7,500.
Finally, if your vehicle manufacturer recommends synthetic oil, you will find that your recommended oil change interval is much farther than other vehicles. For example, a BMW that was manufactured in 2010 or later can go up to 15,000 miles in between oil changes. Similarly, Porsche recommends waiting 12,000 miles to change the oil in your Boxster – for example.
The bottom line – an oil change every 3,000 miles is almost certainly too frequent in normal driving.
About the Author: This guest post was contributed by Brittany Larson of Porsche North Scottsdale. Her father and grandfather are both mechanics and taught her how to change her own oil before she could drive.