Sunday, January 31, 2016

Oil Change Interval: Miles and Time

How Often Do You Need to Change Your Oil?

How Often Do You Need to Change Your Oil?

Changing the oil regularly is important to keep your car running well.  Clean, fresh oil does a good job of reducing friction in your engine and protecting it from wear and tear.  Over time, your oil gets dirty and it loses its ability to protect your engine.

But how often do you really need to change the oil in your car?  This topic has been in the news a lot over the years.  The old guideline was to change your oil ever 3,000 miles or 3 months- which ever came first.  Some of the windshield reminder stickers given out by service shops still have this outdated information.

Most modern cars call for oil changes every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, depending on driving conditions.  Short trips that don't get the car fully warmed up are harder on oil.

News organizations including The New York Times, Time Magazine, and Scientific American have all weighed in on this question- and all suggest that a 3,000 mile oil change is no longer needed due to advances in engine design and oil chemistry.

I'll share the question from a reader that inspired this article, and then my answer:

"We bought a Toyota RAV4 on October 20.  It was traded in a few days before that and they did some maintenance stuff on it including changing the oil.  

The sticker on the windshield says they changed it on October 15th and that we should change it again on Jan 15th which I haven't done.  We have driven it 911 miles since Oct. 15th. (We don't drive much any more).  The manual for the car says to change the oil every 5k miles. If we did that we wouldn't change the oil for over a year.

Suggestion on when to change?

Also change at the dealer or the Firestone store or Walmart? The dealer is more expensive..."

Thank you for your question!  Although changing the oil in a car is relatively inexpensive- around $30 for a full service oil change- you don't want to waste time and money changing the oil too often.  Plus changing oil more frequently than is needed results in more dirty oil that has to be disposed of somewhere.

Oil Change Interval- Mileage

I pulled up the recommended service interval for a Toyota Rav4 that I found in the Warranty and Maintenance Guide.  The recommended oil change interval is 5,000 miles or 6 months- whichever comes first.

So if the oil was last changed in October, your oil change is good until April if you have driven less than 5,000 miles.  Unless you go on a major spring break trip, you should be well under 5,000 miles on your current oil change by the time the 6 months is up in April.

Oil Change Interval- Time

Since you have only driven 911 miles, you might be able to run longer than 6 months without changing the oil.  Some other websites I checked indicated that oil should be good for up to 12 months.  Over time, oil can become corrosive due to increased acidity and damage engine parts.  Short trips where you engine is not fully warmed up are especially hard on the oil.

I would probably stay with the 5,000 mile/6 month recommendation from the maintenance log for the RAV4.  In general, I would suggest checking and follow the oil change interval recommendations from your vehicle's manufacturer.

Where to Get Your Oil Changed?

Now for the question of where to get your oil changed.  I have found that dealer service departments tend to be more expensive.  Even though the dealer shops usually have free donuts, I take my car to Midas for routine maintenance.  I have received great service there and I use coupons to save at Midas.  Other similar shops include Tuffy, Jiffy Lube, Walmart and Firestone as you mentioned.

Best of luck!

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