Engine Oil: How Often Should You Change It?

If you own a vehicle, you should find recommendations on how often you should change engine oil in the maintenance manual that came with the car. The baseline number provided is a great place to start. Nevertheless, how you drive, coupled with several other factors, like the engine’s wear and tear, may require that you change the oil more often or less frequently.

Refer to the Owner’s Manual First

The maintenance manual or owner’s manual should be your primary source of oil change information. If you do not have one, search online or consult your dealer. Maintenance manuals provide engine oil recommendations for your car’s make, model, engine and year of make. Viscosity (weight), capacity, and oil type are just as vital as oil change intervals, so always ensure that you use compatible engine oil.

Today’s car manufacturers typically specify different change intervals for “specific operating conditions” also referred to as “severe service conditions” and “normal operating conditions.” Normal driving conditions denotes national averages – light cargo and passengers only, 11,500 miles/year, 55% highway driving and 45% city driving.

Severe service is for drivers who spend most of their time making short trips, hauling heavy loads, and in stop-and-go traffic. Counterintuitively, the more the highway mileage, the better, especially for the transmission and engine.

Cars driven under the normal driving conditions typically require less maintenance. For such vehicles, the recommended schedule for changing oil might be after every 7,000 to 10,000 miles. For those driving under “special” or “severe” conditions, it is recommended that you replace the oil after every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

Examine Your Vehicle and Driving

Where and how you drive are as important as the type of vehicle you drive and the type of engine oil you use. For instance, spending a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic could lead to oxidation, deposits, and overheating. Short trips typically do not give the engine enough time to heat up for it to effectively burn off condensed water, which is what combustion does. If this sounds more like your driving style, then consider following the severe service schedule and change engine oil more often.

However, if you spend most of your time driving on highways, that means your engine has enough time to raise temperatures to the point it burns off accumulated water. If that is the case for you, you shouldn’t have a problem extending your engine’s oil change interval.

Synthetic oils tend to last much longer than traditional ones since they have fewer impurities. If your engine uses synthetic oil, follow the recommended service schedule – there is no need to change the oil too often.

It is worth noting that engine problems could shorten your engine oil’s life. Worn piston rings and seals could lead to increased oil consumption, reducing the amount of oil circulating in the engine. Overheating, on the other hand, could cause the oil to oxidise much faster and could lead to deposits. Something else of concern is cylinder misfire. This could lead to your oil thinning out, reducing its efficiency as a lubricant. If you are experiencing any of these issues, it is recommended that you have your engine checked and repaired and that you change engine oil more often.

Why Oil Changes are Important

Engine oil serves as a coolant, hydraulic fluid, and lubricant. It plays a crucial role when it comes to the longevity and function of your engine. Just like everything that experiences friction, engine oil will wear out over time with continued use, lowering its protective qualities. That is why you are advised to change the oil regularly. New oil filters and an oil change will restore piston cooling and free-flowing lubrication, extending your engine’s life.

Keep in mind that engines consume oil and that some leak; so, remember to adjust and check your engine oil level frequently. Check engine oil after every 1,000 miles is something that takes a couple of minutes at most. If you don’t know how to check oil levels in your engine, the great thing is that all maintenance manuals illustrate the process. However, if you are not sure or do not want to go through the trouble, ask a technician or garage services to do it for you. Carry a funnel and extra engine oil to top off your oil when it gets under the “low” marker.

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