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How Often Should I Get an Oil Change? [Which Advice Is Best?]

Confused about how often your vehicle needs an oil change? Point yourself in the right direction by reading our quick guide.

AAMCO Lee's Summit  | 01/21/2020  | Auto Repair & Maintenance

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How Often Should I Get an Oil Change? [Which Advice Is Best?]

Second only to fuel, oil is a vital liquid your vehicle needs to function properly. Engines have a lot of internal moving parts. Oil lubricates these moving parts, which reduces friction and absorbs heat. Infrequent oil changes can cause dirt and sludge to build up in the engine. Over time, your vehicle's oil becomes contaminated and breaks down, making it less effective. Dirty or low oil can lead to overheating, extreme engine wear, or a complete engine breakdown. Knowing when to change your oil is crucial to maintaining your vehicle's overall health.

Which Advice Is Best?

Chances are, you've heard conflicting advice about when to change your vehicle's oil. Is it every 3,000 miles? Every 5,000 miles? Or should it be even longer?

Although a mechanic can give you an educated opinion, your owner's manual gives the most accurate answer based on your vehicle's make and model. So grab a cup of joe, find a comfortable place to sit, and crack open your vehicle owner’s manual that's been patiently waiting for you in the glove box.

The conventional wisdom for an oil change every 3,000 miles (about every three months) was sound advice in years past, but improvements in oil and engine technology have vastly improved since then. An updated rule of thumb would be between 5,000 - 7,500 miles for cars and trucks built within the last ten years.

Before you quote us on that, remember that driving patterns (highway vs. around town vs. weekend off-roading), exposure to particular climates and weather conditions, and your vehicle's engine type and age can all have a significant impact on suggested oil change intervals. Because of these variables, there is no definitive number of miles that applies to all vehicles.

Is It Bad to Get an Oil Change Every 3,000 Miles?

Generally speaking, getting oil changes before your oil needs to be changed won't harm your vehicle. At the same time, you don't need to wash your hands after touching every doorknob or run your coat through the laundry machine after each use. Sure, cleaning more is better than never cleaning, but there's a point at which it's unnecessary.

It's important to know the needs of your particular vehicle. Again, your vehicle's owner manual should be your most trusted source for this information.

Why Do Some Mechanic Shops Still Suggest Frequent Oil Changes?

An oil change is what brings people into the mechanic most often. That is, it's the regular checkup that motivates us to get work done outside of situations when our vehicle is in dire need of repair.

This frequency allows mechanics to check up on your vehicle while they're changing the oil. Air filters, breaks, lights, engine function, and more can be checked during a routine oil change. Many issues with vehicles creep up slowly, coming to our attention only when it's too late to do any preventative action on them.

It's in a mechanic's best interest to keep you safe, earn your trust, and make sure that your vehicle is running smoothly at all times. When you go to a mechanic for an oil change, and they let you know that you have a repair coming up, you save the stress of dealing with a broken-down car or truck in the future.

Newer Vehicles

Cars and trucks built within the last decade require less frequent oil changes. Engines are more efficient, oils are of higher quality, and oil changes aren't needed at the same rate that they were fifty years ago.

Instead, newer vehicles can reliably receive oil changes around every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. This number may increase if your car can take synthetic oil. The cost is slightly extra, but synthetic oil may have you running to the mechanic far less often.

Older Vehicles

If your car is used, it's difficult to know your ideal oil change interval on your own. It's useful to know a little bit about oil viscosity, your car's history, your driving habits, and, if possible, have some insight from the car's previous owner.

Your best bet is to take the vehicle to a mechanic for routine checkups. This way, you can regularly monitor the behavior of your car's oil.

While synthetic oil can increase the life of most cars, it may damage older cars, depending on their condition. Do some research on your car's make and model and then check with your mechanic about synthetic oil for cars built before 1990.

Want to Learn More?

We're here to help. Whether it's oil change intervals, what type of oil to use, or transmission basics, it's important to know the fundamentals of your vehicle.

Explore our site for more information to stay informed on relevant issues that impact you and your vehicle.

Visit Us Anytime!

During these frigid, tough winter months, bring your car into our shop to get checked over. This includes the brakes, front end, and suspension, along with any essential fluids that need to be topped off.

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