How often should I change my oil?

Everyone in our industry says to change your oil every 7,500 miles unless you drive in dirty or dusty conditions, extremely hot or cold climates, you do a lot of stop and go driving or you pull a trailer. Well, we certainly fall squarely into 3 of the four categories so it would appear that we fall into the optional category, the 3,000 mile oil change interval. Most technicians want to see their customers develop a 3,000 mile habit. It's not uncommon for us to see a car 2-3,000 miles over it's due date. While most car don't suffer any significant damage from extending the oil change interval, there is a down side.

Most cars are a quart low at the 3,000 mile mark. If the driver doesn't add a quart, the engines oil consumption will begin to accelerate, so at the 5,000 mile mark when the cars finally brought in for service, it could be 2.5 or so quarts low on oil. I can't tell you how many $4,000 to 8,000 engines we've replaced because the engine was run low on oil. In almost every case the door sticker showed the car was past due for an oil change.

If you're in the habit of changing your oil regularly, if you drive long distances (15+ miles) at least 50% of the time, if the dipstick, dipstick tube and oil cap are very clean and show no signs of sludge build up maybe you should consider extending your oil change intervals 5,000 miles to 7,500 miles or so.

I and others believe that many of us change our oil too often. When I hear or speak to someone who changes their oil every 2,000 miles, I cringe. That habit as well as the one where people change the oil the very first time at the 500 mile mark are ones that need to be broken. The oil in your brand new car is always a very good oil selected by the manufacturer to provide you maximum protection for the first 3,000 miles. Don't take it out early 'cause Uncle Herbert told you to.

I'll admit that I change my oil every 7,500 miles or so. I fall into the above categories and I check my oil level at every fill up. I know the inside of my engine is clean, I know my cooling system is working perfectly, I know that an extended oil change interval is going to benefit my pocket book and won't create any negative effect on my engine. Whatever interval you decide, make it no less than 3,000 miles and no more than 7,500 miles.

Some newer model cars allow the computer to tell you when to change your oil and those intervals are based on internal software. Your computer logs how many miles at this rpm and speed, how many long and short trips, how many times and for how long did the engine reach operating temperature, etc.

Some newer cars claim to allow 10,000 and 15,000 mile intervals. I am in no position to argue with them. However, this idea that your car will go that far after an oil change and live a long life is doubtful for this reason. Who checks their oil anymore? I predict that many folks will cause terminal engine damage by thinking their car will go 10,000 miles without any intervention by them.

We already know today that a V-6 GM car will go 11,500 miles with only the oil that the factory put in the car. We had a salesman go that long in his company car before the engine seized up. He said he thought the engine was sealed.

What should be done during an oil change?

Part of the lube charge on a lube, oil and filter, is to inspect all of the belts and hoses. All of the tires should be inflated to 35 psi, and all fluids be topped off. The entire top and bottom of the car should be closely examined for loose or missing bolts, bent or broken brackets, leaks of any kind from any place and any problem that may exist that may cause a breakdown or a bigger repair bill later.

For the same reason you go to a doctor and not a plumber for a thorough physical, you should take your car to an expert for the same type of thorough inspection that should be performed during your oil change. Make sure the technician who changes your oil has the knowledge to identify any potential problems that are visible to the experienced eye. All things being equal, including the price of most oil changes, it is in your best interest to find the best technician in town to change your oil because that's exactly the place the symptoms (leaks, noises) for the big repair bills are first obvious.

You should expect to pay between $35 and $50 for a lube, oil and filter performed by a well seasoned Technician using conventional oil. A blended oil or commonly called a semi-synthetic, will be about $10 more and a full synthetic will total about $75-100.

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