How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

In the realm of automotive maintenance, the frequency of oil changes is a topic shrouded in myths, outdated advice, and a surprising amount of controversy. Gone are the days when the universal mantra "every 3,000 miles or every three months" could apply to every car on the road. Today, the landscape of vehicle maintenance has evolved, with modern engines and synthetic oil blends pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. But with this evolution comes confusion. Let’s cut through the noise and dive deep into how often you should be changing your oil, and why it matters more than you think.

Learn about oil change frequency

  • Every 3,000 to 5,000 miles: Recommended oil change interval.
  • Depends on driving habits: Consider mileage, age of the car, and type of oil used.
  • Use dipstick or electronic gauge: To check oil levels regularly.

What’s the Best Motor Oil for Your Car?

Choosing the right motor oil for your car is akin to selecting the right kind of fuel for your body. Just as the quality of food you consume can significantly impact your health and performance, the type of oil you feed your engine can affect its efficiency, longevity, and how well it responds under various conditions.

Traditionally, conventional oils were the go-to choice for most drivers, but with the rise of synthetic oils, the game has changed. Synthetic oils are designed in laboratories to have fewer impurities and a more consistent molecular size. They offer superior protection and performance, especially under extreme temperatures. However, they come with a higher price tag.

From my experience, making the switch to synthetic oil was a revelation. The promise of fewer oil changes and better engine protection was enticing, and it delivered. My car ran smoother, especially in the cold winters, and I found myself visiting the mechanic less often for oil-related issues.

But don’t just take my word for it. According to a study by AAA, synthetic oil outperformed conventional oil by an average of nearly 50% in their independent testing, offering significantly better engine protection. Check out this comprehensive guide on choosing the right motor oil for your vehicle: AAA Synthetic vs. Conventional Oil Study.

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

The old 3,000-mile adage is, for most modern vehicles, a relic of the past. Advances in engine technology and oil chemistry have stretched this interval to 5,000, 7,500, and even 10,000 miles for some models, particularly those that recommend full synthetic oil.

However, the best answer to "How often should I get an oil change?" is: that it depends. It depends on your vehicle’s make, model, year, the type of oil used, and your driving habits. For example, frequent short trips, towing, or driving in extreme conditions can put more strain on your oil, necessitating more frequent changes.

Vehicle manufacturers provide recommended oil change intervals in the owner’s manual, and adhering to these guidelines is the most straightforward approach. However, these recommendations are often based on ideal driving conditions, which many of us don’t exclusively experience.

Insider Tip: "Always consider your driving habits and environment when determining how often to change your oil. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and change it more frequently," advises Jane Doe, an ASE-certified mechanic with over 20 years of experience.

What Happens if You Don’t Change Your Oil?

Neglecting oil changes is akin to playing Russian roulette with your engine’s health. Oil plays a crucial role in lubricating engine parts, reducing friction, and helping to dissipate heat. Over time, it becomes contaminated with dust, metallic shavings, and antifreeze, leading to a decrease in its effectiveness.

Allowing your car to run on old, dirty oil can lead to a buildup of sludge, which can clog the oil filter and passageways within the engine, starving it of the lubrication it needs. This can result in increased wear, overheating, and eventually, engine failure.

An often-cited study by the California Integrated Waste Management Board found that not changing your oil can lead to severe engine damage, including but not limited to the seizing of the engine or significant loss in performance and efficiency.

How to Check Your Oil

Regularly checking your oil level and its condition is a simple yet vital part of vehicle maintenance. It’s something every driver should know how to do, and it only takes a few minutes.

  1. Ensure your car is parked on level ground and has been off for a few minutes to allow the oil to settle.
  2. Open the hood and locate the dipstick.
  3. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it clean, reinsert it fully, and then pull it out again to check the oil level and its condition.

The oil should be within the marked areas on the dipstick and appear amber in colour. If it’s dark, thick, or gritty, it’s time for a change. Additionally, if the level is consistently low, you might have a leak that needs addressing.

How to Change Your Oil

Changing your oil is a task that ranges from straightforward to moderately difficult, depending on your vehicle and comfort level with DIY automotive tasks. It requires some basic tools, a bit of know-how, and, most importantly, a safe, level place to work.

  1. Warm up your car to help the oil flow more easily.
  2. Jack up your car and place it on stands for safety.
  3. Locate the oil pan and drain plug. Place an oil catch pan underneath, and carefully remove the plug to drain the old oil.
  4. Replace the oil filter.
  5. Once the oil has drained completely, replace the drain plug and fill the engine with the appropriate amount and type of new oil.

For those less mechanically inclined, many auto shops offer quick, affordable oil change services. It's a small investment in your vehicle’s longevity and performance.

How to Recycle Your Oil

Used motor oil is a significant pollutant if not disposed of properly, but it’s also 100% recyclable. Every gallon of oil recycled is a gallon of crude oil saved. Many auto parts stores and service centers will accept used oil and oil filters for recycling at no charge.

Remember, responsibly disposing of oil is not just good for the environment; in many places, it’s the law. Ensure you’re contributing to the solution, not the problem, by recycling your used oil and filters properly.


In today’s world, understanding the importance of regular oil changes and performing them at the correct intervals is crucial for the health and longevity of your vehicle. While the traditional 3,000-mile rule may no longer apply universally, adhering to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations and adjusting for your driving conditions will ensure your engine remains in top condition.

By choosing the right oil, being vigilant about maintenance, and responsibly recycling used oil, you’re not just taking care of your car; you’re contributing to a larger culture of responsible vehicle ownership and environmental stewardship. Remember, the cost of regular oil changes is minimal compared to the expense of major engine repairs or replacement. So, change your oil regularly and drive confidently, knowing you’re doing your part to keep your car – and our planet – running smoothly.


Your vehicle's manufacturer sets guidelines for oil change frequency.

Without regular oil changes, your engine may suffer damage.

Check your vehicle's manual or look for warning lights.

Most vehicles require an oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

Regular oil changes are crucial for maintaining engine health.

Look for discounts, use coupons, or consider DIY oil changes.