Ever had the question: should you change your oil based on time or mileage? Wonder no more. Get your answers here!
Oil changes are one of the most base-line routine maintenance services that you perform for your car. After an oil change you typically receive a sticker to put in the top left corner of your windshield. This sticker has two numbers on it, the date of your next service and the mileage at which you should get another.
With two different timelines you may find yourself wondering: should you change your oil based on time or mileage?
In this post we’ll explore the importance of oil to your engine and help to answer this question.
Why Oil Changes are Necessary
Motor oil is important for cooling, cleaning, and protecting your engine. Motor oil helps remove dirt and grime in the engine, cools components, and helps lubricate moving parts to reduce wear within the engine. Over time, oil can degrade, becoming less effective at lubricating parts. With use, oil levels go down. Running on low oil can have serious consequences for your engine. Oil changes help to replenish your oil supply and keep everything in top working order.
Typically, manufactures recommend getting an oil change 2-3 times a year (roughly every three to six months). This timeline is important to adhere to despite how frequently the car is being driven. Oil in vehicles that are in storage can still break-down over time. If it isn’t changed, there can be issues with the engine once that vehicle is put back into use.
As far as mileage, there is a bit of controversy. In the past, auto companies recommended getting an oil change done every 3,000 miles. Today, things have changed. With some modern oils these maintenance timelines have been pushed back to anywhere between 5,000 and 7,000 miles. For cars that run off of synthetic oil, this timeline can be pushed back even farther to 10,000 to 15,000 between changes.
Generally speaking, it’s best to follow the maintenance schedules given to you in your owner’s manual and prescribed by a local, trusted technician.
But even with all this information the issue remains: should you change your oil based on time or mileage?
Should You Change Your Oil Based on Time or Mileage?
The best course of action for knowing when to change your oil is a “whatever comes first” approach. For vehicles that see more use and put on mileage quickly, it’s important to make sure to get a timely oil change, even if it’s been less than 6 months. This is especially true for long commuters or those who have just gotten back from a long road trip.
Checking Your Oil
If you suspect that your oil is running low or has degraded to the point that it’s ineffective you can always check your oil.
You’ll need a paper towel or cloth.
When checking your oil it’s always best to wait until your car has cooled. Ideally, you should check it when the car has been parked with the engine off for at least 20 minutes.
Pop the hood and locate the dipstick. Usually, it’ll be identifiable by a red or black circular ring.
Pull the dipstick out. With your cloth or paper towel, gently clean off any oil. Replace the dipstick. Pull it out again. When you take it out again, take note of the oil level, as well as the color and consistency of the oil. Most dipsticks have lines that indicate low, high, and adequate oil levels. If your oil is low, it may be time for an oil change.
Also take note of the color and consistency. Good motor oil is usually an amber color that resembles cooking oil. Oil that’s been polluted by grit and grime eventually becomes a muddied brown, with thick particles in it.
Planning a summer get away? Check out our Summer Weather Vehicle Maintenance Checklist to get your car in top shape!
Related reading: Oil Change Time Vs Mileage (All Your Need to Know!)