Is it Really Necessary to Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles?

May 21

If you’re like ninety-percent of us with cars, getting an oil change is the last thing on your mind.  So when you look up one day and see that pesky little sticker in the corner of your window that says you are 1,000 miles over, you might panic.

But is that old adage that “you need to change your car’s oil every 3,000 miles” really correct?

Well, yes and no.Man changes oil with son

The motors of cars built in the seventies and early eighties (or before!) were much less efficient than cars today, and many of them really did need to have their oil changed every 3,000 miles.  However, modern vehicles are much more efficient and cleaner running.  As a reflection of this, the frequency with which you need to change your oil has gone down.  A quick check of your vehicle’s owner’s manual will often reveal that your manufacturer actually recommends that you change your oil every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

Of course, a lot of this depends on how you drive your car.  If you drive your car mainly on freeways, you probably won’t need to change your oil very frequently.  However, if you drive your car around town and put it through a lot of stop-and-go traffic, you’ll likely have to take it in more often for oil changes.

So how do you tell when you need to change your oil?

A good deal of today’s cars are equipped with sensors that monitor the quality of engine oil and have a sensor that turns on when the oil quality degrades and needs to be changed.

If your car doesn’t have one of these sensors, it’s easy enough to check it yourself with your dipstick (which is not a euphemism for getting your brother-in-law to do it).  All you have to do is pop the hood, pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean with an old rag, insert it into your engine and pull it out again and look at the color of the oil.  When oil is Car Enginenew and functional, it’s usually a clear amber color.  As it breaks down, it turns dark and blackish.  Check your oil at the 3,000 and 5,000 mile mark (and every 500 miles beyond this) to see if it’s still good.  If you do this over several cycles of oil changes, you will get a general sense over time of when you generally need to change your oil.

Another thing that affects how frequently you need to get an oil change is the quality of the oil you use.  Even the worst oil today is better than the oil on the market twenty years ago, so it generally keeps cars running cleaner longer.  Always use oil of the correct weight recommended by your car’s manufacturer.  Some synthetic oils can also be used that last much longer without having to be changed out; however it’s important to consult with your car’s manual to see if a one is suitable for your particular engine.

When you are getting your oil changed, make sure to change out your air filter as well.  If you don’t, the tiny particles that have built up in the filter over time can significantly lower your engine’s overall performance.

Although most modern cars only need an oil change every 5,000 miles or more, you should always pay attention to how your vehicle is running and make sure it gets an oil change when it does need it.

Remember that a little attention today can save you from a lot of auto repair bills tomorrow!

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