If you’ve ever asked someone, like your grandfather or a co-worker, how often the oil on your car should be changed, you might have heard two different answers.

The old standard on oil changes used to be every 3,000 miles or 6 months. Today, however, you might hear everything from 7,000 to 15,000 miles to 25,000 miles! Why the difference in recommendations? Can you really go 15,000 miles between oil changes?

You may be thinking that fewer oil changes mean less money out of your pocket and fewer trips to the auto repair shop. Right? Well, yes and no. Obviously fewer oil changes would save your wallet a few bucks. However, in our experience, changing your oil every 7,000 miles or more will cost you far more in the long run. The associated repairs and inconvenience will far outweigh anything you saved on oil changes.

The Facts That Matter

When it comes to changing your oil, the frequency will depend on several factors:

  • The type of oil you’re using.
  • Your driving habits. (Car been parked for 2 months?)
  • Road/traffic conditions.
  • The age and mileage of your vehicle.

Let’s talk about these items in a little more detail.

The Type of Oil You are Using

The oil that’s in your engine is the biggest factor in determining how often you need an oil change. At Bockman’s Auto Care, we generally recommend the following:

  • Conventional Oil – Every 3,500 miles or every 4 months, whichever comes first.
  • Synthetic Oil or Synthetic Oil Blends – Every 5,000 miles or every 6 months, whichever comes first.

For those of you with newer cars, many carmakers now recommend or require synthetic engine oil. Even though synthetic oil costs more, we advise sticking with it if that’s how the car left the factory. It’s not worth risking engine damage to save a few bucks with conventional oil.

Similarly, if your vehicle came from the factory with conventional oil, you may benefit from synthetic oil if you frequently push your vehicle past the recommended oil change interval, use your vehicle for heavy-duty purposes like plowing or towing, or drive regularly in stop-and-go traffic.

Car Parked for 2 Months During Stay-at-Home Orders?

For most of us, our vehicles have been sitting in the garage literally collecting dust these past 2 months. You may think it’s OK to push the oil change off because, after all, you haven’t been driving anywhere, except maybe to the grocery store.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Car manufacturers design their cars to be driven, not parked in a garage. When you drive your car less than 10 miles at a time, the oil doesn’t get hot enough to burn off the condensation that has built up in the crankcase. This creates a disgusting compound inside the motor called sludge. If the sludge isn’t burned off, it will clog darn near everything it comes into contact with.

One more fact about engine oil and sludge: Many newer vehicles use a system that is called Variable Valve Timing, or VVT. This is an amazing technology that allows the motor to alter the timing of the valves, improving gas mileage and performance. The solenoid in charge of all this is called, of course, the variable valve timing solenoid. Without getting too technical, this part works on oil pressure. Little or no oil pressure because of dirty oil or sludge means this valve will not be able to work properly.

For all these reasons, we recommend looking at the date on your oil sticker and, if you’re due, don’t let it slide another 2-3 months simply because the car has been sitting.

The Age of Your Vehicle

Believe it or not, the age of your car or SUV also makes a difference for how often you need to change the oil.

Let’s face it: Older cars have dirtier everything, and that includes inside the motor where you can’t see it. While you might not have a VVT system, you can keep the engine running for 200k miles simply by changing the oil on a regular basis.

In addition, older cars are like older humans: They need more TLC. When the mechanic is changing your oil, they can also inspect basic maintenance items and make you aware of urgent repair needs, such as bulging radiator hoses, leaking gaskets, or cracked drive belts.

You might be thinking that this is exactly why you want to avoid frequent oil changes: They end up costing you more! But think about the convenience and cost of changing that cracked drivebelt while you’re getting an oil change vs. being stranded at midnight on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.

The Mileage on the Odometer

Similar to what we talked about regarding the age of your car, as you rack up the miles, the oil needs of your vehicle might change.

As the mileage increases, those tight spaces in between engine parts, called tolerances, become wider and wider. This can allow motor oil to go where you don’t want it to go. If your vehicle was using 5W20, by the time it hits 200,000 miles, it might be time to start using some 10W50. At Bockman’s, we can advise you on the best oil for your vehicle, engine and mileage.

The Dirty Truth

As you can see, changing the oil is a bit more complicated than simply following the recommended schedule in your owner’s manual.

When you want solid, reliable answers about how often you should change the oil in your car and which oil would work best for your driving habits, you need a trustworthy source, such as the team here at Bockman’s Auto Care.

We will look after your car like it’s our own, so you never have to worry about being given poor advice. Bring your questions or concerns to Bockman’s. We want to help you take the best possible care of your car.