Car Service Basics: How Often Should I Change Car Oil?

change car oilAbout a quarter of Americans feel like they’re taking a risk every time they get on the road.


Because their car is in current need of repairs or isn’t in good condition anymore. A lot of these cars ended up this way because many drivers don’t understand basic car maintenance.

And getting an oil change is one of those car care tasks people tend to overlook.

So how often should you change car oil? We’ve put together this guide to help answer that question.

Let’s get started!

How Often Should You Change Your Car’s Oil?

Not as often as you might think.

You’ve probably heard the recommendation that you should change your oil every 3,000 miles. But for the more technologically advanced cars of today, that’s a little too often. Most manufacturers recommend changing your car’s oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles instead.

Granted, you won’t do any harm to your car if you change your oil more often than you should. You’ll just have to be willing to spend a bit of extra money on your car.

Why Changing Your Car’s Oil Is Important

The oil in your car never “goes bad,” but things like burn fuel or other debris will contaminate it over time. This causes it to lose efficiency and put extra strain on the engine.

If you leave dirty oil alone, the contaminates will continue to build up, creating a sludgy mess inside the engine of your car. Instead of lubricating your engine, the dirty oil can cause costly repairs instead.

You should always change your oil as soon as you reach your correct mileage mark.

Check the Owner’s Manual

But finding the correct mileage can be difficult.

Start by looking in the owner’s manual. You’ll be able to find a recommended mileage for your exact make and model inside.

However, it really comes down to the car you drive, the type of oil you use, and your driving habits. Here’s a guide of how often you should change your car’s oil based on how often (and in what condition) you drive your car.

When to Change Your Oil Every 1,000 Miles

If 3,000 miles is too often to change your car’s oil, why would any car need an oil change after 1,000 miles?

Again, it depends on the circumstances.

The oil in your car will break down faster if you only drive short distances at a time (about 10 miles or less).

Since you aren’t in the car very long, your engine doesn’t get hot enough to boil off any condensation that’s gathered in the system. This is especially true if you drive those short distances at a low speed.

But on top of that, your car’s engine gets most of its wear and tear when you start your car. If you’re only driving short distances, your driving will put a lot of strain on the engine.

Changing the oil every 1,000 miles (or once every six months if you don’t reach that mileage) will help protect your engine from damage.

When to Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles

You should consider changing your oil every 3,000 miles if you drive longer distances but still don’t pick up much speed.

Let’s say you have a 30-minute commute to work every day. Stop and go traffic can force you to drive the whole way there and back at low speeds, which is hard on your engine.

In this case, you’ll want to change your oil more often than many manufacturers recommend to ensure your engine stays in good condition.

Other driving conditions that might require more frequent oil changes include the following:

  • Idling in traffic
  • Off-roading
  • Regular towing
  • Extreme heat or cold conditions

You should also stick with the 3,000-mile rule if you drive an old car. Since they’re already worn down, old cars can contaminate oil faster than normal.

When to Change Your Oil Every 5,000 to 7,500 Miles

If you have average driving habits, you can wait until you reach 5,000 to 7,500 miles to change your car’s oil.

Average driving habits mean you drive more than 10-mile distances and reach steady, high speeds while on the road. Because of this, most people can follow the 5,000 to 7,500-mile rule.

When to Change Your Oil Every 10,000 Miles

Synthetic oil performs better than normal car oil, which means it lasts longer. So if your car uses synthetic oil, you don’t have to worry about changing it until you reach the 10,000-mile mark.

It’s Better to Be Safe Than Sorry

If you’re concerned about the quality of your car’s oil—even if you haven’t reached your mile limit, it’s better to take your car in for an oil change anyway.

Remember, you won’t hurt your car’s engine if you change your oil too soon. In fact, it’s better to change your oil more often than you need to instead of putting it off.

Understanding the Basics: How Often Should I Change Car Oil?

So how often should you change car oil?

It depends on how you drive your car and what type of oil you use.

If you have an old car or sit in a lot of stop-and-go traffic, you should change your oil every 3,000 miles or less. But most cars can drive 5,000 to 7,500 miles before you have to think about your oil.

Want to check for the recommended mileage in your owner’s manual? Don’t panic if you can’t find the book.

Download your car manual instead! Our selection includes a variety of brands such as Pontiac owners manuals and more!