Like many other hassles, changing the engine oil is also a minor hassle for every vehicle owner. Many myths about the oil changes prevailed concerning oil type, engine’s condition (new or old engine), mileage, time interval, extreme operating conditions, etc.
However, we must have to change our engine’s oil on time with an accurate selection. If we don’t change it on time, it can be harmful to the vehicle.
Anyhow there should be a general rule that can be followed by every vehicle owner for engine oil changes. This blog post will try to solve this myth and find an accurate phenomenon for changing the engine oil.
Before discussing different factors that can impact oil change frequency, let’s discuss why we need to change engine oil. The oil in the engine is just like the blood in our body. Fresh engine oil performs more efficiently as compared to the old.
As the oil moves through the engine, it collects dirt, debris, and metal shavings from the cylinder and other particulates coursing through it. As it goes on, the oil becomes denser and tar-like, which causes its flow difficult within the engine.
On the other side, motor oil additives also boiled out over time that slowed down its performance.
As time passes, the metal particles obtained due to friction between the engine parts remain suspended in the oil and cause more and more wearing of the engine parts while running in them.
The contaminants (resulting from the wearing of metal parts) and water accumulate in the crankcase, thus producing sludge.
So if we don’t change the oil on time, the oil could cause harmful effects to the engine rather than protecting it. Even it can seize the engine. That’s why it is necessary to change the engine oil on time to maintain its efficiency regarding all aspects.
Oil change interval
An old concept prevailing in our society must change your engine oil at 3000 miles or after three months. However, this concept is totally out of date due to the advancement adopted in the automotive industry.
Long before, engine oil was produced only from crude oil without any advanced technology. There was no addition of additive agents as well as viscosity grades. Modern lubricants contain all such advancements that help the oil to maintain its efficiency for a long time.
The improved strength of advanced lubricants enables them to protect the engine from wearing even also at severe temperatures without compromising on fuel economy with low emissions.
The automobile companies are also now making their engines based on advanced technologies. The engine metal parts have been upgraded that enables the vehicles to get maximum output from engine oil. The gap between the moving metal parts also decreases (called tighter tolerance), allowing the lubricant to maintain the oil film more efficiently between engine parts.
The advanced engine oil types such as synthetic or semi-synthetic oil have also lessened early oil change fatigue for the vehicle owner.
So concerning all the above factors, with modern lubricants, the experts now recommend that change engine oil after 5000 to 7500 miles or after six months with conventional oil (mineral oil), while if you’re using synthetic oil, you can go for 10000 to 15000 miles or after twelve months. But we strongly advised you that always consult your owner’s manual to check the recommendations for engine oil changes.
It would be best to keep in mind some factors while noticing the intervals to change engine oil.
Factors affecting the oil changes interval
Different factors affect the frequency of oil changes, as enlisted below.
Types of engine oil
The time interval in addition to the mileage
Oil changes in severe conditions
Usually short miles driving (less than 10 miles)
Sustained stop-and-go driving condition
Hot, cold, or dusty climates
Carrying heavy loads or towing a trailer
We will discuss them individually and try to solve the mystery behind oil change for our readers.
1. Types of engine oil
Different types of engine oil have various recommendations for oil changes. You have to change the conventional oil (made of crude oil) early than a full synthetic oil produced in the lab under controlled conditions. Full synthetic oil contains extra additive packages that enable it to perform well for a long time.
If you’re using conventional oil, you may go for 5000 to 7500 miles during services. But if you are using synthetic oil, you can go as high as 10000 to 15000 miles. Here, another question arises: could I use synthetic engine oil instead of conventional to maximize my oil change frequency. The answer is NO. It is not as simple as it looks.
Another misconception found in our society is what kind of engine oil we should add to our vehicle. For that purpose, we also publish another article in which we try our best to solve this misconception thoroughly. But here, in general, we strongly recommend you that always consult your owner’s manual to know about the recommended engine oil type precisely for your vehicle.
You don’t need to bother with synthetic oil if there is no recommendation in your owner’s manual because it is just a wastage of money due to the very high price of synthetic oil compared to conventional oil. Again we recommend you that consult the owner’s manual to know about the engine oil type and oil change intervals for your vehicle.
2. The time interval in addition to the mileage
There is a common question asked by many people: why is there a time interval for oil changes in addition to the mileage interval?
As the engine oil operates, its quality degrades and breaks down with time. The longer it remained in the engine, the longer it performs and lubricates the engine parts. Ultimately the viscosity power and other additive packages strength turn down.
Even if the mileage interval is not reached to the recommended miles, as long as the oil sits in the engine, it loses its viscosity and becomes less effective to lubricate the engine component properly.
Thus with the mileage interval, there is also a recommendation regarding the time interval for oil changes. Expert says that even if you’re not reaching the recommended mileage interval, it’s always better to change your engine oil twice a year.
The primary consideration in the time interval is the moisture level that accumulates in your engine with time. When you don’t drive your vehicle more frequently for longer distances, this moisture level wouldn’t burn off properly and form sludges. On the other hand, engine oil’s viscosity degrades with time, making it less effective to lubricate the engine components properly. Eventually, this phenomenon shortens engine life.
The advanced composition of synthetic oil enables it to break down more slowly, which means you can probably find extra compensation in the time interval for oil changes with synthetic oil. But still, it would also break down like any other oil. If the oil gets too old and degraded very much, it causes severe sludges in the engine and completely blocks the entire oil flow. That’s why in the case of synthetic oil, it is recommended better to change it also after 12 months.
3. Oil changes in severe conditions
What if someone says why expert recommends oil changes even at the interval of 1000 miles instead of 3000 miles. The answer is simple; it all depends on your driving situation.
Mainly you drive your car under two maintenance schedules. One is ‘normal’ through which you follow the commonly recommended oil change interval as given above.
The second category, known as ‘severe condition,’ involves driving your car under one or more following situations. If you’re driving in any of these circumstances, it’s better to keep your oil changes at the interval of 1000 to 3000 miles for older vehicles. While for new vehicles, consult your owner’s manual to check the recommended oil change interval for severe conditions.
Remember, your owner’s manual always has the recommended instructions for both ‘normal’ and ‘severe’ maintenance schedules. Always follow those given instructions according to your prevailing situation, as discussed below.
Following are the severe conditions:
Usually short miles driving (less than 10 miles)
When you drive your car mostly on short and unsteady tours (less than 10 miles) like within the city or rush areas, your engine would not be getting hot enough to boil off the condensation that accumulates in it. It results in the early break down of the engine oil.
“The worst type of driving for oil life is short distances below highway speeds,” says David Waits, owner of Japanese Automotive Service in Hilliard, Ohio. “Five thousand miles on the highway in five months is better than 1,500 miles of in-town driving in five months.”
Never getting the engine hot enough to boil off the engine’s condensation is also considered a ‘severe’ condition. It takes almost 10 miles of steady drive like on the highway to warm up the engine for proper boiling off the condensations. Thus, if your tours are rare over the 10 miles, you have to follow the “severe service schedule.”
Consistent stop-and-start driving
Most of the wear and tear on the engine occurs at the ignition point when you start your vehicle. When you drive your car mostly within the city or in rushy places or parked it frequently, it means you face a lot of stop-and-start situations. The wearing particles in the form of debris resulting from again and again ignition accumulate in the crankcase that breaks down the engine oil and lowered its efficiency fast.
So if you are facing stop-and-start driving situations consistently, you have to adopt the “severe service schedule.”
Hot, cold, or dusty climates
If you drive in hot or cold areas, your engine oil can degrade due to extreme climatic conditions. As you know, the engine oil has to operate in both hot and cold climatic conditions.
Similarly, when a car drives in hot weather, it would deteriorate the oil’s composition early due to operating the engine at a very high temperature.
Synthetic oil can operate efficiently both in cold or hot climatic conditions due to its viscosity grades. However, for each oil, in fact, every substance must have a threshold level of performance.
Besides, a car driven in a dusty climate would contaminate the engine oil earlier than others.
That’s why if you drive your vehicle in hot, cold or dusty climatic condition, must consult your owner’s manual concerning the “severe service schedule.”
Carrying heavy loads or towing a trailer
The vehicles that used to carry heavy loads or for the towing process also need earlier oil changes. When a vehicle carries heavy loads, it exerts more pressure on the engine seals, and the oil can gets leakage due to breakage of seals.
Semi-synthetic (synthetic-blend) engine oil is recommended for these heavy vehicles due to some special additives present in it, such as anti-wear agents. These additives agents protect the engine’s seals. However, it is recommended to follow the “severe service schedule” and get oil changes early in heavy loads carrying vehicles such as pick up and trucks.
In short, if your driving condition falls in any of the above severe categories, you must follow the “severe service schedule” for oil changes given in your owner’s manual. But if you’re driving in ‘normal conditions,’ there is no need to change your engine oil earlier because it will not affect oil efficiency or fuel economy but must affect your hard-earned money.
Don’t scare by the windshield oil reminder sticker.
Another traping method through which many drivers compels to change their engine oil at the interval of 3000 miles is the windshield oil reminder sticker. The service boy misguides us by wrongly listing the next service interval according to 3000 miles on the sticker and paste it in front of our eyes.
Surprisingly it is a handy tool that plays a mind game with us. Whenever we sit in our car, the windshield oil reminder sticker in front of our eyes scared our mind to change the oil at the interval of 3000 miles.
Most of us never bother to read the owner’s manual and always follow the wrongly recommended oil change interval from windshield stickers. So it’s time to rip that sticker and follow the oil changes recommendation from the owner’s manual.
What does that dashboard light mean?
In some new cars, a built-in oil life monitoring system indicates the condition of engine oil. This gadget algorithm calculates oil life by tracking your driving routines such as speed, cold starts, idling hours, rush hours, parking time, etc.
Keep in mind; this oil life monitoring system is calibrated according to the recommended oil type in the owner’s manual. Service alert is displayed as a light indicator on the dashboard and alerts you – it’s time to change your oil.
In some cars, it also shows the remaining oil life in percentage. When it appears, it’s better to change the engine oil as soon as possible, but don’t be afraid of changing it urgently.
The oil monitoring light is much different from the red oil pressure light that warns you about oil unavailability to the engine when it goes down or finished. It also indicates the low oil pressure or blockage of oil in the engine. It displayed when you start the engine or while driving or idling. When it appears, don’t dare to drive your car anymore and consult the mechanic.
How Long Can I Go Without an Oil Change?
Concerning all the above factors, you can analyze the importance of oil changes. But changing the engine oil more frequently is also not a good practice.
We believe that life is hectic nowadays, and it is tough to find out the time for matters like these. Thanks to the manufacturer’s engineers for producing long-life engine oil such as synthetic that have lessened the fatigue of early oil changes. Once the odometer light is alarmed, the oil would not get bad enough to change it immediately, but it’s better to change it as soon as possible, even if you’re using synthetic oil.
Disadvantages of oil changes more frequently
It’s always better to keep tracking your miles coverage in order to get maximum efficiency, but changing the engine oil more frequently rather than the recommendation never proves beneficial for any vehicle. However, it will affect your hard-earned money.
Steve Mazor, manager of American Automobile Association’s Research Center, said that more-frequent-than-necessary oil changes would not “gain any additional life for your engine or any improved fuel economy.” He added, “In reality, it will make little or no difference to the performance of the vehicle.”
In reality, the service stations’ instructions for early oil changes help them grow their business. The more you go to them for oil changes, the more they earn from you.
Early oil changes not improve your engine efficiency nor harm it, but it would be a waste of your money, time, as well as natural resources. Whenever you throw away the oil that is still useable causes environmental pollution.
First, be careful about using the oil regarding the oil changes interval and get maximum output from it as recommended. After that, whenever you go for oil changes, be sure to recycle it properly to reduce environmental pollution.
Changing engine oil more frequently would not boost up engine performance nor causes any harmful effect to it. It’s just a wastage of your money, time, and resources.
So never follow the outdated prevailing myth about oil changes, i.e., after 3000 miles or three months. Consult your owner’s manual and check the recommendations of oil changes for your vehicle concerning ‘normal’ or ‘severe service schedules.’
Generally, with conventional oil, change engine oil after 5000 to 7500 miles or after six months. But if you’re using synthetic oil, you can go for 10000 to 15000 miles or after one year.