How Often Do You Need to Change Engine Oil?

As a car owner, you definitely know that at some point, you need to change engine oil, but how often?

Well, let’s discuss that below.

Engine oil is essential for the proper functioning of your car, as it lubricates, cools, and cleans the engine components.

However, over time, oil becomes contaminated with dirt, dust, metal particles, and other impurities that reduce its effectiveness and may cause engine damage.

Therefore, it is important to change your engine oil regularly, but how often should you need to change engine oil?

The answer depends on several factors, such as the type of oil, the age and condition of your car, your driving habits, and the environmental conditions.

In this article, we will explain the benefits of changing your engine oil, the signs that indicate your oil needs to be changed, and the recommended oil change intervals for different types of vehicles.

An image of Change engine oil Lights on a car dashboard
Change Engine Oil Lights
Source: cottman

How Often Should You Change Your Engine Oil?

The frequency of changing your engine oil depends on how old your car is, what kind of oil you use, and how you drive.

In the past, people used to change engine oil every 3,000 miles, but now most engines can run longer with modern oils, from 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

In addition, some cars with full-synthetic motor oil can go up to 15,000 miles without needing an oil change!

The color of the oil is not a reliable indicator of its quality, so you should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for oil changes.

Oil Change Intervals for Older Cars

Older vehicles usually follow mileage-based oil change schedules and come with two maintenance plans:

  1. one for regular driving conditions and
  2. another for “severe service” usage.

The second category includes situations such as:

  • Short trips (5 miles or less)
  • Extreme climates (hot, cold, or dusty)
  • Continuous stop-and-go driving
  • Carrying heavy loads or towing

If your car falls under the severe service category as per your owner’s manual, stick to the more frequent maintenance schedule.

However, for normal driving conditions, be cautious about spending money on unnecessary oil changes and maintenance that your car may not require or benefit from.

An image of a technician performing an oil change
How often do you need an oil change?
Source: cadillacofturnersville

Oil Change Intervals for Modern Cars

Newer cars often come equipped with advanced oil-life monitoring systems that automatically assess when to change engine oil and alerts you through the instrument panel.

While earlier systems were based on time and mileage, current designs analyze the actual operating conditions of the vehicle to determine when the oil is likely to degrade.

Many newer car manuals no longer include “severe service” recommendations, as the oil-life monitoring system adjusts the oil change interval based on detected heavy-duty usage.

After an oil change, the service technician should reset the oil-life monitoring system.

However, if you perform your own oil changes, refer to the vehicle’s manufacturer manual for instructions on how to reset the system.

With the longer intervals between oil changes in newer engines, it’s crucial to check the oil level monthly and add more if necessary.

Some engines may use less than a quart of oil between changes, while others might consume a quart every 600 to 700 miles.

Regularly maintaining proper oil levels is essential to prevent costly repairs, as engine wear or damage caused by low oil levels may not be covered by your new-car warranty.

If you don’t drive many miles, most automakers recommend an oil change every 12 months, even if the maintenance reminder hasn’t activated.

Understanding Your Dashboard Lights

Monitoring your mileage between oil changes is crucial.

Modern cars simplify this with dash indicators as part of the oil life monitoring system.

When the light signals, it’s advisable to schedule an oil change promptly, though not always urgent.

Distinguish this light from the oil pressure warning, which demands immediate attention to prevent engine damage.

Regularly check your oil level; low levels may indicate leaks or burning.

Good oil is clear brown-black, but color alone doesn’t determine oil life. Murky or milky oil may signal a change or engine issues.

For cars with oil monitoring systems, refer to the manual, as dipsticks may be absent.

If unsure about oil change frequency or checking, consult your owner’s manual for engine longevity.


Changing your engine oil regularly is one of the best ways to maintain your car’s performance and extend its lifespan.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should change your oil, as it depends on various factors such as your car’s age, type of oil, driving habits, and environmental conditions.

To find out the optimal oil change interval for your car, you should consult your owner’s manual, check your oil life monitoring system, or use an online oil change calculator.

By following these tips, you can keep your engine running smoothly and efficiently, and save money on unnecessary oil changes.

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