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How Often Should I Get an Oil Change?

Oil dipstick and oil cap

If you’re like most car owners, you’ve probably found yourself wondering, “How often should I get an oil change?” Well, it depends on the type of car you have along with how and where you drive. Here are some tips on how often you need to change your oil and what happens if you wait too long.

Why Do I Need to Change Engine Oil?

The oil in your car is essential for keeping your car running smoothly. Its dual purpose is to lubricate all those metal parts and prevent overheating. Over time, your oil ages and becomes less effective. Ignore it for too long and you risk damaging your car when oil ceases to perform.

How Often Should I Get an Oil Change?Oil Cap

There isn’t one answer to this question because not all vehicles are the same. Even different conditions can alter the frequency with which you need to change your oil.

The best place to start when determining how often to change your engine oil is the owner’s manual. Every manufacturer has recommended service intervals for its vehicles that include how frequently to change your oil. That interval can be as short as 3,000 miles, although many manufacturers recommend higher intervals like 5,000 miles. That recommended amount is the maximum number of miles you should drive between oil changes.

It’s also essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the type of oil used. There’s no need to use a more expensive synthetic oil unless it’s recommended. While a synthetic oil can help prolong the life of your engine — as it breaks down less easily than conventional oil — that doesn’t mean you can simply extend the time between oil changes by making the switch. When in doubt, go by the manufacturer’s recommendations.

However, some circumstances could necessitate earlier oil changes. If you drive in a dirty environment, whether it’s a city or an unpaved road, then you may need to change your oil more often to keep it clean and make sure it performs as it should. The same is true if you drive in extreme conditions such as high heat, frigid cold or with a frequent heavy load.

How Do I Know I Need an Oil Change?

The best way to know if you need an oil change is to check your oil. This is easily done by pulling out the dipstick found under the hood and looking at the oil’s color. Fresh oil has a golden amber color, but it gradually becomes darker and thicker over time. If your oil is very dark or sludgy, that’s a good indication it needs an oil change. While driving, look for signs of more serious trouble such as an engine that runs hot or overheats, a decrease in performance or reduced fuel economy.

It isn’t difficult to figure out how often you should get an oil change. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, and remember that it’s better to change your oil a little early than to neglect this essential part of car maintenance.

Check out all the motor oil available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on engine oil, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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