Skip to main content

How Often Should I Get an Oil Change?

Male mechanic performing an oil-change to a car for maintenance

For generations, the question of when to get an oil change had an easy answer: every 3,000 miles (around 4,800 kilometers). This was the magic number that was not only widely accepted, but seemed to be ingrained in everyone’s mind. It even appeared on the sticker you get after every change. In recent years, however, auto experts have pushed back on the 3,000 mile oil change interval. Just as with changes to the auto insurance industry and your state’s requirements, staying up-to-date is critical.

Surprisingly, the new recommendation is not a “one size fits all” number, and in fact newer vehicles may be able to go much longer between oil changes. Auto experts are now saying that drivers should first consult your owner’s manual to determine when you need to get an oil change. This information is usually in the maintenance chapter of the manual. You may find that there are two service schedules listed – one designated for “normal” driving and another for “severe” driving conditions. 

Why is it Important? 

Oil keeps your engine lubricated, preventing the parts from grinding and overheating. Over time, your oil picks up dirt and debris which cause it to degrade and deteriorate. If you’re running on old oil, your engine has to work harder and is more prone to serious damage. 

Frequent oil changes take out the dirt and grime, replacing your vehicle with fresh engine oil to keep the engine running smoothly. Your mechanic might also ask if you want your oil filter changed when you go to your appointment. The filter helps to remove some debris so it’s better to keep this vital engine protection clean. 

How Often Should You Get an Oil Change? 

If you happen to drive a newer car, there’s a chance it may be equipped with an oil life monitoring system that notifies you when it’s time to get an oil change. These systems rely on various sensors in your car to determine when exactly it’s time. 

Also if your car is newer, there is the warranty period to consider. The common car warranty period when your vehicle is brand new is 3 years or the first 36,000 miles. Some individuals use their cars lightly and not run up the mileage as quickly. For many, the mileage will happen before the three year mark. 

The days of relying on a windshield sticker to remind you to get an oil change every few months are over. In case your car is missing its owner’s manual, don’t worry. CalRecycle (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) has a very handy database to help you look up the recommended intervals for your car model. To check your number, visit By knowing when it’s the right time, you’ll not only save money on service costs, but you’ll do the environment a favor, too.

How Does Oil Burn Off

Cars burn oil similar to how water evaporates in the sun. It gradually increases in temperature and over time, your reserves are less and less. This is why it’s highly important to check your engine oil levels often. When you’re stopped at the gas station it is a great time. There are often paper towels to clean the dipstick so you can get an accurate reading.  

Oil burning does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong with your car. If you don’t see smoke or find foul odors there is no cause for concern. When you check the dipstick and you see your oil has changed colors or is not coating the stick in a “safe zone,” it doesn’t always indicate a leak. Oil actually burns off gradually as the vehicle is operated, keeping the engine lubricated and preventing damage. 

Can Cars Burn Oil Too Fast? 

Excessive oil consumption can cause long-term damage to your vehicle. Also, you’ll find yourself going for an oil change more often. Remember that oil acts as engine lubricant and if there is not enough, your engine can overheat. There are a number of reasons why this could happen. The first is that your engine parts are worn out. On older vehicles especially, you need to do frequent checks of your engine parts so that a minor issue doesn’t evolve into a major, expensive or irreparable damage. 

The next reason that oil can burn too fast is quality. If the oil is poor quality or not the right oil for the engine, it can break down more quickly causing oil levels to dip too low in a short period of time. Finally, the last reason for a vehicle to burn oil too fast is if it’s driven aggressively or with heavy loads. If you often exceed the speed limit, tow heavy objects, or drive on the highway, you’re likely to burn oil at a faster rate.  

Types of Oil and When to Use Them

There are far more types of motor oil than synthetic and conventional. Each one has a specific time and place depending on the type of vehicle you have, its age, and how often it’s driven. While one oil type might appeal to you for the benefits, it’s crucial to check your owners manual to see what is recommended. Your auto repair shop or local service center may also be able to help you choose which oil is right for your car’s engine. 

  1. Conventional – Conventional motor oil is the most common type of motor oil . It’s the least expensive if you’re watching your budget and is made from crude oil.
  2. Synthetic – Synthetic motor oil is the second most common type of motor oil. Since it’s artificial, it’s made to work a lot harder than conventional oil. This type of motor oil will work better in extreme temperatures (think tropical, desert, and colder climates). It will cost you more but if you live in a climate that has extreme cold or heat, this could save you money in the long run.
  3. High-Mileage – Once your vehicle has crossed the 75,000 mile threshold, it’s time to switch to this type of oil. Older engines have experienced wear and tear, and this type helps to reduce consumption which keeps the engine lubricated and not overheating. 
  4. Full Synthetic – This type of oil is 100% factory made–it’s synthetic in its pure form. It will work even better than regular synthetic oil because the so-called technology in the is superior for engine protection. 
  5. Synthetic Blend – As you might have guessed, this is a blend of synthetic and conventional oil. Don’t worry, when the manufacturer combines the oil types they don’t separate or react in a negative way. This type is meant to give your car the benefits of synthetic oil at the price point of conventional. 

How Long Does an Oil Change Take?

While some places will tout a 15-minute oil change on their signs, this doesn’t usually account for the time you’re going to spend in the queue or filling out paperwork. In addition, different types can take a different amount of time depending on the vehicle, the mechanic’s experience level, and the type of oil you had before. 

Oil change services on a passenger car or small truck can take from 30-minutes to an hour. Large SUVs, trucks, or commercial vehicles take even more time. This is because the oil filter is not always in the same place and some large vehicles require more oil than small ones. 

Never rush this process. In some places, the mechanic will run a quick safety check to identify any issues unrelated to oil that could make your vehicle unsafe. Be sure to go to the mechanic with plenty of time because skipping a safety check could save you a lot of money or potential injuries down the line. 

Regular oil changes are an important part of overall care for older cars and newer cars alike. Vehicle owners who want to ensure that they have a full peace-of-mind while driving should also invest in comprehensive car insurance. To find an affordable quote that meets your needs, contact Freeway Insurance at (800) 777-5620 or visit an office near you.

Ready to Get a Quick Quote?