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How Often Does a Car Need an Oil Change?

Oil Change - Topping it off

Boy, why does an oil change feel like such a useless task? After all, you aren’t doing anything special that will hurt your oil while you drive, right? Actually, that’s not the case. Oil isn’t designed to last forever, and it can lead to a massive bill if you don’t routinely change it.

In this piece, we’ll tell you all about oil and explain how often your car needs an oil change.

Click Here For The Short Answer

What Does Oil Do?

Oil is the magic juice in your car. Sure, you need gas for the engine to operate, but the oil does all the heavy lifting.

If you look at an engine operating, you’ll see a ton of fast motion between parts. Without lubrication, these parts will quickly wear down and you’ll need to replace your engine annually. If you didn’t know, that could mean tens of thousands of dollars every year.

How do you fix the problem? With oil. Oil is a lubricious liquid that keeps everything moving smoothly. It’s contained within a circulating system, so the oil keeps swirling around.

Oil Change - Engine Oil
Oil Lubricating the Cylinders

What’s the Point of an Oil Change?

Since the loop is closed, the oil has no way of really cleaning itself. Sure, it goes through an oil filter on each pass, but that’s not enough for long-term use. Over time, debris and impurities are picked up in the oil and it starts to break down.

The oil becomes less effective. Over enough time, the oil does nothing beneficial for your car. This is where an oil change comes in. If you just bought your car with one Bitcoin, the best thing you can do to preserve it is routinely change your oil.

When you change the oil, you put in fresh oil and a brand-new filter. This means your car will now be properly lubricated. You’re saving a lot of moving mechanical parts in your car.

How to Check Your Oil Level

The process is really easy. Pop the hood of your trunk and look for a circular looped handle near your oil spout. This is your oil dipstick.

Grab the loop and pull and you’ll expose a long, thin metal piece. There should be some indications near the bottom of the stick that show you the proper level of oil. In most cases, you’ll see one line or notch that shows the minimum and one that shows the maximum levels.

When you look at the stick, you’ll see dark liquid on it – that’s your oil. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a towel then stick it in fully, remove it, and look at the level.

The level of oil should show up between the two indicators. Too far above or below the lines means you need an oil change.

Oil Change - Checking Oil Levels

The Types of Oil

Another thing to understand is that there are three common types of oil that you can choose between. Unlike the different types of gas, your oil selection isn’t defined by the manufacturer – it’s all up to you.

Conventional Oil

This kind of oil is also called crude oil. It’s derived from the oil that gets pumped out of the ground. It’s the clunkier option on this list that doesn’t work as well, nor does it work as long. It’s also less expensive than the others and still does a great job of keeping your car moving (as long as you change your oil routinely)

Synthetic Blend Oil

Then there’s synthetic blend oil. This is the combination of the other two types. You can enjoy a longer-lasting, higher-quality oil with a nice price saving over full-synthetic.

Full-Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil is made in a lab and designed by engineers. This is a high-performance liquid that aims to give you the best oil experience. It has the best level of lubrication and also lasts the longest. It’s also the most expensive of the three.

Mobil 1 Synthetic Oil
Mobil 1 Synthetic Oil

How Often Does a Car Need an Oil Change?

The frequency between oil changes can be determined by how many miles are driven or how much time passes, whichever occurs first. It also depends on what type of oil you have. In general, it looks like this:

Conventional: 5,000-7,500 miles or 6-12 months

Synthetic blend: 10,000 miles or 9-12 months.

Full Synthetic: 15,000 miles or 12 months.

But these figures will change on a few other factors.

Oil Change - Draining the Oil Pan
Draining the Oil Pan

Other Factors that Determine Oil Change Frequency

Let’s take a look at some factors that will make you change your oil more or less frequently than normal.

The Short Trip King

Suggested oil change frequency: 1,000 miles or 6 months.

If you’re the king of short trips, then you’ll have to change your oil much more often. If most of your trips are less than 10 miles or you don’t sustain highway speeds for a long time, your oil isn’t getting an opportunity to do its job.

The engine isn’t getting hot enough to boil the oil which results in the oil breaking down more quickly. In addition, a lot of wear on your engine occurs when you first start your car. With all of your short trips, that’s a lot of engine starting.

Older Cars

Suggested oil change frequency: 3,000 miles or 6 months.

If you have an older car, one way to keep it alive forever is with routine oil changes. In this case, you should consider changing the oil every 3,000 miles or so.

Older cars don’t have the same tech and efficiency upgrades that new cars have. For that reason, the oil tends to wear out more quickly. Plus, changing your oil routinely will help the overall health of your car. A quick change today can save you a massive repair in the future.

You Have an Oil Spill

Suggested oil change frequency: Immediately.

If you’re leaking oil, disregard the suggested oil change frequency. If you don’t have enough oil in the reservoir, things will start wearing out and breaking.

The second you notice an oil spill; you should find and repair the oil leak. When you’re done, change out your oil filter and replace your oil.

Your Oil Dash Light is On

Suggested oil change frequency: Immediately.

If you don’t notice an oil spill but see your dash light come on, check your oil dipstick. If your levels are low, something might be wrong.

Take a closer look and see if you can spot an oil spill. See if you can smell oil or notice spattering on any parts under the hood. If you can’t find the culprit, you should take your car to the mechanic.

After getting your car repaired, you’ll want to change your oil and put in a new filter.

Oil Light On
Oil Light On

You Rarely Use Your Car

Suggested oil change frequency: 6, 9, or 12 months.

If you have a ride that sits in the garage for most of the year, then you can disregard the mileage suggestions. Only focus on the time suggestions since they’ll probably happen before the mileage comes due.

Yes, even if you don’t use your car that often you still need to change your oil. The oil is slowly breaking down over time, even if it doesn’t get used. If it’s not properly stored (as in, just sitting around in the oil reservoir of your car), the oil will degrade and become unusable.

Oil Change - Pouring in new oil
Pouring in new oil


Changing your oil is a quick bit of maintenance to save you a lot of time and money in the future. No matter what kind of driver you are and what car you have, you need to make sure you change your oil regularly.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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