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The Truth about Oil Changes

Along with used car buying tips, changing the oil is one of the very basic auto skills that drivers used to learn when they first became licensed to drive. Checking the oil at every fill up and changing it every 3,000 miles was something that was ingrained into all drivers who were interested in doing a good job of auto maintenance. But as time passes, drivers get away from that aspect of do it yourself car maintenance and spend more time at quick lube oil change shops. Many younger drivers don't know how to change their own oil or even how to check it; they wouldn't even know where to look to find the dipstick to do this.

Changing Oil Every 3,000 Miles

Yet the one thing that has survived from that bygone era when everyone used to change their own oil is this popular notion that the job needs to be done every three months or 3,000 miles. This is something that the quick lube shops really strongly push, even giving their customers windshield stickers at each visit to remind them of the next time they are due to stop by and get it changed. But is this sound automotive advice? As technology has improved conventional oils and introduced new synthetics and synthetic blends, that question has become more and more pertinent.

We live in more of a service based economy than ever. Most car owners who use online automobile insurance quotes really don't have time to do things like change their own oil even if they wanted to. Fitting it into a ride home from work is much easier, and actually ensures that it gets done. Automakers in their car service manuals typically recommend changing the oil every five to seven thousand miles, much less frequently than what the oil change shops are saying. And synthetic manufacturers are claiming that they can go for 10,000 all the way up to 15,000 miles and even more without a change because of the quality of the oils.

Factors in Oil Change Frequency

This is a debate that is not going anywhere soon, either. There are now high performance oils and filters that claim to only need one change per year. One bit of truth that really applies to all cars regardless of what kind of vehicle you drive or what kind of oil you use is that driving patterns are the key factor in determining how often they should change it. Cars that get driven short distances at a time should have their oil changed more frequently with respect to mileage, while commuter vehicles can go longer in between trips to the quick lube.

No matter how little you drive, no car should ever get fewer than two oil changes per year. This is important just to make sure that the oil does not lose its viscosity and that the filter doesn't become completely clogged up. Of course, this rule may not apply to those synthetics that seem to be completely rewriting the rules.

A good rule of thumb for oil changes is that if you are uncomfortable waiting longer, it certainly seems to do no harm to the car to go ahead and get it done after three months or 3,000 miles. At the very least, this is a way to give you some peace of mind if you feel you need it. But, evidence indicates that manufacturers' recommendations are more than sufficient when you are using conventional oil products. The truth about oil changes is that it appears to be somewhat a matter of personal conviction as changes in practices work slowly across the landscape.


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