How often you should change your oil is becoming an issue in our industry because of changes in service intervals. Years ago, it was every three months or three thousand miles. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers all taught us that. The reason the oil needed changing so often was because the engines were exposed to the elements, and the filtering system of air and fuel was not what it is today. Your oil could be easily contaminated and cause internal engine damage. That is why car engines used to last only about eighty thousand miles.
Several things have changed since then. With the advent of electronic fuel injection, we do not have as much problem with outside elements getting to the crankcase because the fuel systems are sealed. Fuel is also managed better so the oil is not contaminated with fuel the way it used to be.
Thus, we have better control of outside elements, like dirt and dust, coming into the engine, and we have better control through better filtering. We have better control of the amount of fuel that is dumped into an engine for burning—almost all of it is being burned these days. And finally, the oil has gotten better at suspending the dirt in the engine. When you put these factors together, your service interval can now be longer than it used to be. Some manufacturers will tell you 7,500 miles, some 10,000 miles, and some 15,000 miles. To help simplify things, many cars today have oil life monitors that tell you when it is time to change your oil. My personal opinion is that your oil should be changed every 5,000 miles.
Why do it at 5,000 miles? One reason is because that is the interval at which several other aspects of the car need to be inspected. For example, the tires should be rotated every 5,000 miles. The car ought to be inspected by an ASE Certified Technician at that interval to make sure everything else is working safely and properly.
Some manufacturers have made longer recommendations for oil changes, only to find out that the extended duration between changes caused internal engine damage or failure for the consumer after seventy, eighty or ninety thousand miles. They realized too late that a shorter interval would have extended the car’s lifespan.
Pictured above is what the interior of an engine can look like when the proper oil change intervals have been ignored. A few inexpensive oil changes ignored can cost you thousands of dollars. Investing a little in proper maintenance is the best automotive investment you can make.
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