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How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

BY: Sarah Gorr | Aug 14, 2018

How often should you change your oil?

It seems like a question with an obvious, well-known answer: every three months or 3,000 miles, right? Even people who know next to nothing about cars know at least that much. But as it turns out, oil changes aren't quite so one size fits all. And with that being the case, it might have you raising other questions about the service. That's why I talked to a couple experts—John Wiegand, SVP at Precision Tune Auto Care, and Mike Curtis, Director of Operations for Sears Automotive—to get all the info on this necessary service, from what the oil is for to what else you should get checked out at your next appointment.

So, should you get your oil changed every three months?

Short answer: Possibly! But consider your specific vehicle's specs.

Both Mike and John agree that following conventional wisdom is unlikely to harm your vehicle. That said, many modern vehicles simply don't need to have their oil changed that regularly. Things like the vehicle's age, make, and model all play a role in the way it consumes motor oil, which might mean that the answer to "How often should you change your oil?" might be different for you and your Chevy than it is for your neighbor and her Ford. According to Mike, some states may even have stricter regulations when it comes to this kind of routine maintenance, where it's absolutely crucial that techs follow original equipment (OE) manufacturer standards and guidelines.

Why do you need to change your car's oil?

Short answer: To prevent serious damage.

"All vehicles at some point in time during the course between oil changes . . . [will] burn through or will use oil, so it will gradually go through the emissions of the vehicle," says Mike. That means the oil gets used up and needs to be replaced, but what doesn't get used up gets very, uh, gross, for lack of a better word. "Basically what [the oil] will do with time, it will sludge up, and it will not allow cylinders and pistons to operate properly in the engine, and you run the risk of the vehicle locking up," adds Mike, and an engine that locks up can be really dangerous for drivers.

What kind of motor oil should you use?

Short answer: Check your user's manual.

Once again, Mike and John point drivers toward their user's manuals to see the most specific and accurate recommendations. This is important because there's a common misconception that fancier and newer cars are the only ones that need full-synthetic oil. That means if you have, say, a 10-year-old Chevy, "most people may not think that that vehicle needs a full synthetic, but based upon the oil-type code, [it] could in fact need full-synthetic oil, not conventional." Luckily, the pros always check the OE recommendations so you can rest assured that your car will get the right type when you take it in, no matter what.

What other services should you consider when you get an oil change?

Since you're bringing your car in anyway, it's a great time to get a handle on any other maintenance issues you might be having with your ride. According to John, while nearly a quarter of all cars his team works on for another service also needs an oil change, almost every car that comes in for an oil change needs additional work. So what are his and Mike's top recommendations? Check out the list below:

  • Wheel alignment

  • Battery testing

  • Check tire condition and pressure

  • Replace wiper blades

  • Coolant top-off

Whatever you get checked out, though, you can be sure your car will be running smoother than ever for just a little extra effort.

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