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Old 06-11-2019, 06:13 PM
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When does this car need an oil change?


This is to win (or lose) a bet.

An acquaintance of mine drives very little. When she gets an oil change, they put the usual sticker on her windshield, showing the date and mileage of her next change. Invariably, she reaches the date years before she reaches the mileage.

Is the rule "whichever comes first" or something else?

And how frequently should a car that's not driven much actually get oil changes?
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:29 PM
excavating (for a mind) is online now
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It depends on a few things.

Is the car not driven much, or is it driven regularly, but only a few miles each time?

Is it stored in a climate-controlled garage, just a garage, or fully exposed to the elements?

If it is driven infrequently, but at least for 30 minutes when it is driven, then an oil change once a year should be fine, or the mileage recommended by the owners manual.

If it is driven frequently, but for short trips, then an oil change every six months is more prudent. Water can build up in the oil and cause it to become acidic.

If it is in a controlled in environment when it is being stored, then condensation is not usually a problem, so you can go a bit longer between changes. In the open, the oil can become contaminated more often.

Knowing just what you have said in the OP, I would treat it as a "which ever comes first" type of thing.
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by excavating (for a mind) View Post
It depends on a few things.

Is the car not driven much, or is it driven regularly, but only a few miles each time?

Is it stored in a climate-controlled garage, just a garage, or fully exposed to the elements?

If it is driven infrequently, but at least for 30 minutes when it is driven, then an oil change once a year should be fine, or the mileage recommended by the owners manual.

If it is driven frequently, but for short trips, then an oil change every six months is more prudent. Water can build up in the oil and cause it to become acidic.

If it is in a controlled in environment when it is being stored, then condensation is not usually a problem, so you can go a bit longer between changes. In the open, the oil can become contaminated more often.

Knowing just what you have said in the OP, I would treat it as a "which ever comes first" type of thing.
All of the above is true, but I'd like to add that an oil change is a relatively inexpensive way to keep one's vehicle on the road. Its much better to "waste" a little money by doing oil changes "too frequently" than not doing them enough which could mean expensive engine damage down the road.

Many repair shops use oil changes as a loss leader.
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:10 PM
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I've got a truck which I drive just a couple thousand miles a year but I change the oil once year anyways.
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:17 PM
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Does she get the oil change at the dealer or at a shop like Valvoline?

I go to Valvoline and they only ever issue 3 month/3000 mile stickers, even though my car's recommended service time is 5 months/5000 miles.

I drive very little and only get it done every 5 months. I don't hit 5000 miles in that time.

Anyway, unless the sticker matches what's in the car's manual...the answer is ignore the sticker.
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Old 06-12-2019, 02:51 AM
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I have a 2012 Avalon using synthetic oil with about 12,000 miles on it. I get the oil/filter changed once a year and all is good.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:50 AM
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I would say 1 year is a minimum change if one does not drive the mileage required. Yes if one drives 100 miles per year, one may get 20 years out of it without ever changing the oil, but that engine may not last to 10,000 - though that may not matter, as that would take 100 years.

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Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
Does she get the oil change at the dealer or at a shop like Valvoline?

I go to Valvoline and they only ever issue 3 month/3000 mile stickers, even though my car's recommended service time is 5 months/5000 miles.

I drive very little and only get it done every 5 months. I don't hit 5000 miles in that time.

Anyway, unless the sticker matches what's in the car's manual...the answer is ignore the sticker.
Those shops typically use the cheapest oil filter they can get their hands on, it may only be good for 3k before it begins restricting flow, and there is no guarantee that their bulk oil is the same as the oil one gets in the store, vs a lower quality oil. It's not a restriction of the car, but on the oil and filter they use. Likewise my car has 10 year antifreeze, if I buy and replace it with dealer antifreeze it's another 10, If I use the universal fluid it's every 2 years regardless of what the manual says.

Last edited by kanicbird; 06-12-2019 at 05:51 AM.
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:59 AM
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Our truck is rarely driven, and I asked our shop guy this very question. He said once a year is fine - they use a synthetic blend oil, if that makes a difference. They still put the sticker in the window, but I immediately peel it off and toss it, and when we have one of our other vehicles in for service, I usually ask when our truck was last done. So far, it's working for us.
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:04 AM
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Whenever maintenance-due is given as "[amount of use] or [time]", it is whichever comes first.

In many locations and once the car is old enough, "once a year" is also the time for the legally-required inspection. Whether this inspection is already once a year or it's on longer periods, many people will double up: first take it to a garage (which will check the car and clean or change filters and fluids as needed), then to the official check.
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:47 AM
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Frequent oil changes are the best and cheapest insurance you can buy. When in doubt, get it done!
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:48 AM
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What does the car manual say? Despite the idea that oil should be done every three months or 3000 miles, most cars and oils are better than they were when this rule of thumb was made. Most cars nowadays say every 5-10k miles and six months.
Synthetics can last a year.

As a guess, I'd do it every six months.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:22 AM
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As a guess, I'd do it every six months.
I'd think you could do it annually without any issue- I did bi-annual oil changes for about 5 years on my truck, and then finally decided that I could probably stretch that to a full year with modern oils, even driving about 6000 miles a year. It's still ticking seven years later, and doesn't burn any oil.

The real risk with not driving it much is that she probably doesn't get it hot enough to boil the accumulated water off (it's water produced from combustion that gets into the oil), and that'll eventually cause rust. The oil itself doesn't really degrade fast enough to warrant a six month interval.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:22 AM
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The owner's manual of your acquaintance's car almost certainly answers that question. Shops are overly aggressive about oil change intervals. Jiffy Lube used to recommend every 3000 miles (I don't know what they say now) and they would give you an article from Consumer Reports suggesting the same. Times have changed. Engine tolerances are much tighter. My manual says 7500 miles and the dealer suggests oil changes twice that often. The more often they get you in the shop, the more often they can try to sell you service you don't need.

Once year for low mileage is probably good enough unless you do many short trips.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:30 AM
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I'm basically agreeing with Post #2 and adding that depending on where you live (how hot the summers or cold the winters) of going six months if you only drive short trips. I have had a few older relatives who basically do 5-6 miles once a week or so; matching the oil to the season gives them long and happy lives with their cars.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:02 PM
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My 2005 Scion gets driven about 3000 miles per year. I get the oil changed at the dealer once per year, in the Fall, along with a safety check and inspection. It has been fine on this schedule for fourteen years.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:31 PM
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The sticker on the window says how often the oil change people want your business. Usually the interval in your vehicle's user manual will be much longer.

As was already said upthread, the rule is "whichever comes first".

The phrase "a car that's not driven much" sets off a few alarm bells for me. Cars need to be driven, or they'll end up with water condensing into all sorts of places where you don't want water, and rubber seals and such will dry out. How often is "not driven much"? If it's once a month and less than a mile to go to the grocery store or whatever, that can cause you problems. At least once every week or two you need to get the car fully up to its operational temperature, so that any condensed water inside the engine (and where the oil is) or in the exhaust system can get flashed into steam and expelled. As long as you drive the car at least once every week or two and drive it for at least 15 minutes it should be ok.

If you are only driving the car once every few months, you can end up with water condensing into your oil (unless you live in a particularly dry climate), and you'll want to change it a lot more frequently.

Note - I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS, but several years ago, I had an old pickup truck that was rusting apart. I wanted to get a new truck, but I hated to get rid of something that was working just fine, so when it got to 200,000 miles, I decided to run a little experiment. I stopped doing all maintenance on the truck, and waited to see how long it would take for it to die. I never changed the oil, never did anything. It ran for 5 more years and 60,000+ more miles (maybe 70,000, I can't remember) without an oil change. When it did finally die, it was the fuel pump that went on it, so the failure was completely unrelated to the lack of maintenance (fuel pump just got old and wore out). In fact, I could have fairly easily replaced the fuel pump, but at that point I was like screw it, I want a new truck.

This was in the days when shops were recommending 3 month/3,000 mile oil changes (1980s era Nissan pickup). I new I could prove them wrong. I didn't expect to go 60,000+ miles though.

With many engines, as long as you have oil, the engine probably isn't going to suffer any major damage. But again I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING THIS TO YOUR OWN VEHICLES unless you want them to die. I have had other vehicles where the engine starts to sludge up if you go too long between oil changes, so engine damage is definitely a possibility with some vehicles.

Anyway, the point is that the recommendations in the manual are based on the engineers not knowing the conditions you drive in and how you drive, so they factor in a bit of a safety factor just in case. You can usually go a bit longer than what the manual says and not worry about it too much, but you don't want to completely abuse your vehicle like I did.
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:16 PM
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Back when I lived close enough to work to bike there I was in this situation. I only put a couple of thousand miles per year on my car, so if I followed the six month recommendation I would have only driven maybe 1000 miles, but doing it every 5000 miles would be several years between oil changes. Like some other people here I changed it once a year, figuring that was a good compromise. I never had any engine problems with that car; it got "retired" (a California program similar to Cash for Clunkers) when it failed the emissions test and I didn't feel like fixing it. As it was nearly 20 years old and I'd had it for 15 of them I figure I got plenty of use out of it.
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