Do I need to change my oil yet?

A year ago I bought a new convertible, an extra car for sunny days only. Now I only have 3400 miles on it, so I haven’t hit the manufacturer’s recommended mileage for an oil change. But after a year should I change it anyway?

The most important factor is not the total mileage, nor the elapsed time. It’s the percentage of short trips.

If those miles are largely from short trips, extended idling, and low-speed driving, then I’d recommend changing it now. Alternatively, if they’re mostly from longer drives and/or highway speed driving, I’d say you’re safe to go to the recommended mileage.

If it’s been a year, I’d still suggest an oil change. 3000 miles is still the “standard old recommendation” and it certainly can’t hurt. Cheap insurance on the health of your car.

FWIW, I regularly run 5-7K miles (mfg suggested interval) on my Subaru, and have done the same on most of the cars I’ve owned during the past 20 years, but I tend to come in way under the “time intervals” recommended by the mfgr. I tend to drive about 25K miles annually now, but have had years in excess of 40K miles.

I’d treat your car like my lawnmowers (one ride-on, one walk-behind) which get a change every spring… whether the oil is dirty or not.

My Pontiac’s got one of those computerized oil monitor lights and the owner’s manual warns that if it’s been 12 months or 12K miles since you last changed oil you should change oil regardless of what the light says/doesn’t say.

Avoid the "Big Red ‘J’ " chain. That place has a rep for under/over-tightening drain plugs and filters.

On a new car I typically change the oil at ~1k miles to get rid of any contamination from engine break-in, and after that follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. It’s a cheap way to protect your engine from early damage that will just become cumulative over the life of the car.


Im not sure how much it costs to change your oil, but IME changing every ~3k miles is what I generally do. I’m leery of mfg recommendations since auto makers are not in the business of keeping your car running the longest possible; on the same token oil refineries are not interested in reducing the number of oil changes per year. Also compare yearly costs: I drive 20k a year for a total average cost of ~$200/year on oil changes. If I waited till 5k miles it would be closer to $130/year, to me the mere possibility of lessening engine wear is worth 70/year. For all I know I could be extending the life of my car. Your costs may be different if you don’t change your own oil however. So think about what the additional costs would be if you upped your changing schedule and consider how long you plan on keeping the car, and figure out if the increased cost is worth it.

you can pretty much ignore this advice since I didn’t read the OP carefully enough:smack:.

Also I change my motorcycle oil before I take it out in the spring no matter when the last time it was changed. I’ve heard but I dont know that oil can break down over time. Who knows if its nonsense, but its certainly cheaper than breaking the engine of a toy.

That oil change light is based on an algorithm that tracks number of starts and a few other things. Your Pontiac does not know if the oil needs to be changed, only that it is likely to need changing. If you change it yourself you might even get a ‘change oil’ light on the dash a week later. If the oil change light comes on you can reset it by either holding in the trip/mileage reset button until the light goes out or do this; turn the key into the on position but don’t start the car, push the gas pedal to the floor 3 times, turn off and then start. No it won’t flood the engine because the gas pedal isn’t pumping gas into a carburator, you don’t have one.

Do not rely on the change oil light. Even if you only drive a few thousand miles per year, you should change the oil each spring and again before you put it into storage each fall. Temperature changes will draw condensation into your engine regardless of how much you drive. If you drive it everyday, change the oil spring, summer, winter and fall.

The key is changing your filter every time to remove grit and metal bits that cause wear.

Changing the filter doesn’t help remove any more “grit” and “metal bits”.

A fresh filter is important to keep the FLOW and PRESSURE up. A moderately used filter is actually going to trap more ‘grit ‘n’ bits’.

Changing the filter at specific intervals helps ensure it isn’t getting clogged, but it is not to add more to the grit and bit catching.

I change my motorcycle oil before it goes into winter storage. My theory being that as oil is getting dirty, it is getting contaminants that I don’t want sitting in the engine for a number of months during the winter season.

I don’t change it again in the spring. Any condensation that may have accumulated will evaporate as long as the engine is given a good run at full operating temperature the first time out during the spring.

And don’t start the engine during the winter.