Do I really need to get my oil changed?

My car is due for an oil change this month, or at a certain mileage count. I am 2,000 miles away from that mileage count, though it has been 3 months since my last oil change. My question is, can I wait until I’ve hit the “3,000 miles since last oil change” point to change it? Considering that the car is only a couple of years old and has had regular maintenance.


You might find this article and the associated link to be of interest. Does your manual really say every 3,000 miles on such a relatively new car? Mine recommends every 10,000.

I usually change my oil by mileage and not by time; i.e. at 5000 mile intervals, which works out to 8 or 9 months given how little I drive. I’ve never had any engine problems as a result.

Note that if you use synthetic oil, you can usually go longer between changes; I used to have a BMW 740i, for which oil changes were recommended every 15000 miles. A good thing, since the oil change ran around $80.

I just found myself in the same position, Ruby. Due for a change in March or 37k miles - and I found myself with it being April and me up to only 35k miles.

Based on some advice from a non-mechanic friend, I went ahead and got the oil change because he suggested that 3 months of sitting around and not being driven much will be just as bad for the oil as driving it 3000 miles.

Anyway, I re-checked the maintenance manual while waiting for my oil change to be done, and it said “5 months or 5000 miles.” So I wish I would have waited for the 5 months. I knew before that the manufacturer recommended 5000 miles but I must have missed the 5 months part.

I needed a transmission flush anyway so it wasn’t too big of a deal.

Check your manual to be sure it even says 3 months or 3000 miles. I know that at Valvoline, no matter what the manufacturer says their computer automatically prints out 3/3000 reminder stickers. I’ve asked. You just have to remember to do the math yourself.

I also doubt that your real, manufacturers, recommendation is to have oil changes that often. The oil change places largely invented that notion for…well…obvious reasons. Look in your owner’s manual. The real recommendation is probably a lot more generous than anything anyone else told you.

Don’t change it yet.

Time is not a significant factor by itself. Oil does not deteriorate just sitting around. Generally, the relative importance of the time vs. mileage intervals is probably 5% for time and 95% for mileage. If, however, the reason there is so little vehicle mileage over the time span is because it’s used for very short trips (a few minutes/a few miles), then it may be helpful to change it before the recommended mileage interval.

That leads us to “recommended by whom.” You should have a maintenance schedule (in the owner’s manual or as a separate booklet) that has the manufacturer’s recommendation. On a two year old car, it is very likely more than 3,000 miles even for severe service. Way too many auto service facilities recommend a 3 month/3,000 mile interval for everyone, even though that is obsolete for a lot of cars currently in use.

Dang, if I gave you the wrong advice on that I’m sorry.
I concluded that due to your frequent very short trips, you were severe service, per the following:

“Items Needing Special Attention
If you operate your Ford/Lincoln/Mercury primarily in one of the more demanding “Special Operating Conditions” listed below, you will need to have some items maintained more frequently. If you only occasionally operate your vehicle under these conditions, it is not necessary to perform the additional maintenance. For specific recommendations, see your dealership service advisor or qualified service professional.”

In particular, my reading indicates that without occasional 20+ minute trips, you never burn off water condensation and tend to experience abnormal oxidization.

Once I determined you were under severe service, I read the following:
“Extensive idling and/or low-speed driving for long distances as in
heavy commercial use such as delivery, taxi, patrol car or livery:
Every 3,000 miles, 3 months or
200 hours of engine operation
Change engine oil and replace oil filter
Every 3,000 miles or 3 months Lube front lower control arm and steering linkage ball
joints with zerk fittings, if equipped
Every 5,000 miles Inspect brake system
Check battery electrolyte level
Every 15,000 miles Replace fuel filter (not required on Fusion, Milan or
Every 30,000 miles Change automatic transmission/transaxle fluid (not
required on 6R60 transmission)
Lubricate 4X2 front wheel bearings, replace grease
seals, and adjust bearings
Every 60,000 miles Replace spark plugs
Change transfer case fluid
As required Replace cabin air filter”

Link from
to Scheduled Maintenance Guide

Yeah for the record I am not a taxi, livery or delivery driver. If I am only taking short trips it’s not the same kind of short trips those sorts of drivers take. There’s nothing “extensive” about my trips.

No biggie. I did 4 months instead of 3 or 5, and as I said I needed the tranny flushed anyway.

Follow what the manual says. For mileage, time, oil grade, and oil quality. If you are not hitting the mileage due to the car being parked, that isn’t a biggie, if however you are not hitting the mileage due to only driving a couple of miles per day, change it when the time interval is up.
Pay attention to what your car maker says is severe service. If you have a long stop and go commute, it might come under the severe service recommendations.
For example on my car the standard service is 7500 miles/1 year/750 engine hours. Severe is 5000 miles/6 months/500 engine hours.
Off the top of my head, I know of no car maker that is currently recommending a 3k/3mo interval.

A bit more on oil quality. Here in the US oil quality ratings are alphabetical. If your car calls for SJ oil, you can use SL or SM. If however it calls for SL oil, SJ is not acceptable, but SM would be.
oil quality is vitally important with todays modern engines. They have little tolerance for inferior oils.

I have the dealer who sold me the car service it. I figure they are following manufacturer’s recommendations, since it’s under warranty, so if they fuck it up, it’s on them.

I drive about 15-20 miles per day, approximately. It’s not sitting in the driveway or anything. One of the joys of living in a smallish town-- I only have to get gas every 14-17 days too.

That’s what the dealer writes on the sticker that they put on my window. The guy I always deal with said it’s fine to go 4 months/4,000 miles, but at this rate, in order to go 4,000 miles between oil changes, I’d only get my oil changed twice a year. Will the oil really “go bad” if it’s in there, unchanged, for 5-6 months if I do light daily driving as I do?

For the record, dealers generally suggest more maintenance than the automaker.
In some cases, dealers advocate maintenance regimes that are no less than simple gouging.
My friend had the local Hyundai dealer telling him that he should have his Elantra’s “oil flushed” because he’d reached the 20,000 mile mark and it was a standard PM item recommended by Hyundai.
I was having a slow day at work and called most of the Hyundai dealers in Northeast Ohio, none of which had ever heard of oil being flushed as a routine PM item for any Hyundai model.

I believe the word “extensive” refers to the percentage of your drives that would be considered short trips.
My impression was that the vast, vast majority of your trips and indeed your miles are such that not only does your oil not get good and hot, but likely your radiator fluid probably doesn’t even warm up. On the plus side, your car’s 5W20 spec is ideal for driving like yours…
Either way, like you said, you got your other service in, so no blood and no foul.

Dodge still does for the severe schedule for all engines in the the 2006 Charger. :frowning: I’m not sure if that’s changed in the last two years or not.

I just went to synthetic, though, and 95% of my miles are highway (maybe more now that it’s summer and I can ride my motorcycle), so I’m thinking an interval of around 10k seems reasonable (6k recommended for regular service, double for synthetic?).

I also had a question about the 3 month rule. It seems like that’s to protect against a theoretical amount of thermal cycles, but if the engine is literally not used it shouldn’t be a problem? I mean, oil sits on the shelf for who knows how long before I put it in my car (and even longer if I buy a case).

Correct. I’m not even sure that thermal cycles are a concern. As I mentioned above, there can be a correspondence between hitting the time interval before hitting the mileage interval if there are a lot of short trips, in which case the time interval may be the appropriate one to follow. But keep in mind that these recommendations, both time and mileage, are based on averages and are somewhat arbitrary. The main reason for the “3 month rule” is that for most drivers, it corresponds pretty well with 3,000 miles. There’s no specific concern about 3 months.

I always used to do mine at 3,000 which equated with about once a month. It only took around 15 minutes and cost about £12 so was no big deal.
When I bought my current pollution machine I had it serviced on purchase then took it for a service three months later.

Forgot to take the book to get stamped, when I unearthed it from the heap I took a look and discovered that it didn’t need doing for 12,500 miles or a year.

Can’t hurt but I won’t be so quick off the mark again.

Rick, Thank you, sir! Ignorance fought! :slight_smile:

(Not that it makes much difference to me personally; my car is a 1990 model. But I hope to have better someday! And this info will be handy for some people I know.)

There’s obvious controversy about the 3 month rule, but if you were to change your oil and then leave the car parked, no, there’s no reason to change the oil in 3 months.
I actually saw an oil subjected to chemical analysis after the car had sat in a junkyard situation for 7 years. The off-the-shelf non-synthetic 15W40 installed in the 1980s Oldsmobile diesel sedan in question held up quite nicely, and the oil had over 2000 miles on it when the vehicle was removed from service.

I have a 2006 Hyundai Elantra and the owner’s manual says to change oil every 5000 Kilometers. That converts to 2381 miles. Seems kind of often to me. But we do it just to keep up with the warranty. Really can’t hurt anything, but I think it is too often.

Colombia is one of the regions that the auto manufacturer that I work for classifies as “abusive.” Doesn’t matter if you live in a nice suburb or not; we classify entire regions based on the average duty and use of vehicles. That probably explains the frequency that’s recommended. So it’s probably safe to change it every 10,000 km if you drive in a reasonable environment. Of course, that said, it’s very possible that in your market you have entirely different engines, or engines made in facilities with lesser tolerances. I’m a body guy (not an engine guy), and I can tell you that there are definite differences in product from region to region. Yeah, even for “global” models. For example there are different roof crush requirements for South America in general, and it’s possible you may get roof pillars made from cheaper low carbon steel instead of expensive, high-grade boron steel, even for “global” models.