Car Ownership 101: How Often Should I Change My Oil?

May 10th, 2022 by

You probably already know that it’s important to change your car’s oil routinely to protect the engine and keep the vehicle in good condition. But it can be less clear just how often you should change the oil, especially when you consider different factors, such as oil type and driving conditions. If you’re unsure about how often to change the oil on your vehicle, review this guide to learn more about the recommended time frame and some factors that may impact the frequency of routine oil changes.

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

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Most automakers recommend changing the oil on modern vehicles every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Typically, you can find your vehicle’s recommended oil change interval in the owner’s manual. An auto dealership or repair shop can also provide more information on the recommended interval for your vehicle.

While oil change intervals will vary among different vehicles, it’s a good idea to change your oil at least every six to 12 months. Even if you drive fewer miles than the recommended interval, changing the oil at least once a year can help you maintain your vehicle. This routine maintenance removes excess dirt and lubricates the engine, which reduces its risk of overheating. By changing the oil regularly, you can extend the lifespan of the engine and keep your vehicle running smoothly.

Most new cars, trucks, and SUVs have systems to monitor the time and mileage between oil changes. Advanced systems even monitor driving conditions to adjust the oil change interval if necessary. When this system determines that it’s time to change the oil, drivers will see an alert on the instrument panel. When you see this alert appear, it’s important to change the oil or schedule a service appointment soon.

Factors That Impact How Often You Should Change Your Oil

While the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines can be helpful, there are various other factors that may affect the frequency of oil changes your car requires. These factors include:

Oil Type

One of the biggest questions people typically have about oil changes is whether to use conventional or synthetic oil. Synthetic oils can last longer than conventional oils because they’re designed to break down slowly and withstand high temperatures. Some synthetic oil brands can last 10,000 or even 15,000 miles before requiring an oil change. Because of their high performance, synthetic oils can be more expensive than conventional oils.

While synthetic oil can have many benefits, it’s not always necessary for all vehicles. Check the owner’s manual for your vehicle to see if the manufacturer recommends synthetic oil, or ask a service expert at a dealership or auto repair shop about the recommended oil for your vehicle. Even if you choose to use synthetic oil, it’s still important to change the oil per the manufacturer’s guidelines or at least every six to 12 months to clean and protect the engine.


An oil’s viscosity measures its resistance to flow. In hotter temperatures, the viscosity tends to decrease, meaning the oil flows more easily, while the viscosity usually increases in colder temperatures. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use low viscosity oils in the winter because it will help start the car and keep it moving. Many oils also contain viscosity modifiers to adjust the thickness of the oil based on the weather.

Viscosity can affect the durability of oil. When the viscosity wears down over time, the oil becomes thinner and less effective at lubricating the engine. This is why it’s important to change the oil routinely on your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual to see the recommended viscosity level and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on oil change intervals to ensure your car’s oil has the correct flow and durability.

Driving Style

When you check your owner’s manual for recommended oil change intervals, you may see two different time frames for “normal” and “severe” driving. That’s because your driving style can affect how frequently you should change the oil. A “normal” driving style typically means you make trips of five miles or longer, drive on level roads, stay within the speed limits, and don’t carry heavy loads.

While it may sound negative, a “severe” driving style just means you typically drive outside those parameters. For example, if you consistently make trips under five miles, drive in hot weather, idle in stop-and-go traffic, or tow a trailer frequently, you may fall within the “severe” category. If this sounds like your driving style, the vehicle manufacturer may recommend more frequent oil changes, such as every 3,000 miles. Consult your owner’s manual or ask a certified service expert if you may benefit from following a more frequent oil change schedule.


If you live in Michigan, you know the weather can vary drastically from one day to the next. These changes in temperature can affect the frequency of recommended oil changes for your vehicle. Motor oil thickens in the winter. When you start your vehicle on a chilly morning, this cold, thick oil forces its way through the oil filter and can put added stress on the engine. Over time, this can cause problems with the engine and affect the performance of your vehicle.

To keep your vehicle in top condition, consider changing the oil every winter. Aim to change the oil at the beginning of the season to ensure oil can flow through the system when the cold weather arrives. Besides changing the oil, it’s also important to change the oil filter as well. A high-quality oil filter can resist buildup if the oil becomes too thick and can withstand high pressure to keep your vehicle’s engine running efficiently.

Schedule an Oil Change in Flint, Michigan

Are you unsure about your vehicle’s oil change recommendations, or do you want to know whether conventional or synthetic oil is best for your vehicle? Our certified service experts can help you understand everything you need to know about routine oil changes. At Applegate Chevrolet, we offer oil changes with a four-tire rotation and multi-point vehicle inspection to help keep your car running smoothly for many years to come. Schedule a service appointment using our easy online form, or contact us for more information. We look forward to seeing you soon at our service center in Flint, Michigan.

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