Is It Okay To Change Oil Once A Year?

You know, at some point, you need to change your car’s oil, but how often? The answer may be confusing, because it varies depending on driving conditions and driving habits. Let us make it easier for you.

Preservative estimates for oil-change intervals used to be as low as 3000 miles prior to significant improvements in fuel delivery systems, engine materials , manufacturing methods, and oil chemistry. Nowadays, modern engines normally run intervals of 7500 or more than 10,000 miles. So what’s the right answer to that?

When You Should Change Your Oil

Your average 3,000-mile quickie-lube sticker gives you a general idea of when to change your oil based on a very severe maintenance schedule. After all, their job is to sell oil changes. The real authority you should consult first — if you are wrong on the side of caution and not on the market for a new lawnmower — is the owner’s manual for your vehicle. Different vehicles have different maintenance needs , especially with recent advances in automotive technology that have pushed some newer car oil change intervals to 7,500 or 10,000 miles, or once every 6 to 12 months.

Why is there an extra mileage time interval? Over time, oil degrades. The longer it sits, the less viscous it becomes, and therefore the less effective it will be to keep the various engine components properly lubricated. Synthetic oil is designed to break down more slowly over time , which means that you can probably stretch out its oil changes a little longer, but it still breaks down like any other oil. Oil that degrades too much can cause engine sludge that can completely block oil flow.

Even if you don’t drive very often and don’t hit the recommended mileage interval, it’s best to change your oil twice a year. Your oil may be fine, but the real enemy is the moisture in your engine. If you’re not running your car very often for a long time, the engine won’t get hot enough to burn off this moisture, and your oil won’t be as effective in lubricating your engine, eventually leading to shorter engine life.

Few things beat simply by pulling the dipstick out of the engine for visual inspection. Even new cars can consume a little oil, and they might need to top it off, so this is a good idea to do about it once a month anyway. Looking at the dipstick can also give you an idea of when you need to change your oil based on your driving habits.

Remember how we keep calling the usual “severe” suggestion of the quick lube? “Owners’ manuals often list both a “normal” and a “severe” maintenance schedule, with the latter for tough driving, extreme weather, and other cases where there is extra stress per mile on the engine, such as heavy loads, towing, and day-to-day use.

This is bad news for the couple-block-to-church use case of your grandparents: never getting the engine warm enough to burn any condensation inside is also considered “severe” use. It usually takes about 10 miles to burn off that moisture, so if trips over 10 miles are rare-to-never happen, follow the “severe” schedule until an expert analysis can be done.

Look for common warning signs of engine damage while you’re looking at your dipstick. If your oil looks lighter or cloudier than usual — cold like latté foam in extreme cases — you may have coolant leaking into the engine, possibly from a broken head gasket. Watch out for some glittery metal pieces, too. Usually this means internal engine damage, possibly due to metal parts that do not get enough lubrication. Either way, if your oil looks a bit too glittery for comfort or smells too much like another fluid (such as a coolant), it’s a good time to have an oil analysis done to determine how that might have happened.

Are Frequent Oil Changes Better?

Not surprisingly, service providers (oil-change shops and dealers) tend to recommend shorter change intervals (3000 to 5000 miles). This can never hurt your engine, but it also means that you and your credit card will be seen more often than not. Other wear items such as brake pads, coolant, tires, and shocks can also be assessed and possibly replaced when your car is on the lift for oil change. So, apparently, it’s also good for their business. (With older vehicles that can burn oil, you’ll want to check the oil level using the dipstick at least once a month.) But if you’re not driving your car under severe conditions — and few of us are — you can stick to the manufacturer’s recommended oil-change intervals (which often involve an oil-filter change at the same time). And, of course, if your car has an oil-life monitor, take care of that.

By Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis, CC BY 3.0,

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