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Oil Change: How Often, How Much, How Long Does It Take?


The answer to “How often should you change your oil?” varies depending on who you ask. The conventional wisdom is to change it every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but some modern synthetic oils claim they can go 10,000 or even more between oil changes. So what’s the correct answer? We have a few tips.

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

This depends on your specific make and model and your driving conditions. The quickest and surest way to find out the correct oil change interval for your vehicle is to check your owner’s manual. The oil change interval, oil capacity, and type of oil recommended will be listed in your owner’s manual, which should be in your glovebox. If you’ve lost it, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it online. You can always call your local dealer and ask if you’re having a hard time finding this information.

If your car is under warranty, it’s essential to stick closely to the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval and what type of oil to use. If you take your car to the dealership for servicing, this will be easy to stick to since the dealer will always use oil to the manufacturer’s exact specifications unless you request synthetic oil. Synthetic oil won’t void your warranty as long as it’s certified by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and is the correct viscosity grade for your car.

When engine oil gets old, it can be less effective in keeping your engine properly lubricated. Regardless of how many miles you drive, don’t go longer than a year between oil changes. If you drive aggressively or harshly, you’ll find that your vehicle will need more frequent oil changes.

What If My Car Has An Oil Change Light?

Many modern cars, trucks, and SUVs can keep track of their own oil life. The system measures not just the additional mileage since the last oil change but also other factors impacting your oil life. They factor in things like drive temperatures, driving hours, engine revs, and other details that could lengthen or shorten the life of the oil in your engine.

These have gotten pretty accurate, and it’s a good idea to flip through the menus in your instrument cluster to see what percentage of oil life you have left if it seems like it’s been a while since your last oil change. When you check your manual to find your oil change interval, it might not specify how many miles you should go between them. Instead, it might tell you to do what the oil life display in your gauge cluster says. You’ll usually get a warning light when your oil life is about 15%. Avoid letting it get all the way down to 0%.

How Often Should You Change Your Oil Filter?

It’s a good rule of thumb to get your oil filter replaced every time you change your oil. If you’re unsure what oil filter to use, it’s always a safe bet to go with the manufacturer’s part supplier. For example, if you drive a Jeep, Dodge, Ram, or Chrysler product, it would be safe to go with a Mopar oil filter. You’ll be able to find the part number for your manufacturer’s suggested oil filter in your owner’s manual.

What about aftermarket oil filters? Aftermarket filters are perfectly safe to use as long as you get the right size. When you go to buy one, there should be a big book or a kiosk with a screen where you can search for part numbers for oil filters that work in your car. This information is readily available online.

How Long Does an Oil Change Take?

When taking your vehicle to an express shop like Jiffy Lube or Valvoline, an oil change can take as little as 15 minutes or, at most, an hour. These places focus on efficiency and limited services. Your local mom-and-pop mechanic will usually take a little longer. Automaker-affiliated dealerships will likely take the longest and often include additional checks and services to make sure your car is functioning in top form.

How Much is an Oil Change?

An oil change using standard oil can be anywhere from $20 to $40. Synthetic oil, an artificially-enhanced oil blend, can last much longer and improve fuel economy, making it more expensive. Synthetic oil changes can be as little as $45 and as much as $80, depending on where you go — as always, servicing your car at the dealership tends to be more pricey.

Can Synthetic Oil Really Last Over 10,000 Miles?

Some synthetic oils make lofty claims of lasting up to 10,000 miles or more between changes. Those numbers might sound hard to believe, but as long as they come from a reputable brand like Mobil1 or Valvoline with the API certification seal, they’re the real deal and can last as long as they claim. Synthetic motor oil is that advanced these days. When you use a long-lasting oil like that, it’s essential to make a note of how many miles are on your odometer at each oil change because the oil life monitor in your car might think you need an oil change sooner than you really do. An important thing to keep in mind when using long-lasting synthetic oils is to use an oil filter designed to last just as long. Read more about the differences between conventional and synthetic motor oil.

The Bottom Line

The correct oil change interval depends on your car, and the simplest way to find how often you should change your oil is to check the owner’s manual. If you stick to that number or the oil life indicator in your car along with the manufacturer’s recommended oil type and oil filter, your engine should have a long and happy life.

Read Other Car Maintenance Articles Below:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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