How Long Can You Go Without Changing Your Oil?
How often do you really need to change your oil? We have been told for years that it’s important to change our engine oil “every 3 months or every 3000 miles” so hopefully you’re at least looking for a quick oil change a few times a year, but how long can you go between oil changes?
Do you still need to change your oil every 3000 miles? How long can you go with full synthetic oil? Can your Mercedes really go 10,000 miles between oil changes? Well don’t worry! Today I will tell you once and for all the truth!
Short Answer – It depends….
I know I know, not what you wanted to hear! So, as best I can, here is the medium length answer.
Conventional Oil and Older Cars – 3000 Mile Oil Change
If your car does not require a synthetic blend oil assume 3,000 miles is the rule. On a side note, oil change specials for $19.95 use conventional, so make sure your car is old enough and doesn’t need a blend. Older vehicles were built with older technology and engineered with non-synthetic oils in mind.
What if your car’s a little newer? You may be wondering “how often should I change my oil if my car has high mileage”? If you have a newer car with 150,000 or 200,000 miles you likely should also change your oil every 3,000 miles. If you burn more than 1 quart of oil or your oil is very dark before you get to 3,000 miles it’s likely time to change it! If you’re oil is still medium brown and not low after 3,000 miles you’re in luck! In spite of the high miles you’re engine is in good shape and you can go a little longer.
Synthetic Blend Oil and Higher Oil Capacity – 5,000 Mile Oil Change
Just about all cars now require synthetic blend oil. “How much more expensive is synthetic blend oil” you wonder? The good news is that the cost is very close. If you’re looking for an oil change near Indian Trail, NC 28079 Kindred Automotive doesn’t even charge extra for a synthetic blend oil change.
Synthetic blends hold up longer and won’t break down, even after 5000 miles of driving. Newer cars also have better filtration systems, allowing you to safely drive 5000 miles between oil changes.
If your car holds more than the typical 5 Quarts you may also be able to safely run 5,000 mile oil changes. More oil means more additives and more storage for the carbon and gas your filter can’t trap.
Synthetic Blend Oil Changes are much better for your engine, and safe for older cars, but you still need to check your oil at 3,000 miles and follow the advice listed above for high mileage engines.
Full Synthetic and European Oil Change – 7,500 Miles to….. well, it’s complicated!
Full synthetic oils will actually last well beyond 10,000 miles. The lifespan of synthetic oil depends, but it’s not crazy to see oils still working at 15,000 miles or longer. Synthetic technology is pretty amazing, but it isn’t magical. Just because the oil additives still work and the oil isn’t breaking down doesn’t mean it’s safe for your engine.
Over time engine oil gets diluted with gasoline and loses the ability to lubricate properly. Oil also has limited space to suspend particles, there’s only so much real estate to go around! Another complication seen in newer engines is the very tiny passages that oil must travel through, setting the stage for a clogged engine artery and a mechanical heart attack!
How long can your car go using Full Synthetic Oil depends on the amount of oil it holds, how large and how good the oil filter is, how well the engine was designed and how much it has worn over the years. We have seen a huge increase in engine repairs due to “Extended Oil Changes” leading to rapid failures.
Our standard recommendation is 7,500 miles for a normal vehicle based on the thousands of engine repairs we’ve seen over the years. This seems to be the most cost-effective balance of more frequent oil changes and less frequent repairs. Changing your oil sooner than 5000 miles will typically just increase your cost without any additional benefits. Likewise, waiting past 10,000 miles leads to thousands of dollars in future repairs and will not pay off in the long run.
Our personal vehicles hold between 6 and 9 quarts of Full Synthetic Oil and we shoot for every 5,000 miles. That means roughly 6,000 miles when we finally get around to it… Yes, we forget sometimes too! ?
My question is if my vehicle is rarely used that the odometer reading is only 4000 kms logged in from last oil change though the time interval is one year ago since last oil change.
How often should you change your oil if you don’t drive much? It does vary depending on the vehicle but once a year is a safe recommendation usually, as recommended by most exotic car manufacturers like Ferrari and Aston Martin. We also recommend starting the vehicle at least once a month and letting it run for 20 minutes to warm up. This will help any moisture in the engine evaporate and circulate the fluids around as well as charge the battery.
Even better would be to drive it for 20 minutes to let the transmission and gear oil also warm up.
My vehicle doesn’t have a recommended intterval, it has an oil life sentir. However, Ii still change it around every 5000 miles.
That’s the best way to do it Kenneth based on what I’ve seen over the last 15 years. Most people think the “Oil Life Remaining” Sensor measures the oil quality but they do not. Actually, your car probably doesn’t have a sensor at all! It’s basically just an internal clock that counts down from a pre-programed interval set when it was first built. As your vehicle wears they don’t have the ability to adjust based on engine condition, and that’s assuming they were setup from the start to maximize engine life. My personal opinion is most have been extended to make the “cost of ownership” seem lower at the expense of vehicle longevity. Keep changing your oil every 5,000 miles and you should see 200,000-300,000 miles out of that engine!
Do you mean to say that if synthetic oil is filled, it is going to loose it properties during time. It has no relation how much work it has done. So, according to to me there has to be a expiry date printed on a new container of engine oil.
Synthetic oils do a great job of maintaining their viscosity and resisting heat degradation. Years from now they will probably still be able to perform their duties of lubrication, however there are other factors beyond the base oil. Additives in oil can break down over time, and oil can only hold so much before it’s saturated. Further, fuel contamination thins oils and reduces their ability to lubricate your engine. Combine that with moisture in the crankcase and you start to see there’s more to protecting your engine than simply oil viscosity.
You can take a sample of your engine oil and have it analyzed by a laboratory to see if it’s still in good shape, but that usually costs around $30. Considering a Mercedes/BMW oil change tops out around $140, it’s more cost effective to just change the oil regularly than to test it several times a year until it’s no longer able to do it’s job. Hope that makes sense!
15k and higher might be pushing it. But going too far below 10k contributes to an issue far bigger than wasting some money or dealing with some engine trouble. Which is environmental damage.
“153.5 million gallons of used oil is being generated in California every year, but only 59 percent of it is ever recycled.”
So the matter of oil change frequency goes beyond what’s good for your car. Unless we all want to be drinking out of wells filled with oil in some decades, we should really do the research into the specific models we drive and make sure we’re not changing oil any more often than necessary, because odds are, some of that oil is dumped right on the ground or into our rivers and oceans.
I see the point you are making James but I would add a couple points for you to consider.
1. That article is for California. I’m certain that figure varies from state to state just like carbon footprint of electricity.
2. 59% is recycled…. That doesn’t mean 41% is poured into rivers. In my home state of North Carolina, it is illegal to pour used oil on the ground, down a drain, or anything else that would damage the environment. California has similar laws and I would bet so does every other state. The 41% figure would also represent used oil that would be incinerated in waste oil heaters for example, or shipped out of state and possibly recycled elsewhere.
3. Every facility that sells motor oil is required by law to collect and recycle used oil. If you are taking your car to a licensed auto mechanic, 0% of that oil should end up in our streams or ground water. Oil being illegally disposed of is happening by people changing their own oil at home and being too lazy to carry it back to Advance Auto Parts or Auto Zone where they will take it for free and recycle it.
Still, you bring up good points to consider. I agree 100% that oil needs to be handled responsibly and there is an environmental impact cost to more frequent oil changes as oil has an impact to produce. However, engines with increased wear due to prolonged oil changes cause more pollution, and replacing cars more often had a massive financial impact to families and an additional environmental impact in production. We would both need to collect a lot more data to be able to quantify which method is best, and also come to agreement on what “best” means 🙂
My perspective is from the average family that wants to know the best was to care for their car without having to become experts in auto repair.
Thanks for the input!
You could do an oil test just during one service interval (after car break-in period) to get an idea of how long a particular oil type lasts in your car. Test it at 5k and 10k and that should give you a good idea for all future oil changes as long as you drive in a similar manner/time period. No need to test it every time. (I haven’t done it myself)
Great point Ken!
Years ago I purchased a 2001 F150 pickup with over 200,000 miles. It took 7 quarts of oil and my experience is that 5,000 miles is good for an oil change.
First oil change at 5,000 miles and not only was the truck low on oil, but visually the oil was not in great shape.
I wrote the sticker for 3000 miles for the next oil change and checked the dipstick at the 3000 mile oil change interval. The oil still looked great at that point so I learned two things…
First, due to engine wear, that vehicle needed a 4000 mile oil change interval.
Second, the truck excessively burned oil when idling for long periods of time. Likely due to worn valve seals (probably from infrequent oil changes) but never confirmed.
So, I made sure not to leave it running when loading my trailer, I would add 1QT of oil around the 2000 mile mark, and I changed the oil every 4000 miles.
Your point is very well made! If you are so inclined you can tailor service intervals to the unique needs of your vehicle and come up with a better solution.
I’m a “car guy” so I enjoy that sort of thing, but my clients looking for a mechanic they can trust typically aren’t looking to put that much detail into their vehicles so what you’re reading is my best attempt to offer car advice that covers a wide array of situations.
Incidentally, we have many customers that we place on modified oil change intervals based on their vehicles. Some people drive 60,000 miles a year, all highway! We place them on longer cycles based on our service inspections as an example. Others have “newer” cars that were not taken care of and we advise they come and see us every 3,000 miles for an oil change.
Thanks for your comments!
Unless you’re doing lots of short trips where the engine never or rarely reaches full operating temperature 5K mile intervals on conventional oil is safe. I drove an ’88 Ford Escort to 518K miles on 5K mile intervals on conventional oil without a rebuild. When I quit using the Escort compression numbers were 145-155 PSI across all 4 cylinders. 2 of my current cars have in excess of 200K miles on 5K mile intervals, both use about 1/2 quart between changes.
Those old Escorts were awesome vehicles! I hear lots of stories of vehicles from the 80’s going 500,000 miles with regular services. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a common or rare, but you’re not the first I know of!
A couple point to consider:
Older engines were often manufactured with stronger (heavier) components and greater clearances between moving parts.
In order to meet modern fuel economy and emissions restrictions, modern engines are designed with incredible precision and built with advanced materials and very tight tolerances.
You can see this based on how thin the oil required has become. Old engines ran 10W30, new engines are now OW20. Pour some 10W30 into a modern engine and the thick oil will cause Check Engine Lights and the engine will run rough (depending on the engine).
The point of that is, some of the effects of conventional oil breaking down in an older engine is mitigated by the stronger materials, wider clearances and heavier oils. You have MUCH LESS room for error in a modern vehicle. You also need to consider a modern car can have 4 catalytic converters and expensive Air/Fuel sensors instead of oxygen sensors. A modern engine that burns oil can destroy thousands of dollars in converters.
I would also add that I see a lot of people confuse “conventional” oil with “synthetic blend”. It’s actually getting pretty hard to find conventional oil anymore. At our repair shop we don’t even stock it. Our “regular oil change” is always with a blend, and every vehicle I know of produced in the last 15 years has an API or ILSAC requirement that necessitates using a synthetic blend product. Many people using “conventional oils” are actually using a product with a blend of synthetic additives that’s just not marketed as synthetic blend. There’s a very good chance that if you call the oil company you’ll find that the conventional oil you’re using now is actually a blended product.
Thanks for the comment and great job keeping your cars on the road! Well done!
I recently changed over to Amsoil on all of my vehicles and have gone 25,000 miles between oil changes per Amsoils claim.
I do not do much city driving and therefore keeping the engine operating temperature where it should be.
Can I get some feedback on Amsoil/25,000 mile oil change intervals??? Thanks
Amsoil is a great product! They have some very smart engineers that really know their stuff, that’s for sure!
Theoretically a full synthetic oil can last much longer than even 25,000 miles! This is one of those internet rabbit holes than you can travel down for days…
We are trying to avoid a couple things by changing oil in our vehicles. Old oil gets hot, breaks down, and it’s viscosity changes over time. Full synthetic oil like Amsoil solves this issue wonderfully. I’ve seen tests showing 25,000 mile Amsoil performing at something like 98% of new which is astonishing!
Viscosity affects oil pressure, separation distances of moving parts, and engine timing if you have variable gears like Toyota VVT (which is nearly every vehicle in the last 15-20 years).
The other factor in viscosity would be fuel contamination. Some unburned fuel passes by your piston rings and ends up in the crank case oil. Over time, this fuel will be sufficient enough to reduce the lubrication of your oil. Frequent oil changes keep this from happening, however this is not the case if you’re running 25,000 mile intervals. High quality full synthetics such as Amsoil do not address this issue and this could lead to a failure. The time it would take to be a concern would vary greatly from engine to engine.
The third issue normally solved by regular oil changes is the build up of carbon and engine deposits. Full synthetic oils typically have less detergents as they are more resistant to heat so they typically have less issues with deposits forming. There are some “high detergent oils” on the market that I would recommend if you are switching to a full synthetic oil on an engine that has not run it in the past. I do not know how strong Amsoil detergents are so if that matters I would ask them.
Engine oils are designed to dissolve harmful deposits and hold them in suspension such that they will not cause wear or engine damage. Eventually your oil will reach a saturation point and it can no longer absorb these, leading to increased wear.
Filters will help to some extent. They are designed to trap debris above a certain size but they too will fill up eventually.
I have seen 30,000 oil change products that require you to use there filters and for them to be changed every 10,000 miles. This will solve the issue of debris overloading the filter. I’m sure you could also run a larger filter if packaging would allow for it.
Ultimately though, it would not solve the issue of fine deposits held in solution building up over time, nor would it address fuel contamination.
My understanding is that the whole premise of 25,000 mile oil changes rests on the engine producing very few deposits, having an excellent filtration system from the factory. It’s 100% possible, especially if done to a well build engine right from “Day 1”, but it always struck me as more effort than I would save by skipping oil changes.
Keep in mind on giant engines like tanks, construction equipment, generators and ships that costs thousands or tens of thousands to change the oil, they can go years between services. They take oil samples and have them lab analyzed, only replacing when the properties start to fall out of safe ranges. The reason we don’t do that in the automotive industry is the $50 test and several week wait makes no financial sense when an expensive oil change may run $150 on high end European cars.
So, all that said, Amsoil is awesome oil, it 100% can go BEYOND 25,000 miles, but you still need to be very cautious of contamination from fuel and deposits and you still may need 10,000 oil filter changes (although from my reading of your comment it seems that’s no longer their recommendation). Those issues really depend on the vehicle and may be more or less concerning from person to person.
I’d suggest you be 100% certain you are not causing increased wear. In other words, I’d recommend you collect a sample of your oil when you hit 25,000 miles and have it tested by a lab. If the results come back with low fuel and the metals detected are in such small quantities that it’s not causing wear, keep it up!
You can do a quick search online and find several places that will test motor oils. Last I checked it ran between $30-50. If you go that route let me know the results!
For what it’s worth I have a 2006 Jaguar, a 2009 Range Rover, a 2005 Aston Martin, and a 1999 DeVille. All take full synthetic and I change them all at 5,000 miles. That is more frequent than I would recommend for a client, but its easier for my brain to remember, and I have found and been able to fix many issues that could have been more expensive down the road. Obviously those are older vehicles so if I had a 2019 Mercedes for example I’d probably start with 10,000 mile services and lower that to 7500 as it got older.
Love the concept! Thanks for asking about it and good luck! I’m glad to see you are taking extra steps to care for your vehicles.
Hi question my wife’s suv takes 5W30. We had a full synthetic oil change done in October 2019. They told us and its on the sticker that it was good for 10,000 miles or Oct 2021 whichever came first. So we checked the oil yesterday after it started knocking a little and realized it was 3 qts low it holds 4.5qts. It has been 8,000 miles from the last oil change, there is no sign of leak or anything wrong. So my question is can oil evaporate and run low from running that period of time? Thanks
I have a 2020 ram 2500 392 hemi an a 2019 jeep wrangler 3.6 both vehicles low milage I change my oil at 3,000 miles full synthetic I feel it’s not a waste of oil or money for me I figure this I waste money on beer so I gess I can waste money on oil changes so there I gess I drink to that lol
This is an entirely useful article. Thank you. I’ve learned a lot.
I’m a bit confused, though, because the article suggests that fully synthetic oil on high capacity (5 qts or more) engines will almost easily go for 10,000 miles or more, however here within the article it’s implied no car should risk exceeding 7,500 miles max between oil changes.
I drive a 2005 Jaguar XJ8 L that I bought at an estate sale a year ago, when it had only 67k miles. It had a fresh synthetic oil change when I bought it, however since it had been in storage for many years and not driven, it drove “rough” for the first few weeks. I had to clean some components, and I even take apart the throttle body and cleaned it (thanks, YouTube). At 70k miles I decided to not take the sellers word for the oil change and got one myself; my car holds 5.5 quarts and I had the oil changed, fully synthetic.I repeated this at 80K
The care now has 89k miles on it. It’s for environmental reasons that I’ve decided to have oil changes every 10k, and I’ll be getting the oil changes again at 90k miles. I’ve seen no change in performance in the vehicle, “tactile “ or otherwise.
Can you or any other commenters give me peace of mind OR tell me otherwise? This vehicle has been N excellent dIly driver for me, despite its age, and I’d like it to stay that way.
I still don’t have clarity re oil changes with fully synthetic oil. I have a 2007 BMW which had an oil change in Nov 2020 and is stored yearly for 5mos. In total the car now has only 4000 miles since the last oil change 17 mos ago. Is it my correct understanding that oil additives and ability to suspend debris decreases with time despite low yearly mileage and storage? So, low mileage or not oil needs to be changed every 12 mos maximum?
I have a Toyota Corolla 20007 (so about 15 years old) and had 37,000 miles. I am confused. How often should I change oil? Any suggestions?
I have a 2021 Kia Rio. It uses a full synthetic oil. I’ve recently changed jobs and will be working much closer to home. That being said, I likely won’t even put more than 300 miles a month on my car. How long could I go without needing an oil change if I don’t even put 5000 miles a year on my car?