The bad news when it comes to the question of how often you should change your car's oil is there isn’t one rule that fits every vehicle and driver, but the good news is you can’t change your oil too often. Today's cars are increasingly sophisticated and complex, and the kind of oil they need and the frequency of change needed will be clearly stated in the owner's manual. But if you’re still not sure, here's a rough guide to how often you might need to get an oil change on your vehicle.
There are two things to consider when it comes to deciding how often to have an oil change service, which are the amount of miles the vehicle has done and how it's being driven. There are two ways a vehicle can be driven that determines how often the oil needs changing and other aspects of car maintenance and general car care, which are basically normal and hard. Hard driving is when a vehicle is used for one or more of the following: mostly short trips of 8km or less; extremely hot, cold or dusty environments; continual sustained stop and go driving; towing a trailer and/or regular heavy hauling. If none of those apply to you, it's ok to follow your manufacturer's normal schedule. But if one or more do apply to you, follow the hard driving or "severe service" schedule.
The most modern vehicles often make it incredibly easy for us to keep on top of the right oil change schedule as they now usually come with an oil-life monitoring system. These are designed to automatically work out for you when an oil change is due, and then alert you with a notification on the instrument panel. Early versions were entirely mileage based, so check out what type you have if you have an older vehicle. The most modern systems also analyze the way the vehicle is being driven, so as long as you follow its instructions you can’t go wrong really.
If you have an older vehicle that doesn’t have an oil-life monitoring system, you'll have to monitor things manually. As a general rule of thumb, it used to be normal to have an oil change every 5,000 km or so, but advances in modern lubricant technology have moved this upwards to between 8,000 km and 12,000 km. In fact, if your vehicle is running on fully synthetic oil, the oil change interval could be as much as 24,000 km, but be sure to check the manufacturer's recommendations before running so long between oil changes. Most vehicles we buy today, apart perhaps from extremely high-performance models, will usually only need to have an oil change as part of an annual service as long as they're not being driven hard.
Even the latest oil-life monitoring systems are not entirely infallible, so it makes sense to still check your oil level manually to make sure the level is correct. Oil is your engine's blood, and keeping a check on it is a small price to pay to prevent major or even catastrophic engine failure, that can result from neglecting your engine's oil. It's not really possible to check the quality of your oil by looking at it or smelling it, so sticking to the correct oil change schedule is definitely the way to go.
For more information on the oil your vehicle needs and how often it should be changed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts here at Yarmouth Mazda.