Before you take your car in for that 3,000 mile oil change, take a minute to think about whether you really need it. Recent technological developments in auto construction and oil production make it unnecessary in almost every case to get an oil change that soon. You should first consider the manufacturer's recommendation for oil change frequency and then think about the reasons your oil might degrade faster or slower than expected. Here are three of the biggest factors that may affect how soon your oil needs changing.
Driving conditions are a big deal here. When the engine is under more stress, the oil wears down faster. Environmental factors that may affect oil lifespan include extreme weather (both hot and cold), sudden temperature changes, dusty and/or bumpy roads, and city driving with frequent stops. If one or more of these is a big part of your daily driving experience, you may need to change the oil sooner than the manufacturer recommends.
The type of oil that you use can also affect the change interval needed. Relevant factors here include:
- Additives and how quickly they break down
- Viscosity and viscosity changes based on temperature
- Synthetic versus petroleum-based (synthetic lasts longer)
Any impurities included in your oil tend to cause it to degrade faster. This includes blowby (usually only an important factor if you have an old car), additives, and inherent impurities (often present in petroleum-based oils). The impurities can react together to form other substances and can also cause sludge to build up inside your engine. If you have a new engine and use synthetic oils with minimal additives, you can minimize this effect. Another aspect of this factor is the quality of your filter. The oil filter can affect the life of the oil, so you should always spring for a high-quality one and change it frequently. If your filter is low-quality or hasn't been changed as often as it should, you may have to change your oil sooner. If, on the other hand, you have an ideal situation (synthetic oil, high-quality new filter, modern engine, and no additives) you may not have to change it for several thousand miles after the recommended interval.
By approximating the effects these three factors have had on your oil during its life, you can determine whether you should change it before or or after the recommended changing interval. Every situation is different, so if you're unsure of the best choice, ask a mechanic like Felix Auto Repair & Towing for help in estimating your oil's lifespan.