How Often To Change Oil: The Drive’s Guide

It’s time to give your car an oil transfusion.

Old oil being drained from the oil pan.
Depositphotos

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Understanding an automobile’s systems and required maintenance schedules can seem like advanced quantum physics written in Latin to many who didn’t grow up with legendary drag racer John Force as your father. But with a little practice and guidance, you can learn the language, including deciphering how often you need to change your oil.

Changing oil is a vital part of car maintenance, as oil is the lifeblood of your engine. It makes your pistons pop, your crankshaft crank, and your engine lubricated. Not following the directed oil change schedule can lead to intermittent idling, unresponsive throttle, or in a worst-case scenario, severe damage that tailspins into engine failure. Trust us, it isn’t pretty when your oil goes bad.

That’s why The Drive’s crack informational team has taken on the responsibility of dropping some knowledge on you and help you determine just how often you need to change your oil, as well as answer a few other common oil life questions. 

Ready to get schooled?

Pouring engine oil into an engine.
Depositphotos

Pouring oil into an engine.

How Often Do You Need To Change Oil

Your oil change schedule is going to depend on three variables; make, model, and the year it was built. Cars, trucks, and SUVs before 1990 required routine oil changes every 3,000 miles or every three months. But as engines have become more efficient, and oil chemistry has been developed to last longer, modern engines require oil changes far less frequently than cars of the past. 

Some cars, trucks, and SUVs now only require oil changes every 7,500 to 10,000 miles, others even longer. If you own something relatively new and drive at an average rate, you could possibly get away with an oil change only once a year. To make it a little easier for you, here’s a brief rundown of the most common manufacturers and their lineups’ current oil change schedules.

  • Acura: 7,500-10,000 miles
  • Audi: 10,000 miles
  • BMW: 12,000-15,000 miles
  • Buick: 7,500 miles
  • Cadillac: 7,500 miles
  • Chevrolet: 7,500 miles
  • Chrysler: 8,000 miles
  • Dodge: 7,500 miles
  • Ford: 7,500 miles
  • GMC: 7,500 miles
  • Honda: 7,500 miles
  • Hyundai: 7,500 miles
  • Jaguar: 15,000 miles
  • Jeep: 5,000-7,500 miles
  • Kia: 7,500 miles
  • Land Rover: 7,500-10,000 miles
  • Lexus: 10,000 miles
  • Mazda: 15,000 miles
  • Mercedes-Benz: 10,000 miles
  • Nissan: 5,000-7,000 miles
  • Porsche: 20,000 miles
  • RAM: 8,000 miles
  • Subaru: 5,000-7,000 miles
  • Tesla: You don’t! It’s electric!
  • Toyota: 15,000 miles 
  • Volkswagen: 10,000 miles
  • Volvo: 10,000 miles
A dirty oil filter.
Depositphotos

A dirty, old oil filter.

How Much Does It Cost To Change Oil?

The price of changing your oil varies depending on what sort of oil you use, how much oil is needed, and whether you or a professional handles the job.

Professional oil changes range from $50-100 depending on your car and how much oil it needs. DIY oil changes will only cost an average of $20-50 in parts, but again, the prices depend on your car and its needs. 

Oil Change Basics

Estimated Time Needed: Half-hour.

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Oil system

A female mechanic changes a car's oil.
Depositphotos

A female mechanic changes a car's oil.

How to Change Your Oil

Here’s a quick rundown of how to change your oil. You can also consult The Drive’s more exhaustive guide for How to Change Your Own Oil.

  1. Remove the oil cap on top of your engine and place an oil drain pan underneath the oil pan at the base of the engine.
  2. Extract your old oil by removing the drain plug on the oil pan underneath the engine.
  3. After the oil is out, hand-tighten the oil plug. 
  4. Remove and replace the oil filter.
  5. Using a funnel, add new motor oil through the opening that was underneath the oil cap at the top of the engine. 
  6. Replace the cap, start the engine, and use the dipstick to check the oil level.
  7. Add oil if necessary.

How Long Can I Go Without an Oil Change?

Trust us, we’ve been in the position where life gets so hectic and busy you completely miss your scheduled oil change. And it’ll be weeks until you’re able to either do it yourself or have a professional do it for you. Thankfully, manufacturers engineer a little wiggle room into oil chemistry, and your oil won’t immediately go bad once the odometer clicks past your scheduled change. Especially if your car uses modern synthetic oils. Just don’t go too long …

What Happens If You Go Too Long Without an Oil Change?

As your engine cycles through your oil, it picks up dirt, debris, metal shavings from your cylinders, and other particulates coursing through your engine. As this happens, it can become tar-like and more viscous, which makes it harder for the oil to efficiently move through your engine. If you let it go too long, it could turn into sludge and seize your engine. If that happens, you’re looking at a far more expensive bill than just an oil change.

Cleaning a dipstick.
Depositphotos

Cleaning a dipstick. 

Is It Bad To Change Oil Too Often?

It isn’t, but why would you want to spend money if you don’t have to? Plus, all that extra oil you’re replacing is harmful to the environment, so it’s best to just stick with the prescribed oil change schedule. 

Pro Tips to Determine How Often You Should Change Your Oil

Over the years, The Drive’s editors have changed thousands of quarts of oil. We’ve seen sludgy goop, pristine amber fluid, and had searingly hot oil splashed onto our skin and faces—don’t worry, we’re still beautiful. 

We’re also old enough to remember the time before your car automatically told you when it was time to change your oil. So here are our pro tips to determine how often and when you should change your oil.

  • Check the above list!
  • Check your manual. It’s the second-easiest way to determine how often to change your oil.
  • Check the manufacturer’s website. It’s the third easiest way to determine how often to change your oil.
  • Check the coloration of your oil by removing the dipstick. If it’s amber and semi-transparent, you’re golden. If it’s black, tarry, and resembles the ooze that transformed four turtles and a rat into ninjas, it’s time to swap that out.

Featured Oil Change Products

Pittsburgh Compact Aluminum Racing Jack

Torin Big Red Steel Jack Stands

FRAM Ultra Synthetic Spin-On Oil Filter with SureGrip

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com