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Do You Really Need to Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles?

202309 change oil every 3 thousand miles scaled jpg Oil change every 3,000 miles | illustration by Paul Dolan

While changing your oil every 3,000 miles was standard practice many years ago, modern lubricants and advances in engine materials and tolerances have largely made that frequency unnecessary. So, is it required to change your vehicle’s motor oil every 3,000 miles, or should you wait longer?

Related: What Happens When You Overfill Your Car With Oil?

Oil Change Intervals

Today, most manufacturers recommend oil changes between 5,000 and 10,000 miles — sometimes more with synthetic motor oils. Some manufacturers may list a time interval, as well, which can be six months or a year. There may also be a shorter recommended interval for “severe service,” which is usually defined as frequent trailer towing, driving in extreme temperatures or very dusty conditions, stop-and-go driving and lots of short trips (where the engine never gets hot enough to burn off water condensation and raw fuel that accumulates in the engine crankcase).

The maintenance schedule in your car’s owner’s manual is your best guide. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, the recommended interval can usually be found by doing an online search for “maintenance schedule for [year/make/model]”; you can also try searching “oil change interval for [year/make/model].” Keep in mind that it’s always best to go with the manufacturer’s advice rather than someone’s opinion, so watch out for the source of the information.

Note, however, that many cars these days don’t have a set recommended interval for oil changes. Instead, these cars have computerized oil life monitors that determine when the oil should be changed based on your individual driving habits.

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Checking Oil Level

With today’s longer oil change intervals, it’s important to check your oil level periodically, particularly on older cars or ones that you know leak or burn some oil. If you wait until the oil pressure warning light goes on or the oil pressure gauge drops significantly — meaning things are already bad — it may catch you in a situation where adding oil isn’t immediately possible.

Before pulling out the dipstick and checking your oil level, make sure the vehicle is parked on a level surface and the engine has been turned off for at least a few minutes so all the oil that’s been circulating through it has had time to run down into the oil pan. Otherwise, your reading will indicate the level is lower than it actually is, and if you add oil, it will be overfilled, which is bad for your engine. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it with a clean cloth or paper towel, reinsert it all the way and pull it back out. Toward the end of the dipstick, there will be markings to help you read the oil level.

It’s important to note that some cars don’t have oil dipsticks; instead, a sensor detects the oil level and can display it on a vehicle’s information screen.

Synthetic Motor Oil

Synthetic motor oil, which is made from higher-quality base oils than regular motor oil, has superior lubrication properties that it retains over a longer period. Many new cars come with it and call for it when the oil is changed.

However, putting synthetic oil in cars that don’t require it may not be worth its extra cost — which can be significant. You should still follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals, but there may be cases in which using synthetic oil could be advantageous. For instance, if your driving falls under the “severe service” guidelines noted above, synthetic oil could be beneficial as it’s less likely to break down and lose its lubricating properties under extreme conditions. It’s also less likely to suffer from sludge buildup, which can clog oil passages and shorten engine life.

Related Video:’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.


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