Oil is the lifeblood of a car’s engine, performing such integral functions as lubrication, cooling, cleaning and protecting from rust. Usually, engines that have been well maintained with regular oil changes don’t develop any major bearing, ring, cam or valve problems before the 100,000 mile mark.
So how often should you change your oil? Most vehicle manufacturers recommend an oil change every 7,500 miles for “normal” driving, but what most people think of as normal driving is actually classified as “severe driving”—frequent short trips to the store, stop-and-go traffic, driving on rough and/or dusty roads, and driving steadily at highway speeds in hot weather. For this type of driving, vehicle manufacturers recommend an oil change every 3,000 miles (or every three to six months).
In addition to regularly changing your oil, it’s a good idea to check your oil level every few hundred miles and make sure it’s adequate. Be careful to not overfill—it can cause serious engine problems. Consult your car’s manual or an oil change technician to determine the right type of oil for your car. There are three main types of oil:
Conventional. This is the most common type of oil, and all modern cars are designed to run on it.
High mileage. Specifically designed for cars that have 75,000 miles or more, this oil contains additives that help improve performance and prevent leaks.
Synthetic. There are two grades of synthetic oil: regular and ultra. The latter performs better at higher and lower temperatures, which increases flowability and allows for better engine cleaning. Many manufacturers recommend synthetic oil for newer cars because it can contribute to better fuel economy.
The lifespan of a car’s air filter often depends on the setting in which it’s driven. For example, a filter for a car that’s driven in a rural setting will have to be changed more frequently than a filter for a car driven in the city, simply because country roads create far more dirt and dust. City drivers should visually inspect their air filters every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Drivers who travel on dirt roads, muddy fields or sandy areas should check their air filters during every oil change.