Oil change services usually cost between $29 and $149. You should get them done as recommended by your car’s owner manual or mechanic, often between 3,000 and 7,500 miles. New engines with synthetic oil can make it to 15,000 miles. Plan accordingly!
If you’ve got a summer road trip planned, you might be wondering how long you can go without an oil change?
The short answer is, “it depends.” There are many factors to consider when determining whether an oil change needs to be done ASAP or down the road.
For example, if we’re talking about missing an oil change deadline by a week, and you haven’t been taking long trips or commuting, it’s not probably not a huge deal.
Then again, if you’re driving hundreds of miles trip after trip, you need to keep a close eye on the odometer.
Today’s post will walk readers through the ins and outs of oil changes while getting into the details on how long a car can be pushed past its oil change deadline.
Hint: Not long.
How Long Can a Car Go Without an Oil Change?
Knowing when your car needs an oil change requires some light reading; get out the old car owner’s manual and take a gander.
The vehicle’s specific listing is the ultimate guide. If your car says it needs an oil change at 5,000 miles, for example, stick with the plan.
Older cars required oil changes at 3,500 miles like clockwork. Back in the day, many drivers did these oil changes on their own. The cars were designed so that people with a basic understanding of engines could do it.
Now, on the other hand, most people drive the car to the mechanic or dealership for a quick oil change, and how often they do this depends on several variables.
New cars with synthetic motor oil can be driven almost a year or up to 12,000 to 15,000 miles! That’s four times longer than what our grandparents used to do.
The professionals suggest that if you drive your car in severe conditions (only five minutes at a time, in extreme cold or heat, in city traffic, etc.), you get oil changes done more frequently.
If you have a note on your dashboard or an alarm in your car that tells you when your next oil change is, follow that. It might be okay to get in a few quick errands before the next oil change, but you shouldn’t plan a cross-country road trip.
Checking the Car to See if an Oil Change is Needed
Figuring out if your car needs an oil change is fairly simple. You can look at the color of the oil, use your five senses, and trust the meter if your car has one.
Do you know how to check your car’s oil level? This is an important car maintenance task.
First, open the hood of the car when the car is parked on a flat surface.
NOTE: Be careful if the engine’s been running, parts can be hot!
Locate the dipstick and pull it out. Wipe it down with a napkin or cloth. Insert it again. Pull it out, and take a reading. The stick should have marks that show you minimum and maximum levels. If the crankcase is near empty, it’s time to fill it up.
By the way, it’s not normal for too much oil to be lost over the course of a few months. If there is a lot missing, you may have a leak somewhere. Get the car checked out by a mechanic if that’s the case.
When you check the level, you can also get a clue about the car’s health in terms of the motor oil. If the color of the oil is golden and the liquid doesn’t have debris, it’s in good shape.
However, if the oil on the dipstick is brown, black, dirty, or has what looks like metal shavings in it, it’s time for an oil change and perhaps a tune up.
Other clues that your car needs some attention in the motor oil department can be detected by an observant car operator.
- Smell: Do you smell burning oil? That’s not a good sign!
- Sight: Look for smoke coming from the exhaust or hood of the car to see if you’ve already pushed the car too hard since it’s last oil change. Look for oil puddles or stains in your driveway.
- Touch: Don’t touch the hot engine. Instead, think about how the car has been driving. Vibrations, sputtering, etc. are signs of something amiss.
- Hearing: Engine knocking isn’t common in newer cars, but any type of clicking, ticking, knocking, or clunking means it’s time to get the engine checked out.
If you have these issues going on with your vehicle, you should absolutely not keep driving it. In fact, you can take it for an oil change and an estimate. Many oil change services come with full-service inspections. This will help you get a better picture of how your car is performing.
Finally, many cars have an oil life meter. For starters, always make sure it’s been reset after your last oil change. If not, the meter could be meaningless. Most oil meter life readings simply keep track of the miles driven and the manufacturer's specification for oil changes.
If you have a great mechanic and synthetic oil, you might be able to ignore the meter for a bit. However, this is not recommended.
It's important to remember that most oil life meters do not tell the driver about the quality of the oil. They don’t tell you of the oil levels either! They simply state how many miles until an oil change is due. Although it’s a helpful tool, car owners should not rely on it!
How Much Does an Oil Change Cost?
Half of the time, when somebody wants to know how long they can drive a car past an oil change date recommendation, they simply are worried about spending too much on the oil change. They usually cost between $29.99 and $149.99.
Backing it up a few steps, car owners are reminded that oil changes, along with other routine maintenance tasks, are an investment. People who are smart with their money know that spending $50 on an oil change is better than spending $6,000 on an engine rebuild.
If you can do the oil change yourself at home (you have the knowhow, space, and proper tools), you could save a few bucks by picking up everything you need at the local auto parts store. It is crucial to remember that the old oil must be disposed of properly, though.
A regular old oil change and a new oil filter (always get the new filter) should run between $29.99 to $149.99. The cheapest oil changes are offered on promotion, often by local garages with a national brand name (Jiffy Lube, etc.).
Some locales even offer special prices for specific hours. Taking advantage of early bird specials or night owl services can save you a few bucks. Look for coupons, too!
Synthetic oil can cost more, but it will extend the amount of time and number of miles you can put in between this oil change and the next. For many car owners, this small increase in price is worth it!
Dealerships offer some of the most expensive oil changes, but they’re often worth it in the end. This is especially true for foreign and luxury vehicles. Because the cars require specialized tools and training, certified experts will provide the best work.
Dealership oil changes also offer full-point inspections so the driver will be made aware of any potential problems with the vehicle.
Remember that early intervention is a key factor in saving money when dealing with car repairs. For this reason, it’s not advised to skip oil changes or to push the car hard in between them. When in doubt, schedule an oil change.
Why is my Oil Change Taking So Long?
On average, an oil change takes half an hour to forty-five minutes if there’s not a queue ahead of your car. Sometimes, though, it seems like the oil change is taking forever! This makes nervous people start to wonder about what’s going on.
During the oil change, the mechanic will take out the drain plug found near the bottom of the oil plan. This allows the oil to pour out into another pan.
Some people suggest leaving buckets of used motor oil outside the garage’s door late at night, but that’s not really ethical or fair. One of the most convenient parts of doing an oil change at a credible establishment is that they handle the disposal of the old oil. Do it right!
During the oil change, new oil will be put into the engine. The oil filter will also be changed. Many packages include inspections, spark plugs, AC recharges, and tire rotations.
It can sometimes feel like these additional services aren’t worth it, but they often are. If you go to a dealership, the services are usually honestly stated based on manufacturer specification. At local garages, you have to trust your mechanic knows best for you and your car.
If you’re not sure, you can always get an estimate from another garage or take it to a different mechanic for a second opinion.
Should I get Synthetic Oil During my Oil Change?
First of all, the best resources for this question are your mechanic and your car’s owner manual. The manufacturer and the licensed professional do usually know best.
Most experts suggest getting synthetic oil if you can afford it. The price difference isn’t usually extreme, often less than $20. For big vehicles like SUVS, trucks, and vans, it might be more.
The synthetic oil lasts longer. If you can get 5,000 or 6,000 miles out of an oil change, instead of 3,000, by using synthetic oil, it’s worth it! You’ll likely make the money back on having fewer oil changes each year.
Newer cars with synthetic oil in the motor have been reported to surpass 15,000 miles without needing an oil change!
Electric Cars do not Need an Oil Change!
Slowly but surely people are coming around to electric cars; they don’t require an oil change!
It should be stated that hybrid cars that have the conventional motor operation as an option will require oil changes.
Old Cars Need Oil Changes More Frequently
The sad news about old cars is that they require more service than newer ones, even if they are cheaper to purchase, cooler looking, and fun to drive.
For this reason, some people get rid of their old cars, trading them in for something newer and reliable.
The average lifespan of a car is only twelve years. If you’re driving something from 2005 in 2021, that’s old as far as automobiles go. It might be time to send the car to the auto recycler or junkyard.
These friendly teams will recycle your car for parts and scrap. When they come to haul off the vehicle, they don’t change for the tow. Instead, they pay you cash for the vehicle.
This is good news for the drivers who are tired of getting four or five oil changes a year!