How Often Should You Change Your Oil

Picture this Scenario: 2009 Honda Pilot. Mom’s do-everything vehicle.

Comes to the shop with about 120,000 miles on it, not bad at all for a Honda. But, there’s a ticking noise under the hood. Inspection and testing uncover a worn out engine, costing many thousands of dollars to replace. The cause?

Changing the oil regularly.

I can hear you now. Wait, what?!? She had the oil changed regularly and the engine wore out? How does THAT happen? The answer may surprise you, but it has to do with the words Regularly and Normal. Let’s dive in here for a minute. I promise not to get too technical and boring.

Without question oil and engine technology has made significant strides in the last few years, thus leaving a lot of people wondering how often they really need to get their oil changed.

Recommending you change the engine oil in your car every 3,000 miles is clearly outdated, but some automakers are recommending intervals of 10,000 and even 15,000 miles between Normal services, unfortunately leading drivers down a dangerous and potentially expensive road as our unfortunate Pilot owner found out.

Here’s the deal. Yes, there are some engines that can get by with those intervals between oil changes, but they are not in the cars that most of us drive every day. Also, let’s look at the criteria for “normal” driving conditions right out of most owner’s manuals.

  • Driven only in ambient temperatures of 50-80 degrees F, never below freezing or over 90
  • Always driven 10 miles or more on each trip, and no stop-and-go
  • Never hauling or towing anything
  • Never driven in dusty conditions
  • Never driven in mountainous areas
  • Non 4-wheel drive

So, is it OK to go ahead and label “Normal” driving conditions under a blanket term we can all relate to?

How about “San Diego”? OK, I’m just kidding, but only a little.

What if, instead, we call those conditions “Ideal”? Fair enough, right?

Look, nobody wants to feel like they are abusing their vehicle, so it’s hard to admit your car needs what the manufacturer calls the “Severe” maintenance schedule.

Well, like above, why don’t we call it by a better term? Maybe “Average”? I’d prefer to call it “Maintenance for super-awesome Utah people like us that want to take care of our cars but not throw money away while doing it”, but that’s just entirely too wordy.

So what’s the best bet for your vehicle in Utah’s severe Average driving conditions?

Our years of experience as an auto shop right here in American Fork, combined with industry standards for today’s conventional and synthetic oils says that — for most cars — its around the 5,000 mile mark. A bit less with regular (conventional) oil, say 4,000 miles, a little more with synthetic, somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 miles. There’s a lot of variables, but we can help you create a healthy oil change schedule to keep your vehicle’s engine protected based on YOUR car and YOUR driving needs. Just ask!

Back to our Pilot owner. We don’t want to make her feel bad, but we would have LOVED to have been able to educate her on what the real-life oil change schedule should be before the engine wore out. Even changing the oil just 2,000 miles sooner with a quality synthetic oil each time would most likely have saved thousands of dollars, and cost only a few hundred over the 7 years the vehicle has been on the road.

“Wait, what about the car manufacturers? Why are they telling me to drive 7,500, 10,000 or even 15,000 miles between changes?” Well, I promised to not get too wordy, so well save all of that (and there’s a LOT) for another post.

The point is, have someone you trust, someone that wants your car to run for years and years trouble-free, thus netting the most miles for the dollars you spend on maintaining it. Hint: That’s us. We’d like a chance to prove it.