How Often Should You Do an Oil Change?

It used to be that you changed the motor oil in your car or truck every 5,000 km and that was it. If you couldn’t remember when it was due, there was a little sticker on your windshield that served as a reminder. Modern cars and modern oil mean that the days of 5 km changes are long over, but how often should you do an oil change? The answers can be hugely different, but we’re here to help.

Do What the Computer Says

Most modern cars and trucks have a built-in maintenance reminder function. A light will pop up on the dash that says it’s time for an oil change. It could be a simple reminder that tells you when the oil life is low or it could let you know about a whole bunch of services that should be done at the same time.

But Maybe Don’t Do What the Computer Says

The oil life monitor in your vehicle isn’t a sensor, it’s a bunch of math. It monitors cold starts, warm starts, total revolutions, and a handful of other factors and then runs them all through a big equation. There is a lot of engineering behind that equation, but it can’t account for everything.


Take a look at your owner’s manual. For most vehicles, that little booklet will tell you when you need an oil change. It will also tell you if your car was designed for full synthetic oil or a conventional oil.


The manual will even tell you if you need a seasonal oil change. Some older models and many performance cars need an oil switch when the weather gets hotter. Your car could need 0W20 or 5W20 in the winter but might require 5W40 or even 10W60 in the summer. The owner’s manual is the best place to find out that information.

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Is Your Vehicle Experiencing Severe Service?

A built-in oil monitor can account for most situations, but not for what many manufacturers call “severe service” driving. While that sounds like a taxi or police car, it can apply to your daily driver car or truck too. Severe service can mean hours of idling, but it can also apply to towing. For some manufacturers, severe service includes driving in very cold weather, driving in dusty conditions and on dirt roads, or even driving in places where salt is used on the roads.


Do those situations sound familiar? If they do, you might need to get an oil change every 6,000 km in the winter instead of 12,000 km. Missing that interval for an engine oil and oil filter change could potentially void your warranty, which is why it’s so important to read your manual.

I Want to Be Exact!

If you don’t trust the automaker’s schedule, you can always talk to a NAPA Canada AUTOPRO service specialist. You can also send your used engine oil to a lab for analysis. Laboratory services will examine your oil on a microscopic level and can tell you exactly how much life it has left. These tests can also tell you if your engine is experiencing premature wear or let you know about loads of other potential issues.

Whatever You Do, Change That Oil

No matter what maintenance interval you decide is best, from the old 5,000 km recommendation to a manufacturer’s computer suggestion of over 20,000 km, the important thing is that you change your oil. Even the best modern oils break down over time. Change it at least once per year with a quality conventional or synthetic, and always change the filter. A NAPA Canada auto parts expert can make sure you have the right grade of oil (you can’t just pour in 5W30 like the old days) and the right filter for your vehicle.

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