How Often Do I Need To Change My Oil?

Many people are confused when it comes to servicing their vehicles and for good reasons. If you were to poll many professionals in this industry you might be surprised to find that quite a few are not in agreement with when you need to service your vehicle. There are quite a few shops that still stick with the 3 month, or 3,000 mile interval of when you need to change your oil. There are other shops say that you use ‘synthetic’ oil you can go 5,000 miles, and others that say you can rely on ‘vehicle’ for when you need to change it. Who is right?

Let’s look at a couple of facts. General Motors (GM) developed their first Oil Life Monitoring (OLM) System for use back in 1988. Using software algorithms they monitored various operating conditions of the engine to determine when the oil needed to be changed. The algorithm was developed over the course of many years by several lubrication experts at GM Fuels and Lubes, spearheaded by Doctor Shirley Schwartz who holds the patents (with GM) for the algorithm and the oil life monitor.

SAE Technical Paper

Oil quality and the additive packages that are in today’s oil have greatly increased in quality over the years. The oil used when I first started working on cars, bears little resemblance to what is in use today. You could stick with the old 3 month or 3,000 mile change recommendation and while you won’t harm your engine, (if you’re using the correct oil) you will be spending money unnecessarily and possibly impacting the environment with the waste oil and filters.

GM’s official stance on when you need to change the oil is as follows:
• When the system has calculated that oil life has been diminished, it indicates that an oil change is necessary. A CHANGE ENGINE OIL SOON message comes on. Change the oil as soon as possible within the next 600 miles
• It is possible that, if driving under the best conditions, the oil life system might not indicate that an oil change is necessary for over a year. However, the engine oil and filter must be changed at least once a year
• If the system is ever reset accidentally, the oil must be changed at 3,000 miles since the last oil change.
• Remember to reset the oil life system whenever the oil is changed.

You can rely on the software built into your vehicle of when to change the oil and make sure that the correct grade and viscosity are used as well.

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