Frequency of Oil Changes

by Herbert Harris

The oil in an engine can be called its lifeblood. The frequency of oil changes has a direct effect on the proper operation of an engine and the rate of wear and tear on the many moving parts engines contain. There are differing opinions on how often an engine's oil should be changed.


That oil is significant to an engine's operation is an irrefutable point. However, due to the evolutionary improvements made in both motor oil and engine design, the frequency at which engine oil should be changed has become a subject of interest and also a source of debate among both experts and lay persons. The old standard of changing oil every 3,000 miles has been challenged by these improvements, leading automobile manufacturers to revise their recommendations for how often an engine's oil should be changed.


The history of motor oil and the prevailing opinions on how often it should be changed is the result of the perceived quality of oil and engine technology dating back to the late 1960s. Since that time however, automobile manufacturers have begun to include additional factors in determining how often oil changes should be performed. Things such as how much time is spent idling, the RPM (revolutions per minute) of the engine and the oil temperature history have led to considerable increases in the number of miles between recommended oil changes.

New Oil Change Guidelines

Although many people, including some mechanics, still consider the 3,000 mile oil change interval ideal, automobile manufacturers have revised this number dramatically upward. General Motors' OLS (Oil Life System) has led it to increase the mileage between oil changes for their law enforcement fleet vehicles from 3,000 to 5,000 for patrol vehicles and 10,000 for administrative uses. In 2007 Ford Motor Corporation raised its oil change interval for fleet vehicles from 3,000 to 5,000 miles.


The effects of oil change frequency have direct and indirect impacts on several factors that many drivers probably consider important. It is certainly a cost-saving benefit to be able to drive farther between oil changes and still be in accord with vehicle warranty requirements. Fewer oil changes equate to actual dollar savings. Fewer oil changes should, theoretically, ultimately lead to a lesser demand for motor oil, causing oil prices to drop. Drivers, especially one-car owners, enjoy less down-time associated with oil changes.


One's opinion on how often an engine's oil should be changed may depend on certain other factors deemed to be of importance. Those who have a serious concern for the environment and are knowledgeable about how the ecology can be negatively impacted by petroleum products may support the increases in miles between oil changes; less petroleum waste to dispose of may be a positive to them. Others may be motivated by financial concerns; for mechanics, more oil changes equals more work and more profit.

About the Author

Herbert Harris is a retired IT professional who does article marketing and works from home. He has served at the Atlantic Undersea Test And Evaluation Center, a U.S. Navy test range located at Andros Island, Bahamas, and Ascension Island's U.S.A.F. test range.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Auto Engine image by Andrew Breeden from