Can I Drive When My Car Needs an Oil Change?

Can I drive when my car needs an oil change? Unless you’re extremely diligent about car maintenance, it’s likely that at one time or another you’ve realized that you’re overdue for an oil change. How long is too long to go in between oil changes? Recommendations have changed over the years, and you may be surprised to learn just how far you can go once your car is due for an oil change

A blue car up on a lift in a garage.
A car up on a lift in a garage | Andrew Woodley/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

How often should I change my oil?

The answer to this question varies depending on the type of vehicle you drive. Consumer Reports says that the best way to determine exactly just how frequently you should be changing the oil in your vehicle is to look in your owner’s manual. 

In the past oil changes were supposed to be done at 3,000-mile intervals. Now that number may vary, even going as high as every 10,000 miles. Some vehicles have systems that try to gauge when you’re due, taking into account the number of miles you’ve driven, along with how hard you drive your car. 

How often you change your oil may also depend on a time frame. Even drivers who don’t put tons of miles on their cars need to change their oil at regular intervals. This keeps the oil from becoming old, less effective, and ultimately killing your engine

Can I drive if my car says to change the oil?

Some vehicles will relay a message telling you when it’s time to change your oil. This message is sent after your engine has experienced enough wear and tear since your last oil change, so it’s important to make sure that the oil tracking system is reset every time you get an oil change. Your engine computer system keeps track of things like temperature and revolutions, and this is how it determines how often you need to get your oil changed. 

Once the change engine oil light comes on, it’s best to get your car serviced within the next two weeks or 500 miles. If you can do it sooner than that, it’s better. You definitely don’t want to wait too long before getting your oil changed. 

What happens if I don’t change my oil in time?

You’ve undoubtedly heard stories about engines dying without oil. Not changing your oil when it’s due can also cause problems. Waiting too long to change oil causes your engine to burn the oil that’s in there. If you haven’t changed your oil in a long time, your engine isn’t burning clean oil, it’s burning oil that is full of gunk. This is terrible for your engine, and can cause problems or even kill your engine. 

To sum up, the most important way to determine when your vehicle is due for an oil change is to check your owner’s manual. Don’t rely on some random oil change business to tell you it’s every 3,000 miles if it’s not. (However, if you have a trusted mechanic and a vehicle with problems, it may be best to listen to them.) And once your change oil light comes on, do so as soon as possible. Definitely don’t wait more than two weeks or 500 miles, or you may have a very expensive problem on your hands.

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