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Every car needs maintenance, and owners who perform regular service will keep their vehicles running longer. One of the most crucial maintenance tasks is also one of the simplest: oil change service. But it can be tough to know when to do it. Should you change your car’s oil based on the time that’s passed since the last service or based on the mileage?

Why do cars need oil, and why does the oil need to be changed?

Automobiles have many moving parts. That’s especially true of engines, and it’s also why gas-powered cars need oil changes at regular intervals. In a gas-powered vehicle, the engine is one of its most complex pieces of machinery, and all those moving parts create friction when they touch one another.

That’s where oil comes in. It acts as a lubricant for those parts, reducing the amount of friction between them. Less friction means less heat, which means less wear and tear on some of the most integral parts of a car.

Drivers who don’t change their car’s oil routinely risk causing significant damage to their vehicle’s powertrain. That can lead to overheating or total engine failure in the worst-case scenario.

Is it better to get an oil change by date or mileage?

Most routine car maintenance should be performed at intervals, either around a certain number of miles or a specific amount of time; usually, oil changes are between 3,000 and 10,000 miles. The exact mileage depends on the make and model. Drivers can find that information in the vehicle owner’s manual or maintenance guide.

Following the manufacturer’s recommendation is a good idea, as with most products. However, not everyone drives their vehicle every day. Some people have short commutes or work remotely. So it’s possible to put only a few hundred miles on the odometer in a year. 

Owners in those circumstances should still get oil change service for their vehicles about every six months. AutoZone explains that the oil will degrade over time, even when it’s just sitting. Eventually, the oil will go bad, and it won’t be able to do its job as well. That’s why the time between oil changes matters as much as the mileage.

So if your maintenance guide recommends an oil change every five months or 5,000 miles, treat that as saying, “Every five months or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first.”

Cars need other routine maintenance

Oil changes are only one common form of car maintenance. Other routine services can reduce the amount of wear and tear on a vehicle and prolong its life. That’s the case with the car’s engine coolant. If the engine coolant isn’t replaced often enough, the car’s moving parts can suffer corrosive damage.

Additional services improve ride quality. For example, inflating the tires to the recommended pressure can improve the car’s fuel economy. And ensuring the tires are properly aligned can make the ride smoother. Also, replacing the cabin air filter can keep the interior smelling fresh.

Whether it’s oil change service, tire rotations, or something else, it’s definitely a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to make sure your vehicle lasts for a long time.


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