Reader Question: Oil Change Intervals?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Cindy asks: I’m not sure how often I should have the oil changed in my car (2009 Honda Accord) because the owner’s manual gives conflicting or vague recommendations and the dealer says I only need to have this service done about once a year, which makes me nervous.


My reply: You have probably heard the expression, “your mileage may vary” – and it’s very much the same with regard to oil and filter changes. There are many variables affecting changeout intervals, including  the type of driving you do as well as the conditions in which you drive.

Stop and go driving is harder on the engine (and oil) than highway driving. Short trips in very cold weather are harder on the engine (and oil) than longer trips in temperate weather. Very high temperatures are hard on the engine (and oil), too.

If you read the fine print in your owner’s manual, you’ll discover that the touted mile/time intervals assume what is usually called “normal” driving. But the type of driving you do may qualify as “severe” or heavy duty” – in which case, the mileage/time intervals will almost always be less than the ones advertised.

Put another way, you may need to change your car’s oil/filter at six months and 4,000 miles rather than once a year, at 10,000 miles. Or somewhere in between.

It is true – as a general rule – that oil and filter changeout intervals are much longer now than they used to be; in part because modern engines produce fewer contaminants that dilute/foul the oil and also because the quality of the oil itself is much higher than it was in the past.

That said, oil is literally the lifeblood of your car’s engine – and the filter is like its liver. It is better, in my opinion, to err on the side of caution and change both sooner rather than later. I have never understood people who push changeout intervals to the limit, in order to “save money.”

An oil change costs about $50; a new car (or a new engine) costs a lot more than that.

Just my 50!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Our “new” car (2006) has one of those oil life counters in the computer. We usually change the oil when it gets down around 50% oil life, which is about 6000 miles. Seems like a lot, but we live so far out that literally 95% of our driving is highway driving. We no longer use it unless we are leaving the dirt road neighborhood.

    The jeep and pickup I change at around 3000 miles.


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