How Long Can You Put Off an Oil Change?

It’s long been the standard to take your car in for an oil change every three months or 3,000 miles. However, a lot has changed since the 3-month/3,000-mile adage was created. In fact, this advice may now be outdated, especially for newer vehicle models.

So, how long can you put off an oil change without incurring damage to your vehicle? The answer may not come pre-packaged in an easy-to-remember phrase (not yet, anyway — just give advertisers a few years), but it is ascertainable.   

Factors that determine how often oil changes are necessary

In the past, the main factors that determined how often you needed to change your oil were miles driven or time between oil changes — 3 months or 3,000 miles.

But the right time to change your oil (and how long you can put off an oil change) has, in a way, become more personalized as engines and oil have become more sophisticated. The three main factors that determine how often you should get your car’s oil changed are:

  • The type of vehicle: Different makes and models of cars will have different recommended times for getting your oil changed.  
  • The conditions in which you regularly drive: Counterintuitively, frequent long trips are easier on your car than short ones. Short trips and inner-city driving are hard on your engine and necessitate more oil changes for your car.   
  • The age of the car: Older cars require more regular maintenance (and oil changes) than newer cars.

To help you understand these factors better, here’s an example.

Two people both own a Hyundai Accent. Person A purchased their car new in 2012, lives in Houston, and drives exclusively in stop-and-go inner-city traffic. Person B purchased their car new in 2018, lives in Sugar Land, and commutes to The Woodlands daily (with minimal stops in between).

Person A drives in strenuous conditions and has an older car. Person B drives in decent conditions and has a much newer car. Even if, by the end of the year, both cars have the same mileage, Person A should have changed his or her oil more frequently than person B.

When should I get my oil changed?

For an informed answer to this question, you can check your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends. If you have a newer car and use synthetic oil, the duration and miles you can drive before filling up may surprise you. Manufacturers of luxury cars have been known to recommend oil changes every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

Of course, some people push even those limits. It’s not unheard of for us to receive calls from people asking how long they can go without an oil change after the engine light comes on.

In these cases, we always recommend that an individual comes in as soon as they can. However, you can typically drive your car another hundred miles or so once this light does come on — but beyond that, you’re pushing your luck.  

What happens if you don’t get an oil change for a long time?

Many people want to know how long you can put off an oil change, so they can stretch their dollar a little further. But know that by doing this, you might actually end up costing yourself more money in the future.

The primary jobs of oil in your car are to lubricate the engine’s metal parts and to carry away heat and dirt from those same parts. An oil filter then helps clear your oil of debris.

However, the longer you leave oil in your car, the dirtier it and the oil filter will get. If it becomes too dirty, the oil and the filter will no longer be able to do their jobs. In addition to these issues, the quality of the additives in your oil (rust-fighters, detergents, etc.) decreases over time.

Dirty, old oil can’t lubricate the engine’s parts or carry away heat. Instead, it builds up sludge, and your engine becomes damaged as a result, costing you thousands in the process.

If you change your oil regularly but notice that your oil levels keep dropping, there’s a possibility that your car is beginning to burn oil, which can bring about its own set of unique problems. For more information, check out our post called, “Can low oil cause overheating?”

How long should an oil change take?

Going to the mechanic for an oil change is about as appealing as going to the DMV or the post office. That being said, most maintenance shops can complete an oil change in 15 minutes (excluding wait time).

If you call ahead of time, a typical maintenance auto repair shop can tell you when the best time to come in would be or book a time slot for you.

Don’t wait to see how long you can put off an oil change. Let Colony One Auto Repair take care of it for you.

Whether you’re getting a pre-road trip car inspection or wondering, “Will my car pass an inspection with the airbag light on ?”, it’s always worth your time to see if you need an oil change.

Car owners living in and around Houston drive in conditions that are tough on engines. If you live in the area, getting an oil change in Sugar Land, Stafford, and the greater Houston area is a wise investment.

Colony One understands that you are busy and that car maintenance can feel like a chore. Let us take care of that chore for you — contact us online or call us at 281-980-4440 for all of your auto repair questions and needs.