Oil is one of the most important fluids our vehicles use, for obvious reasons.
Changing it whenever the time comes to do so is also one of the easiest and most common preventative measures that you can take to ensure that your vehicle lasts as long as possible.
Technological improvements over the past twenty years have seen synthetic oils rise to the top of the motor oil pyramid. Synthetic oil costs more, but the experts are beginning to recommend full-synthetic motor oils for everyone, regardless of the age, make, or model of your vehicle.
In this post, we take a look at why this is the case, the difference between conventional and synthetic oil, and reveal how often you should treat your ride to an oil change when all the important variables are taken into account.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Key Takeaways
- 2 How Often Should You Change Synthetic Oil?
- 2.1 The “3,000-Mile Standard” Is Just a Myth
- 2.2 7,500 Miles Is Becoming “the Norm”
- 2.3 10,000 Miles Is Possible for Some Oils
- 2.4 10,000-15,000 Miles Is Achievable With Extended-Performance Oil
- 2.5 Many New Vehicles Have a Change Oil Indicator Light
- 3 What Factors Affect How Often You Should Change Synthetic Oil?
- 3.1 How Old Is Your Vehicle?
- 3.2 How Do You Use Your Vehicle?
- 3.3 Is Your Vehicle Turbocharged?
- 3.4 What Type Are You Going to Be Using?
- 4 What Is Synthetic Oil?
- 5 Why Should You Use Synthetic Oil?
- 5.1 It Can Prevent Sludge Buildup
- 5.2 It Can Clean Your Engine
- 5.3 It Is More Resistant to Thinning and Thickening
- 5.4 It Can Prolong the Life of Your Engine
- 5.5 It Can Last Longer Between Change Intervals
- 6 What Will Happen If You Don’t Change Your Synthetic Oil or Wait Too Long to Do So?
- 7 Are There Any Other Tips or Tricks I Need To Know About?
- 8 Conclusion
Favorable Oil Change Frequency – Using synthetic engine oil can reduce your oil change interval.
3,000 Miles? – The 3,000-mile oil change standard of yore no longer applies (not even with conventional motor oil).
Know the Variables – Your change intervals will be impacted by your vehicle type, driving habits, and the specific oil type you use.
How Often Should You Change Synthetic Oil?
Synthetic oil has changed the way we have always perceived oil, including how long your vehicle can go before the oil needs to be changed.
Better engineering methods have pushed the boundaries of what used to be normal, even though boundaries do still exist.
So, how long does synthetic oil last? Let’s take a look at some of the benchmarks.
The “3,000-Mile Standard” Is Just a Myth
You have probably heard that you need to change your motor oil every 3,000 miles. More recently, 5,000 miles has started to become the new “3,000 miles.”
That is generally something of the past.
This used to be true with older cars that required regular oils, but synthetic oils are so much better today and are so resistant to breakdown, that changing your oil every 3,000 (or even 5,000) miles is a waste of time and money.
7,500 Miles Is Becoming “the Norm”
7,500 miles, or one to two times a year, is becoming the new “normal”, especially for newer vehicles.
Most manufacturers and mechanics that use synthetic oils insist that 7,500 miles between an oil change interval is completely normal for just about every vehicle.
10,000 Miles Is Possible for Some Oils
Depending on which type is being used, you may be able to go 10,000 miles (or about one year) before you change your oil.
Not every brand recommends this when using their product, but not every oil is made the same way, either.
A high-grade synthetic oil will most likely be able to go for longer distances before changes due to the advanced chemical makeup and additives with which it is manufactured.
10,000-15,000 Miles Is Achievable With Extended-Performance Oil
Several General Motors, Ford, and Toyota vehicles use formulas that are meant to last for at least 10,000 miles.
Jaguar uses a special formula that is able to last for up to 15,000 miles, which is the current limit for any vehicle on the market.
Extended-performance synthetic oils are available on the market and usually recommend a 10,000-mile change interval, and sometimes even more. These are usually the most expensive motor oils available.
Many New Vehicles Have a Change Oil Indicator Light
Many modern vehicles can tell you when you need to change oil by way of a light in the gauge cluster that lets you know that an oil change is needed.
Consumer reports found, however, that some vehicles they tested could have been safely driven several thousand more miles before a synthetic oil change was actually necessary after the change oil light came on.
Don’t Forget to Change the Fuel Filter & Oil Filter
The general rule remains that the oil and fuel filter should be changed at the same time as the oil gets changed. However, due to better engineered synthetic oils, every other oil change is becoming more widely accepted.
If you suspect your fuel isn’t performing optimally, familiarize yourself with bad fuel filter symptoms to make a more educated guess.
What Factors Affect How Often You Should Change Synthetic Oil?
There are several factors to consider when trying to figure out how often you should change the oil in your vehicle, especially if you’ve never used synthetic oil before.
How Old Is Your Vehicle?
Age doesn’t always affect how long you can drive in between changes.
The lower side of change intervals (5,000-7,500 miles) is often recommended for older vehicles because older engines can burn more oil due to wear and tear.
How Do You Use Your Vehicle?
Your driving habits affect how quickly oil breaks down.
Stop-and-go traffic is hard on your engine and its oil level, as is driving your vehicle in harsher conditions. For many mechanics, the recommended oil change interval, even with synthetic varieties, is once every 5,000 miles for harsh driving conditions.
Is Your Vehicle Turbocharged?
Turbocharged engines generally require more oil to stay cool and functioning properly, so shorter intervals are often recommended, even when synthetic oil is used.
What Type Are You Going to Be Using?
There is no hard and fast rule that says synthetic oil has to be made with a certain type of additive or chemical compounds, and every manufacturer has their own formula.
This could cause two full-synthetic oils from two manufacturers to have completely different recommended change intervals.
So, always read the label or check the manufacturer’s website to see exactly what is recommended for the specific product you purchase.
What Is Synthetic Oil?
The definition of synthetic is something that is artificial or manmade.
In the case of motor oils, this is only somewhat true.
Synthetic motor oil is still made from a base crude oil. It is just refined or synthesized to varying degrees, and is classified into five different groups according to the American Petroleum Institute.
At the very least, Group III can start to be classified as synthetic, while Group V is considered fully synthetic.
These oils are highly manufactured to produce uniform molecule size, and are made with multiple additives to provide the desired characteristics of a certain manufacturer’s motor oil.
In other words, synthetic oil is artificially engineered from a refined base mineral oil to produce certain characteristics that wouldn’t naturally be present in its base form.
Why Should You Use Synthetic Oil?
If you don’t change your own oil, chances are that whoever does that for you may already be using at least a synthetic oil blend in your vehicle, if not one that’s fully synthetic.
This is becoming more popular as time passes, considering the advantages it provides.
A study conducted by AAA found that 47% of vehicle engines actually performed better in multiple categories with synthetic rather than with conventional oil.
Some vehicles such as high-performance vehicles, luxury vehicles, and many German brands actually require the use of synthetic oil to run properly.
If you aren’t using this type in your vehicle yet, there are many good reasons you should.
It Can Prevent Sludge Buildup
Because synthetic oil is manufactured, its molecular makeup is uniform in size, unlike conventional motor oils which vary in size.
This means that less friction is produced, and less sludge buildup will occur within your car’s engine.
It Can Clean Your Engine
It also has many oil additives, some of which specifically help to clean your vehicle’s engine from previous oil deposits.
Older engines can greatly benefit from this.
It Is More Resistant to Thinning and Thickening
It can be specifically manufactured to resist becoming too thick or too thin when certain temperatures are achieved.
They can also offer a wider range of all-season temperature flexibility for year-round usage.
It Can Prolong the Life of Your Engine
All of these benefits can add up to a longer lifespan for your engine (true for old and modern engines).
If it runs cleaner, cooler, and better with synthetic oil, you will get more out of it.
It Can Last Longer Between Change Intervals
All oils are susceptible to breaking down after time and use, but synthetic oil is made to be more resistant to all the normal factors that would normally cause oil to break down, including heat, use, and time.
What Will Happen If You Don’t Change Your Synthetic Oil or Wait Too Long to Do So?
Even though synthetic oil is known to be superior in almost every way to conventional oil, it will still eventually break down with use and time. This means that you still have to replace it at regular intervals. Not doing so could result in severe engine damage or engine failure.
As your vehicle’s oil breaks down, it becomes dirty and thin and will not provide appropriate lubrication for all engine components. This will cause overheating due to increased friction of moving parts.
Premature wear of engine components, seal and gasket failure, and eventual engine seizing could occur in the worst-case scenarios.
Are There Any Other Tips or Tricks I Need To Know About?
Just because there is a maximum mileage limit on change intervals doesn’t mean you can push the boundaries.
Most upper limits set by synthetic oil producers are still within operational range by design, but just because it lasts longer than regular oil doesn’t mean it is invincible.
Always check your car’s owner’s manual for appropriate oil change intervals.
Just because 7,500 miles between oil changes is common for synthetic oil life doesn’t mean it is the best for your particular vehicle.
Read the product description for manufacturer-specific stipulations and limits first, to stay on the safe side.
Watch this video for some more important tips on synthetic motor oil change intervals.
Synthetic engine oil is undoubtedly the king of modern motor vehicle oils today. Technology has improved its capability to lubricate, protect, and even revitalize our vehicle engine. It is not, however, immune to wear and tear, and will break down and wear out eventually.
Always read your owner’s manual to get the best synthetic oil for your vehicle, and to make sure your oil change intervals are being followed to prolong the life of your ride!