The Mysteries of Oil Changes Debunked

Extending the life of your car and cutting the costs of maintenance is a top priority for most car owners. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by getting regular oil changes. However, there is always much debate on how often it should be changed. While many people stick to the old adage of every 3,000 miles, depending on your car and oil type this may not be enough or more likely too often.

Conventional Motor Oil vs. Synthetic Motor Oil

This question is subjective to each auto owner’s preferences really, or more so, their individual driving style of their particular vehicle. But a good place to start is the difference between the two major types of oil used in cars around the world. You have the traditional oils and you have the more modern synthetic oils. Traditional motor oil is mostly made up of crude oil, which is the result of the heavier stage in the petroleum refining process. Synthetic motor oil is entirely man-made and are more fuel efficient and provide extended life intervals. Organic compounds or synthetic hydrocarbons are the origin of synthetic oil and the process involves rearranging the molecules so they are all the same dimension (size, shape & weight). Naturally, this does not happen unless we tamper with the molecules. So synthetic oils are technically customized to provide the greatest lubrication characteristics.

Conventional Motor Oil

This is your typical “change every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first” motor oil. It has become a less popular choice now although some die hard car junkies still cling to it’s cost effective characteristic. Derived from petroleum, conventional motor oil breaks down the quickest and is no longer used in high performance applications, especially endurance racing. Higher temperatures and abuse that extended driving periods bring has led to many abandoning this motor oil for more resistant and efficient choices. For many vehicles, you can literally perform an oil change (with new filter) on your car for less than $20. So this is popular budget choice for many.

Synthetic Motor Oil

The main difference that determines oil change intervals is that synthetic motor oil retains higher extreme temperature resistance to breaking down. Therefore, you can go longer on synthetic motor oil before servicing an oil change again. Synthetic motor oils are good for about 7,000 to even 20,000 miles with some synthetics while the conventional motor oil wears quicker and should be replaced around every 3,000 miles. Buying less oil also means dumping less oil back into the environment. Synthetics have been proven to be cleaner in composition due to the fact that they are created in a lab. Also, synthetics have been proven to enhance horsepower and engine efficiency because they produce less resistance when the engine is in motion and under stress.

Synthetic Blend Motor Oil

There is also a category of motor oil which is a combination of the two. Synthetic blends offer better longevity and protection than conventional motor oil although less than full synthetics. They are a popular option to many as they are cheaper than full synthetic motor oils. The longevity of the three major types of motor oils really doesn’t matter all that much in the end considering the costs are relatively equalized in either which route you choose.


To keep things simple, consult the manual your car came with to ensure you are meeting the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval. They can vary with all types of autos out there. A general rule of thumb is every 3,000 miles with conventional motor oil, every 5,000 to 7,000 with synthetic blend motor oil and every 7,000 to 15,000 with full synthetic motor oil. It is highly suggested you do some research on the brand and type of motor, especially in the car you plan to use it in, before deciding on an interval you should next change the oil again. These figures are for general consensus and many people prefer many different things in their cars. For example, I use a high quality European full synthetic (Amsoil) in my BMW M3 and change that oil at 7,000 intervals just to ensure my high performance engine is receiving the maximum protection. Others may be in a situation where their grocery getter would not be stressed during daily driving duties and therefore could stretch a full synthetic motor oil to it’s limit of say 20,000 miles. It is all relative to the tip of driving and automobile make and model you are working with. All in all, do some light research and use this as a guideline to steer you choices. Happy driving!
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