Last Updated: 10.04.2022

Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure that the different components inside the vehicle are working effectively and efficiently. Plus, it can spare you from the headache of costly and unnecessary repairs. 

Among others, one of the most important maintenance tasks is changing oil. It lubricates and cools various moving components to keep them working at their peak. 

While many people know its importance, still a lot are wondering – how long can you go without an oil change? 

Read on and find out the answer! 

How Long Can You Go Without an Oil Change?

In the past, the general recommendation was to change the oil after running 3,000 miles or after three years, whichever comes first. 

Today, however, that may no longer be necessary. With the advancements in modern engines and the innovative formulas of today’s motor oils, they can last longer.

pouring motor oil into engine

Many of today’s cars can last without an oil change up to 5,000 miles. Meanwhile, full special synthetic oils with state-of-the-art ingredients and formulas can even last up to 10,000 miles. 

Nonetheless, take note that these numbers are just rough recommendations. Several factors will come into play, such as the type of vehicle that you are driving. You also have to consider the driving conditions. For instance, driving in rougher terrains might require more frequent oil changes. 

Severe driving conditions will warrant oil changes in shorter intervals. Some examples include stop-and-go traffic, short-distance driving, extremely hot or cold temperatures, dusty roads, and hauling heavy equipment. 

It can be tempting to delay the next oil change because you want to save money or simply because you have no time to do so. Nonetheless, it is affordable and quick, so there is no reason why you should not have one, especially because of its many benefits. 

Signs That You Need an Oil Change 

The numbers above are general guides but not absolute truths about when you should get an oil change. Below are some of the signs that you already need one. 

  • Noisy Engine 

Most people instantly panic when their engine starts making unusual noises. Such a reaction is normal since these sounds often mean that something is wrong with the engine. It can be because of a number of reasons, with one being the need to change the oil.

engine cylinders image

One of the main functions of motor oil is to lubricate the components of the engine. Otherwise, the parts will rub against each other, and this is what will generate noise when the vehicle is running. 

  • Foul Smell 

Like a noisy engine, smelling something off can make many car owners wary and instantly look at what is wrong. Especially if you smell that something is burning, it is one of the potential indicators that it is about time for an oil change. 

Aside from lubricating the different parts of an engine, it is also the job of the motor oil to regulate the temperature. If it fails, then the components will rub and overheat. It can result in a foul odor, which might also make driving uncomfortable. 

  • Excessive Exhaust 

Many of the modern vehicles are designed to not emit exhaust in their tailpipes. So, if you notice that there is smoke coming out, especially if it is dark, then take this as another sign that you might be due for an oil change.

dark smoke from an exhaust pipe

Aside from being time to change oil, this problem can also be because of an oil leak. At the same time, the gasket can also be cracked. Whatever it is, solve it immediately as having emissions in your vehicle can mean trouble. 

  • Check Engine Light 

The check engine light is one of the most important diagnostics tools in any vehicle. As soon as it lights, it is a sign that something is wrong. While you can tie it to several issues, one of the culprits is old or low oil. Hence, you might need to change it immediately. 

  • Shaking When Idling 

When your vehicle shakes, especially when idling, it is almost always an indication that something is wrong. One of the potential culprits is the need to change the oil. This can be because of too much friction from the moving components. It can be so intense that you can feel the car shake when the parts move. 

Why Changing Oil Is a Must 

There is a reason why changing oil is one of the most important checklist items of routine maintenance. It can deliver lots of benefits, including those that we’ll be talking about below.

auto mechanic showing fully synthetic oil

  • Keep the Engine Clean

The engine is the heart of your vehicle. Hence, it has a huge impact on your car’s overall performance. As oil flows into the engine, it can also transfer dirt and debris, which will increase the chance of contamination. It can damage crucial components. The problem is worse when you are from locations that are dusty and dry. To maintain engine cleanliness, changing oil will help. 

  • Extend the Engine’s Lifespan 

One of the obvious benefits of changing oil is that it extends an engine’s lifespan. Over time, the engine can suffer from unnecessary strain, especially when components are rubbing against each other when they are working. This excessive friction can also generate heat. In turn, they will be easily prone to wear. They might warrant expensive repairs and unnecessary replacements. 

  • Lubricate the Components 

Lubrication is one of the primary jobs of engine oils. It ensures smoother movements of the different parts of the engine. Without the right oil, there will be friction, which we can link to numerous problems, such as overheating and noise. Changing oil makes sure that your engine and the other parts have sufficient lubrication. 

  • Minimize Emissions 

To combat air pollution, many places have strict emission laws. If you do not change your motor oil, you might fail emission tests. Smoke can come out of the exhaust, which can contribute to degrading air quality. While there are many ways by which you can reduce emissions, one of the best solutions is to change the oil when necessary. 

  • Improve Mileage 

Another notable benefit of regularly changing the oil in your vehicle is that it maximizes mileage. You can go farther when all parts are working perfectly.

Having fresh oil will minimize friction and put minimal strain on the engine. Having less restrictive forces also means that you will have better mileage. 

  • Save Money 

The cost of the engine oil itself should not be an issue, especially if it has top-notch quality. In the long term, you will be saving money. This is because you can avoid costly repairs when the engine is working as it should as it functions smoothly. There is a lower chance that the parts will easily wear out. 


In sum, you need an oil change every 3,000 miles if you have an old car. However, today’s modern engines and oils will require a less frequent oil change. You can drive your car 5,000 to 10,000 miles before changing oil. Nonetheless, it should be more frequent when driving in challenging conditions, such as on rough and dusty roads, as well as when hauling heavy cargo.