How often should you change synthetic motor oil? The answer is, it depends. Factors that determine how often to change synthetic oil include vehicle make and model of your vehicle, your driving habits and patterns, the type of maintenance and diagnostic tools you use regularly, and the brand of motor oil you use.
We’ll discuss how each of these affects the number of miles you can go between oil changes. But let’s begin with a description of what synthetic oil is.
Full Synthetic vs Synthetic Oil Blend
Full synthetic motor oil is made from chemically modified components rather than from the mineral oil that conventional oils and regular petroleum are extracted from. Synthetic motor oil contains additives and detergents that make it thicker, less prone to break down, more stable in high temperatures and more fluid in cold temperatures.
It is more costly than other motor oils, but full synthetic oil is the best option to prolong engine life in older high mileage vehicles and engines that are more prone to sludge and residue buildup.
Synthetic oil blends contain some concentration of conventional motor oil.
Since you don’t always know the exact proportion of synthetic to mineral oil, the performance of synthetic blends can vary and may be like the performance of conventional oil.
Synthetic blends offer improved performance over most conventional oils while remaining a lower cost alternative to full synthetic oil.
While higher in price, full synthetic oil offers superior performance when compared to both mineral oils and synthetic blends.
Knowing how often to change full synthetic oil depends on the same wisdom that dictates how often you change other types of oil.
Check your oil levels monthly and add or top off your oil as needed. Since synthetic oils are designed to last longer than conventional oil, topping off your oil regularly will allow you to go longer between full oil changes.
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Vehicle Make and Model
Later model vehicles require less frequent oil changes thanks to technology.
Automotive technology combined with the switch to synthetic oils facilitate longer oil change intervals. According to Edmunds, for all 2013 model vehicles, the recommended oil change interval ranges from 5,000 to 15,000 miles.
This interval covers all types of vehicles including cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans. Here’s how that range breaks down.
- The 5,000-mile oil change is recommended for Toyotas that use non-synthetic oil, and for Kia and Hyundai models with turbo engines.
- 7,500 to 10,000 is the oil service schedule that most automakers recommend for the widest range of makes and models.
- Jaguar is the primary automaker that recommends a 15,000-mile oil change across all its models.
Today’s advanced, more refined engines have a tighter tolerance level than their predecessors. T
his means that the gap between metal moving parts is decreased such that your vehicle needs less and thinner oil since synthetic oil is thinner than conventional, even at equal viscosity.
Tighter tolerance also helps to reduce engine buildup.
The benefit for you is longer oil life and fewer oil changes. In addition to saving money on needless oil changes, there’s a definite environmental impact in that you’ll help reduce the amount of waste oils that are being discarded and dumped instead of recycled.
Oil Life Monitoring Systems
Previously, knowing when to change your oil has not been an exact science. It’s a combination of owner’s manual guidelines, mechanic recommendations, and guesswork. The quick stop oil change industry and many service garages and dealers leaned toward the 3,000-mile oil change because it is a consistent money maker.
Guesswork comes into play when you see or smell emissions, notice a dirty oil filter, or see that your oil dipstick is on the low mark.
Oil life monitoring systems take the guesswork out of determining your optimal oil change interval. Nearly 40% of auto manufacturers include oil life monitoring on 2010 model year vehicles.
Electronic sensors in the drivetrain send information about drivetime, engine temperature, and RPMs to the vehicle’s computer. An algorithm estimates when you oil will start to degrade then activates a sensor on your instrument panel.
The simplest systems will turn on the oil light on your dashboard. Others will display a message to “change engine oil soon” or tell you that you have “xx% oil life remaining.”
They give you plenty of heads up, so you’ll have ample time to get your oil changed. You won’t need to drop everything you’re doing and rush to the shop or cancel your plans and spend the day changing your oil.
You can reset the monitor after each oil change. Oil life monitoring frees you from the traditional time and mileage dictated service schedule.
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Driving Habits and Patterns
When, where, and how you drive can mean that you need to change your oil more often even when using full or synthetic blend in your vehicle.
Extreme Driving Conditions
If you live in an area that has very low winter temperatures and high summer temperatures, you may find that you need to adjust your oil service schedule during those seasons.
Extreme driving conditions can significantly reduce your required oil service interval by up to 40%. You may need to change your oil more often if you drive under any of these conditions:
- Consistent short trips of four miles or less.
- Frequent cold engine starts.
- Extreme temperatures, especially high heat conditions.
- Frequent towing or hauling.
City vs Highway Driving
During city driving, your engine is idling at low RPMs which reduces oil pressure and leads to more engine wear. So, if you combine city driving with any extreme driving conditions, you’ll want to change your oil more frequently.
On the other hand, many people believe that highway driving extends oil life in the same way that it leads to higher gas mileage. This is not accurate. The truth is that driving speed has a greater impact on oil consumption.
The optimal cruising speed for most vehicles is between 50-70mph. High-performance engines can easily handle speeds exceeding 80mph, up to 130-140mph.
No matter what speed you drive at, you’ll consume less oil when you maintain a consistent speed you’re your entire drive time.
Keeping a steady driving speed maintains higher oil pressure, which leads to lower engine temperature and better protection of your engine’s moving parts.
Maintenance And Diagnostic Tools
You may not be ready to upgrade to a newer model vehicle just yet, and you may not be able to change your current driving demands.
So, you’re probably wondering what can you do to increase your required oil change interval. This 2-minute video discusses how basic maintenance helps you to extend your vehicle oil life.
Products & Services That Extend Oil Life
Installing a bypass oil filter helps to remove moisture and reduce the temperature in your engine oil because it is designed to trap smaller particles than standard oil filters.
The result is cleaner oil that doesn’t break down as easily and lasts even longer than with OEM oil filters. Combined with synthetic oil, you’ll be able to maximize your oil life.
Consider using these two additives also help to extend your oil life. Engine oil friction reducers help to stabilize oxidation and lessen engine wear in high pressure conditions.
TBN boosters enhance the detergent levels that neutralize acid and remove dirt from your engine oil. Both products work to reduce the rate of oil depletion. Regular use of engine oil additives means you vehicle will require fewer oil changes.
Engine Oil Analysis
You can send a sample of your engine oil to a laboratory for analysis and find out how your vehicle uses oil. Think of it as a blood test for automobiles. Oil analysis not only tells you how many miles you can get from your oil, it also can uncover other maintenance items that take a toll on your oil consumption.
It measures oil deterioration by detecting the level of wear metal in your oil samples and calculates your total base number or TBN which measures the amount of life extending additives in your oil.
It’s inexpensive, and easy to DIY with an oil analysis kit that you can order online.
You’ll send a sample of oil right after and just before your oil changes. You’ll get your results by email on the laboratory’s website, so you won’t need to sit for hours in the service department waiting room.
Oil analysis lets you experiment with different brands and viscosities to find the longest life oil for your vehicle and driving conditions.
Synthetic Motor Oil Brand
At this point, you’re probably still asking, with all other factors considered, how many miles can I go between oil changes with synthetic oil? The brand of oil you choose will give you a specific oil change interval.
Many of the top-selling full synthetic motor oils like Mobil 1 Extended Performance and Royal Purple HPS recommend a 15,000-mile oil change interval for their products.
The average recommended oil service interval for all synthetics, including synthetic blend motor oil is a minimum of 7,500 to 10,000 miles.
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Synthetic blend oil change interval is determined by several factors but it is important to always get regular oil changes. The regular oil change interval is different for various makes and models, even those that recommend synthetic oils.
Maintaining your vehicle properly not only extends your oil life but extends your engine and total vehicle life. Your driving patterns will either extend or reduce your needed oil change interval as will using diagnostic tools like oil monitoring and oil analysis.
Learn more about your car, experiment with different oils, and have your engine oil analyzed at least once during the life of your vehicle. The bottom line is that you can go 5,000 miles, on the lower end, up to 15,000 miles between synthetic oil changes.
Upgrading to synthetic motor oil in any vehicle can immediately move you from the 3,000-mile oil change routine to a minimum 5,000-mile interval, even in older models that call for conventional oil.
Later model vehicles, 2010-2013, that can take synthetic blend oils and use oil life monitoring systems need oil changes every 7,500 to 10,000 miles. If you have a high-end vehicle or use a premium brand full synthetic motor oil, can take you up to 15,000 miles between regular