How Often Should You Change Synthetic Oil? (The Truth)

The truth is, synthetic oil can last longer than conventional, but how much longer? Some shops oversell quick change intervals, manufacturers stretch it out, and car enthusiasts are all over the place.

But what’s the correct answer? Here’s what experts recommend for full synthetic oil change intervals to keep your engine running smoothly.

See Also: How Long Does an Oil Change Take?

Average Synthetic Oil Change Interval

With synthetic oil change intervals, depending on the type of engine and type of synthetic oil blend being utilized, averages often range from about 5,000-10,000 miles.

Compared to normal 3,000-5,000 mile conventional oil change intervals, going 5,000-10,000 miles before needing another oil change can be a very attractive prospect.

Synthetic oils (and synthetic blends to an extent) can also offer a vehicle’s engine other benefits in the form of better performance overall, and a potential to have considerably less gunk and deposits left over from conventional oil blends. However, they come at a much higher cost.

But if you shop wisely (best places to buy motor oil for cheap), the difference may not be too bad.

signs you need an oil change

They best way to determine your specific car or truck’s oil change interval is simply looking in your vehicle’s manual to see what the manufacturer calls for (as well as the type of oil). If you do a lot of stop and go driving, you may want to change out your oil even sooner than recommended.

See Also: Common Oil Change Scams

When Your Synthetic Oil Change Interval Should Be Lower Than Average

wheel spacers on truck

When it comes to certain driving conditions which can make the synthetic oil change interval lower that it would be in average driving conditions, there are certain specific scenarios where the interval can drop considerably.

For example, if a vehicle owner is someone who likes to take their car or truck into off road terrain, or drive on dirt and gravel roads, these constitute conditions that can demand a more frequent synthetic oil change interval.

Read Also: Does AutoZone Take Used Oil?

Some other circumstances which can make the synthetic interval a bit lower than normal include regularly towing a trailer or some other kind of heavy load, excessive idling, or simply not driving enough. Engine oil can expire after a certain amount of time.

Many people do not realize this, but idling an engine for an extended period of time on a regular basis can demand much more frequent synthetic oil changes. One more circumstance where the oil change interval can drop lower than normal is if the driver of a vehicle is frequently making short trips when the temperature is below freezing outside.

What Can Happen If You Exceed the Recommended Oil Change Interval?

Here are some potential consequences of exceeding the recommended oil change interval for synthetic oil:

  • Oil Breakdown – Synthetic oils are more resistant to breakdown than conventional oils, but they still degrade over time and use. Exceeding the recommended change interval risks allowing more contamination buildup and oxidation, which can reduce lubrication and engine protection.
  • Sludge Buildup – Oil byproducts and contaminants can form sludge over time. Excess sludge can clog small engine passages, stick on components, and reduce engine performance and life. More frequent oil changes help limit sludge.
  • Voided Warranty – Many vehicle manufacturers require adherence to recommended oil change intervals to maintain the engine warranty. Exceeding these intervals may void your warranty.
  • Reduced Fuel Economy – As oil degrades and becomes thicker and dirtier, it can cause additional friction and drag in the engine, reducing fuel efficiency slightly. Keeping oil refreshed helps maintain fuel economy.
  • Engine Wear – Synthetic oil’s key benefit is providing exceptional lubrication and protection from engine wear. But exceeding change intervals reduces this wear protection over time as the oil breaks down. This can lead to faster wear of bearings, cylinder walls, camshafts etc.
  • Oil Leaks – Dirty oil can become more acidic and corrode seals and gaskets over extended intervals. This can cause developing leaks if seals/gaskets weaken. Cleaner oil helps maintain gaskets and reduce leakage.

Is Synthetic Oil Really Worth the Higher Cost?

Synthetic oil is generally worth the extra cost for most vehicles. Here are a few reasons why:

For one, synthetic oils are higher performing and more stable than conventional oils. They are created from purified base oils and special additives to resist breakdown better under high heat and stressful driving conditions. The tighter molecular structure also makes them less prone to thickening in cold temperatures.

This exceptional stability allows synthetics to better retain viscosity, lubricating strength and protect engines for longer drain intervals – usually around 7,500+ miles with most modern synthetics.

The improved lubrication, cooling and cleaning properties of synthetics translate to better protection and less wear and tear on critical engine parts. Over time, this can add up to reduced maintenance costs and improved engine life compared to using standard conventional oils.

Many follow longer oil change intervals with synthetics safely. Less oil changes means less time & money spent on maintenance.

Some synthetics also improve fuel economy slightly since their lower viscosity creates less friction in the engine. And the ability to operate at peak performance for longer periods can pay off in better drivability.

While upfront costs are higher, that stability and durability means the long run savings outweigh the extra price for a full synthetic over its working life. Especially for modern high-performance, turbocharged or heavy-duty engines that benefit more from premium synthetics.

Mark Stevens

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