When I graduated college, my father surprised me with a car: a very used 1987 Toyota Celica. I didn’t know much about owning a car at the time, and the Celica required quite a bit of car. For example, it required not only replacing engine oil occasionally, it required filling engine oil from time to time. I discovered this the hard way. Like many people who have cars but don’t know the first thing about maintaining them, I blew a hole in the motor.
I didn’t know what happened, but on a day I was planning to drive home, I found myself on the side of Interstate 95 in Delaware waiting for AAA to tow my car. I learned my lesson. In fact, the replacement in the form of a rebuilt 1986 Celica engine had problems burning oil, so I found myself adding a quart of oil every few stops at the gas station. I was diligent about changing the oil every 3,000 miles. Since that fateful day, I’ve slightly increased my knowledge about cars — not by much.
I do know this. Today’s cars, when in good condition, don’t need oil changes every 3,000 miles. This may have been the case in the past, but modern cars are designed not to require these frequent changes, though specialty stores will be the last to admit it.
Follow the guidelines in the manual. For example, the manual for my Honda Civic recommends changing oil every 10,000 miles or one year, whichever comes first. For drivers in severe conditions, the manual recommends 5,000 miles or six months. The dealership, on the other hand, offers a reminder to come in for another oil change after 7,500 miles.
Changing oil without the help of a mechanic is supposedly not difficult. There is a prohibition on working on cars in the parking lot of my apartment complex, so I haven’t bothered to learn how to do it myself and save a few dollars every year.
How often do you replace your car’s engine oil? Of course, if you sustain your travel needs through public transportation, this is one of the many things you will not have to deal with.
Published or updated September 14, 2010.