Can You Delay an Oil Change?

Find out how changing your oil on a regular schedule helps your engine's performance.

This may not come as a surprise, but your engine oil is important for proper vehicle operation and optimal engine performance. Not only does engine oil lubricate different engine components, but it also prevents your engine from overheating and reduces friction between different moving parts—ultimately adding years to your engine’s life. 

How does engine oil work?

Additives in engine oil help break down debris within the engine, preventing premature wear and tear. Over time, however, engine oil gets contaminated with debris and dust; impure oil is a recipe for disaster and can do more harm than good. 

Mechanics recommend replacing engine oil at regular intervals. Regular oil changes prevent engine problems and reduce wear and tear on engine components. Think: When you change your engine oil regularly, your engine works reliably. 

How often do I need to replace my engine oil?

This is one of the most common questions car owners ask their mechanics. While most engines today have recommended oil change intervals at or up to 7,500 miles, some cars can go up to 15,000 miles before needing an oil change. (But before you delay your oil change, be sure to consult your mechanic.) Older vehicles need more frequent TLC and usually need an oil change every 3,000 miles. 

When determining oil change intervals, some important factors to consider are your car’s age, the type of oil you use, and local climate. Refer to your vehicle’s owner manual for manufacturer oil change recommendations. 

Can I delay an oil change?

Many drivers postpone engine oil changes to save money. This could prove to be a costly mistake. 

If you wait longer than the manufacturer recommends, your oil will start to deteriorate, get thicker, and eventually lose its ability to maintain a consistent viscosity—eventually turning into a black sludge. This sludge can coat different parts of the engine and clog oil passageways. The heat emitted from the engine leads to thermal breakdown and oxidation, and the acids produced during this process eat away at engine components. 

Engine oil includes additives designed to prevent corrosion and reduce acid protection, but even engine oil additives lose their efficacy over time. When you skip oil changes, thermal breakdown worsens and causes premature deterioration.

Impure, contaminated oil will affect your car’s overall performance, and the longer you wait to change your oil, the higher the chances of a full engine breakdown. Additionally, contaminated oil affects your car’s fuel efficiency. Poor gas mileage means more stops at the gas station. 

Here are some other reasons why postponing oil changes is not recommended:

  • Failing to change your engine oil based on the manufacturer’s recommendations can void warranty.
  • Failure to flush out contaminated oil and replace it with fresh oil in a timely manner can cause a blown head gasket. 
  • Lack of new, clean engine oil leads to part warping. 

Still can’t determine how frequently you need to get your oil changed? Request an appointment at any of the AAA Owned Auto Repair Centers near you. Or, find a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility in your neighborhood. AAA Members receive a 10% discount on labor and a 24-month, 24,000-mile warranty. Not a Member? Not a problem! All are welcome.