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How often should I get my car maintained, if I don't drive much?
April 6, 2008 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Should I believe the 6 months = 7500 miles rule in my car's maintenance schedule, or is miles actually the important number?

I'm not exactly a car expert, but when I hear people talking about car maintenance, they always talk in terms of miles. So, I'd been following that rule. However, I went to actually read my car's manual and it says that you should get the 7,500 maintenance after 7,500 miles or 6 months, whichever is sooner. I drive my car way less than that (I've driven around 6000 miles after a year), so when should I actually get my car maintenance done? Also in terms of selling used car, they always just mention the miles, so does that mean that other people always get maintenance done on a mile schedule?
posted by JZig to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depends.

I know that you should change your oil every 3 months, even if you don't drive 3,000 miles. This is for conventional oil. If I were in your situation I would definitely use synthetic oil because you don't have to worry about it breaking down like conventional oil.
posted by sanka at 5:24 PM on April 6, 2008


Do you drive the car every day? Frequent short trips are actually harsher on a car. That's why sellers often refer to "highway miles" when describing their high-mileage baby.

If that's the case, you might want to consider a shorter maintenance interval, like 3000 miles. Which works out to be twice a year, just like the manufacturer recommends.

On preview: Yeah, go synthetic. For my car, VW recommends 5k for conventional, 10k for synthetic.
posted by bhayes82 at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2008


I bought my last car new, and it had a planned out maintenance schedule, down to what they would do at each periodic increment. I assumed they said miles or time because some of the things were based on wear and some based on just plain decay. Example - they change the oil for me after so many miles, but checking the wiper blades is more of a time thing than a usage thing.

So the question is, what needs doing even if the car just sits there unused? Wiper blades, changing conventional oil, probably. Checking fluid levels and replacing if necessary - a small leak could add up over a period of months, even if you're not driving. Wash and wax.

Oil/air filters, alignment checks, etc. - probably not so much.
posted by ctmf at 5:46 PM on April 6, 2008


What? What? 3000 mile oil changes are a myth. There's no need for them in 99% of conditions. Most synthetic oils are specifically designed to be 5000 mile oils, and really reach peak lubricity between about 1500 and 5500 miles. I use Mobil 1 specifically, and never change until 5,000. There is a Mobil One that's designed for 7500.

You also don't need to change your oil more than once a year for a car that sits, unless it's a high end high performance piece.

It wouldn't hurt you to do 2 changes a year on a 6,000 mile car, especially depending on the age of the car and where you live, but I personally would go at 5,000 miles and after several years you'll actually get 2 in 1 year depending on the rollover.

That's just oil changes. The other things you need to pay attention to really are all other fluids, belts, filters, plugs, and wires. Fluids and belts should always be checked on a time lapse interval if you're under the mileage recommendation. Plugs and wires should pretty much be changed at the mileage interval only, and filters are entirely based on the conditions where you live.
posted by TomMelee at 5:57 PM on April 6, 2008


Check your owners manual. One of my cars wants an oil change every 10k miles, the other every 7,500 miles. The previous car was also every 7,500 miles... The 3,000 mile oil change interval is junk.
posted by foodgeek at 8:24 PM on April 6, 2008


I drive 15 miles a day for my commute, so I guess that's "frequent shorter trips"... I don't see why that would be worse than driving 40 miles a day for a commute, but I guess I should go follow the time-based schedule.. Time to take my car in.
posted by JZig at 11:30 PM on April 6, 2008


Short trips are harder on the car than long commutes because acceleration and braking create far more wear and stress than cruising along at a constant speed.
posted by jon1270 at 3:42 AM on April 7, 2008


Engine oil degrades with both time and mileage. You should change it whenever you hit either the mileage or time limit in your car's owners manual.
posted by pharm at 6:38 AM on April 7, 2008


JZig, you are correct that 15 miles is no worse for your car than 40 miles. Of course it isn't, worse, it's better. This is a common misconception -- shorter trips are worse for your car in terms of MILES driven, not number of trips.

So for example, if you had to drive 100 miles and did it in one trip, this would be better for your car (less wear and tear) than if you stopped every twenty miles.

BUT, if you drive your car ten times over the course of the week, ten short trips is still better than ten long trips, all else being equal. Except you want a long trip every once in a while to charge up your battery fully and let the oil come up to temperature to burn off the acids (or something).

If you are using conventional oil, I would recommend every six months even if you haven't reached 5,000 (or whatever your manual recommends) miles. Synthetic lasts much much longer, you could surely get away with once a year if you only drive 6k miles.
posted by lohmannn at 8:29 AM on April 7, 2008


Engine oil degrades with both time and mileage. You should change it whenever you hit either the mileage or time limit in your car's owners manual.

This is not true.

I know that you should change your oil every 3 months, even if you don't drive 3,000 miles.

This is also not true.

If you are using conventional oil, I would recommend every six months even if you haven't reached 5,000 (or whatever your manual recommends) miles.

I would add the following "There is no need at all to even consider conventional oil as a suitable lubricant for a modern engine that is not already buggered". You should, whatever you do, be using synthetic oil - it can be pretty cheap to get and cheap synthetic is still better than fancy conventionals.

I would consider 12 months as a suitable time for a service, or 7,500 if it was close enough - which it pretty much is. If you use synthetic oil, you will not find any negative impact on your car by being more cost-effective with your servicing based on time/mileage. The only issue is the oil anyway, and neither 7,500 miles or 12 months are an issue for it.
posted by Brockles at 8:01 PM on April 7, 2008



Engine oil degrades with both time and mileage. You should change it whenever you hit either the mileage or time limit in your car's owners manual.

This is not true.


I meant to clarify/paste the second part as not true. The first part is true (to a point - the degradation is not severe in as short as 6 months), but the manufacturers guidelines are always super cautious, and using better oil is a far more effective solution than blindly and roboticly following arbitrary numerical limits based on 'hedging their bets' from the warranty department - the people that suggest them. They are almost always over-cautious and designed to cater for all ranges of driving. From hooligan to old granny.
posted by Brockles at 8:04 PM on April 7, 2008


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