Written by: Tim Marsh
One of the most well-known maxims about cars (one that we all know by heart by now) is the one that relates to changing the car’s oil every 4,800 km. Our parents, friends, and mechanics have drilled it into us that terrible things will happen to our vehicles if we’re so much as a hundred kms over that magic number. Whenever you go to have your oil changed, you’re likely to see a sticker in the corner of the windshield indicating that you should bring it back in another 4,800 km for another oil change. But is that really a necessity any more?
Certainly, in the days of less complex engine technologies and less sophisticated oil mixtures 4,800 km was a good benchmark. However, both of those factors have come a long way in the last several decades and the truth of the matter is that you may not have to change your oil nearly as often as you think.
Of course, oil change shops and dealer service departments would love to keep that rumor afloat – after all, more frequent oil changes mean more frequent payments going into their pockets. But consumers would do well to find out how long their vehicles can run before requiring service – and the answer may surprise them!
First off, any car that’s over 10 years old will likely benefit from an oil change every 4,800 km. However, if your car is newer than that, it is to your advantage to check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s preferred oil change mileage. Here is a partial list of the results for some car brands common in Australia (all information is for 2013 models):
Audi owners should change their oil when the oil indicator light comes on. The manufacturer also provides a “2013 Scheduled Maintenance Intervals” information, which recommends drivers get their first oil change at 8,000 km followed by service at 16,000 km intervals (24,000, 40,000, 56000, and so on).
BMWs use synthetic oil, which does not need to be changed as frequently as the oil in many other vehicles. The manufacturer says that BMWs can go up to 24,000 kms between oil changes; however, experts believe that 24,000 km intervals can damage the engine in the long run. BMWs also have a “Oil Change Due” light that indicate when the driver should change their oil.
The manufacturer’s “basic scheduled maintenance” literature states that oil should be changed every 6000 kms. Check the owner’s manual for your specific model for more detailed information about oil change scheduling.
Lexus recommends scheduled maintenance “every 8,000 kms or 6 months, depending on circumstances and driving habits”. Each Lexus user manual will specify any other recommendations for the specific model.
Mercedes recommends oil change intervals of 16,000 kms or 12 months, whichever comes first. This covers the entire 2013 lineup.
Nissan has two different maintenance schedules that cover both “severe” and “less severe” operating conditions. Severe operating conditions include repeated short trips of 16-32 kms, stop-and-go traffic or low-speed driving for long distances, driving in dusty, muddy, rough, or salt-spread roads, and towing a trailer or camper. Those who drive in severe operating conditions should have their oil changed every 6,000 kms. The recommendation for those driving in less severe operating conditions is an oil change every 12,000 kms or 6 months, whichever comes first.
VW recommends an oil change every 16,000 kms for all of its 2013 offerings except for the Routan, which requires an oil change every 12,900 kms.
As you may have noticed, some manufacturers make provisions for those who drive in severe conditions – the oil change distance for cars in severe conditions is shorter than those driven in more moderate conditions. If the manufacturer does not list recommendations for severe conditions, you should speak with a service technician to determine the appropriate oil change recommendations for you. Additionally, if you have any further questions regarding scheduled maintenance, you are encouraged to contact the manufacturer or a qualified service technician who can answer any questions you may have.