Oil change guidelines can be murky, depend on car, driving habits

3 months, 3K miles rule not fit for every car

INDIANAPOLIS - Getting regular oil changes can save drivers on costly repairs, but there are no clear-cut rules about how frequently the oil should be changed.

Driver Annie Adams knows when it's time to visit the mechanic.

"It has a computer that tells me that it's time for the oil to be changed," Adams said.

The old "three months or 3,000 miles" rule doesn't fit for everyone, and not every car is equipped with the type of technology Adams has.

"You need to depend on your owner's manual for the best recommendation of how frequently your car may need an oil change," said Angie Hicks, with Angie's List. "It could be 3,000, 7,000, even 10,000 miles."

Vehicles that take conventional motor oil can often last up to 5,000 miles before needing an oil change, whereas a motor running on synthetic oil can go up to 7,000 miles.

Driving habits play a role, too. Stop-and-go traffic increases the wear and tear on a car's engine, and driving through extreme weather also requires more frequent oil changes.

The bottom line is, car care is in the driver's hands, and regular oil changes are essential.

"If you skip a lawn treatment, you can always catch up and recover your lawn, but your engine will wear, and you won't get that back," said Jim Trump, who owns an auto shop.

Angie's List says customers often complain they're over-charged for oil changes. Their recommendation is to develop a relationship with a regular mechanic and know in advance what the manufacturer recommends for the particular car.

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