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The 2010 Accord indicates that only 15% oil life is left. Oil level seems to be OK. The driver would rather complete the trip, which is 1400 more miles. At the beginning of the trip there were 20% oil, and she drove 650 miles on highways. So, after driving 1400 more miles on highways there should be about 5% oil life left.

Is it safe to complete the trip, or should the driver change oil ASAP?

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Does 15% mean the volume of oil is down to 15%, or that the vehicle's computer has determined, based on miles driven and time passed, that only 15% of the oil's expected service life remains? If it's the former, I would think the engine would have already destroyed itself, so I'm guessing it's the latter, and the solution is not to add oil (which may actually be dangerous if it's already full) but to change the oil. – R.. Aug 10 '13 at 6:30
I meant oil life, not level – A-K Aug 10 '13 at 16:14

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I suspect that the 15% oil is talking about oil life. Just make sure that you check the oil level and top it off appropriately before taking the trip. Change the oil a quickly as possible once the trip is done.

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Highway miles is very easy on oil, rather than, say, driving a taxi in the city. You're probably ok. Depends on how the first 85% percent of the oil's change interval was driven, too, and if it is synthetic.

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Without knowing the details of history of operation and maintenance of the car, it is impossible to make accurate recommendation. Assuming this newer car had been taken care of, with scheduled maintenance done on time, and records kept, then Larry’s suggestion is correct. Motorway operation is generally a lot easier on oil than stop-and-go urban traffic, and I would even use up those arbitrary %5 left over afterwards.

On the other hand, if the car was poorly maintained, subject to frequent hard acceleration, lots of idling and other abusive driving practises, or if the history of newly purchased “pre-loved” car is unknown or doubtful, I would change oil before going on the long trip, because it would be the last thing I would want to worry about.

By the way, I would not solely trust the computer indicator, because it can malfunction, maintenance tech could forget to reset it etc. There’s no substitute to following (and keeping track of) proper maintenance schedule and regular assessment of oil level and its condition.

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Best way is to check the oil dipstick. Before all this computer technology telling you oil life (in fact, none of the cars I own have these computers), we would just check the dipstick. If it's black and it's been 4-5 thousand miles, it's probably a good idea to change the oil. If there are any tints of yellow/light brown, you're good for another few hundred miles before checking again.

Also, as an FYI, if your running conventional, I would say 5k miles is good for the grade of motor oil nowadays (the 3k oil change is obsolete, even for conventional). Synthetic oil is good for 7.5k+ miles...

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-1, because that is not the best way to know. Before computers calculated oil lifetimes, the best way was to follow the service manual/owners handbook which specifies a change interval. – Allman Sep 15 at 14:27
The manual is going to tell you to change it every 3000 miles, which is useless information – David Sep 15 at 19:42
My only car in which the manual stated that I should change after 3000 miles was from 1964. My later cars have intervals that's longer. – Allman Sep 16 at 12:57
All I meant was that an optical examination of the stick is not accurate since the look of the oil will depend on its performance. A good oil will look more dirty than a bad one, since the good one takes and holds more contaminants while the bad one will leave more of it in the engine. – Allman Sep 16 at 13:01

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