I know oil should be changed every 3000 or 6000 miles (depending on the car and conditions) but I'm not all that great at keeping track and I've let the car go for 10,000 miles before and it still runs fine (I know that's not "evidence" that I didn't do damage I'm just pointing it out). Most place put that sticker in the window but the sun in AZ usually makes those illegible or the peel off.

I know fresh oil is translucent and used oil is black but will it be translucent even after 2000 miles?

  • If you use a quality synthetic oil and a quality filter, going 10,000 miles between changes is not a huge problem. What happens to oil that necessitates a change is the oil filter become saturated and is not effective at removing particles and/or the oil breaks down and its lubrication properties are degraded. The best source I know for detailed information on oil properties and best practices is "Bob Is The Oil Guy": link Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 14:38

10 Answers 10


Find another way to keep track of your oil changes. For example:

  • put that window sticker in your glove box instead

  • if your driving patterns are consistent, figure out how long it will take you to drive 3000 miles and put a reminder in a Google Calendar.

  • put a notebook and pen in the glove box. When you change the oil, write it down, with date and mileage. Also, when you fill the gas, write down date, mileage, and how much - now you can see how your fuel efficiency changes over time. Put the service receipts in here, and it will help you sell the car one day.

  • change the oil every 3 months, regardless of mileage (not ideal, but better than forgetting it)

  • 4
    +1 - It's definitely cheaper to change the oil than it is to have the motor rebuilt because all that old, nasty, worn out oil gunks up your engine.
    – jmort253
    Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 7:42
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    my trip odometer has an A and B setting. I reset A when I get gas and reset B when I change the oil. When the reading on B exceeds 3000, I need to plan an oil change.
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 0:23
  • Depending on the car: I just use the "trip computer" to calculate my mileage. On my mustang the mechanical counter is always my oil change. On my camry: "Odo" = scheduled service intervals, "Trip A" is my oil change, and "Trip B" is "miles since last fill up." Haven't missed an oil change yet.
    – Robbie
    Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 17:27
  • No mention of oil analysis? I'm pretty that is the only reliable way to tell if the oil is still working correctly. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 16:22

In addition to keeping the recommended oil change schedule, here's a quick-and-dirty way to evaluate oil quality.

Grab the dip stick and run it through your fingers to get them oily. Spread the oil on your fingers and observe:

  • Transparent, honey-like colour, no visible sediments, nice greasy feeling? You are good to go.
  • Transparent, dark-brown to black, no sediments? Consider changing the oil soon.
  • Murky, sediment-y, dark black? Change ASAP.

Engines running on flexifuel/ethanol (aka E85) can preserve the oil longer due to cleaner combustion, and it would normally have lighter colour than a comparable gasoline engine at the same mileage after the last oil change.

  • Nice literal rules of thumb. You could also use a white paper towel: new oil is almost invisible on white paper. Old oil makes you say "ick, gross."
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 17:49
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    I'm not sure about this one (at least not when buying a used car for example). Some cheap oils don't take up as much of the combustion residues as the good ones, and they tend to stay clean longer. It only means that the crap is still inside the engine somewhere. auto.howstuffworks.com/5-engine-oil-myths.htm#page=2
    – Allman
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 14:12

To expand some on Jay's answer, which has good suggestions on how to remember to get the oil changed in a timely manner...

The oil gets pretty dark pretty quickly in a car. At 2,000 miles it's likely to look quite black, and I want to say that it's unlikely to be translucent at even 500 miles. Though it is usually somewhat different at 2,000 miles than at, say, 5,000 miles, it's really not a case where you can just look at the oil and it not being translucent indicates that you need to replace it...

  • True, even if it really depends on your engine: turbo, diesel engines will make your oil darker much sooner than gasoline, E85 or LPG engines (the latter leaves the oil color almost untouched). Anyway, it's very difficult to tell. Commented May 9, 2014 at 13:27

I just look at the mileage on the car. If the mileage divided by 1000 is evenly divisible by 3, it's time for an oil change (quick math trick to make it easier, add up the digits representing thousands, ten thousands, and hundred thousands place, divide that by 3)... For example, my one car has 115,000 miles (7 divided by 3 = no oil change yet). The other has 249,500 (15/3 divides nice and evenly, and guess what, I just did the oil change 500 miles ago). :-)

One of my cars has clear looking oil for the first 1500 miles or so before it starts to turn dark. The other one starts turning dark within the first 100 miles. Oddly, the one that turns dark the fastest is the newer, lower mileage car...

  • Trip odometer is also a good trick - I use the "B" trip for "time since last change."
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 17:05
  • Ah, you have one of those fancy cars with a "B" trip odo. :-) Both of my cars just have a single trip odo that I use for gas mileage. On my bike I use my single trip odo for chain maintenance as that's a harder to figure 600 mile thing... Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 11:49

Check your owners manual. If you don't have one, you can probably find a copy online. You may find that the suggested oil change interval is more than 3000 or 6000 miles - for my Volvo, for example, the recommendation is for 7500 miles (12000 km).

If you decide to use synthetic oils, the interval may be even higher. I know people have gone 20,000 miles between oil changes, and a guy named Doug Hillary did some testing to verify that the synthetic oil did not degrade over time (I believe the occasional top-up was enough to keep it within spec). But if you're concerned, you can always take a sample and send it in for testing.

  • Based on the reading I've done and the anecdotal evidence of engines I've had knowledge of, the degradation of oil over time is not nearly as large a concern as the contaminants (built up by mileage) in the oil. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 16:10

Kilometers that can be driven on different base oils -Mineral based oils have a potential to last for any way between 3000-5000km, -Semi-synthetic can last for 7000-9000km, -Paraffin based and synthetic based oils can easily last for 15,000-20,000km

But this all depends on:- -The temperature of the country, -Kilometers covered in a stretch, -Driving conditions -The time for which your car is stagnant. -Engine capacity. This all is mentioned for cars.

And for visual checks -You should check the oil levels on the dip stick, -And as mentioned by 'mindcorrosive' the colored and the viscosity can tell you the condition of the oil. The darker and less viscous the oil gets you know its time to change.

Tips -Change the oil when the engine is a comparatively hot, helps to drain the oil easily but be careful not to damage the threading on the oil drain nut. -Change the oil filter with every oil change. -If metal filings are found in the oil you have a big problem, similarly if less oil is drained out.


Just for people like you (and me) there is a lubrication testing device:


  • The site has way too much information, but I couldn't find much info on what the actual things that this devices checks for.
    – cnst
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 22:17

A lot of short runs will degrade oil faster, but fully synthetic will be fine once a year. Even 12,000 miles is fine. Change it at the end of summer. People waste money changing their oil every 3000 miles/3 months. That's when the oil was not as good and they used to strip engines to decoke on dyno mineral oil without much detergents in?

  • 1
    We appreciate the contribution and your presence here on MVM&R.SE. What would make this answer a much better answer is if you added references and backed your statements. As it reads, it looks like conjecture and hyperbola. Again, welcome to the site and hope to see what great contributions you'll have in the future! Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 11:48
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    @PaulLongbottom Good first answer to this forum, but I'm not convinced of the arguments either. From my discussions with the engine guys I've worked with they were always more concerned with exhaust bypass at the pistons contaminating the lubricant. That means oil changes need to be made around the 5000 to 7000 mileage mark, synthetic oil or not, in spite of the sales pitches from the synthetic oil folks. Can you edit your answer to improve it and better support what you are saying? Many thanks.
    – zipzit
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 8:32

While wiping the dipstick -hold the index finger/thumb together, slide stick out. Now seperate the thumb/index slowly apart. If the oil (visvosity) has broke down, it will seperate instantly-if its GOOD, there will be a thin film between the two when seperated 1/8-1/4inch.


I don't really go by the color of the oil. I do it on a 3 month schedule. At start of the year, just go through the calender and mark off a reminder around every 3 months. You should be able to find a holiday in most cases to help with reminding you. Been doing this for close to 20 years. If you have to use color to help you, then anything that has the color of molasses, it is time to do it now....not next month.

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