Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Change oil on barely used vehicle?

I have a pickup that is used sparingly. Maybe 2,000 miles a year. I don’t see the need to change the oil until I get to at least 5,000 miles (translates to a few years). Is this really a bad practice? Should I change the oil every 6 months regardless of mileage? If so, can I leave the filter?

Change it no less often than at least once a year. You really should do it twice a year. Change the filter every time!

Almost all change intervals go by mileage or time - whichever comes first. tardis’ advice is sound

With that few miles you have extra problems that beat up oil & engines - probably a lot of short trip driving and condensation in the engine.

I think you should change the oil and the oil filter once a year.

Once oil is exposed to contaminants, the oil begins to age. It will continue to age whether or not you use the truck.

Owner’s manuals and service manuals have dual intervals for maintenance, usually something like “every 5,000 miles or every 9 months, whichever comes first.”

What does your owner’s manual say about oil change frequency? Does it say you can wait three years between oil changes? Does it say you can leave the filter on for three years? Probably not.

Why don’t you just follow the instructions in your owner’s manual? The people who designed your engine wrote those instructions for a reason.

If this pickup is still under warranty, then you’re voiding your warranty on the engine by ignoring those instructions.

Replace the oil and the filter a minimum of once a year, regardless of the mileage.

For barely used vehicles, the question for me becomes, how is it used? If it only goes short hops infrequently, then I’d be inclined to change the oil more often. The reason being, short hops the engine does not get up to temp for long if at all. This means all the water condensation and acids from a rich combustion blow-by are sitting in the pan and basting all your parts in this corrosive solution. If you run it infrequently but for long trips, then I might only do 1 or two changes in a year. I’d skip every other change on the filter.

It partly depends on where you live. My mother-in-law lives in the Great Lakes area and drives the same distance you do. She gets 2 oil and filter changes per year (spring & fall) since most of her driving is short trips, stop & go. It’s important to prevent sludge formation caused by crankcase condensation, and raw gasoline leaking past the rings.

If you live in a warmer part of the country, one oil & filter change per year would be enough. Use 5W30 oil which will see you through all seasons.

Looks like I’ve been fooling myself that I could get away without doing this simple maintenance. It’s a 2001 (I’m at least the 3rd owner) with 95,000 miles, no warranty.
Thanks to everyone for setting me straight.

Thanks for listening. The fact that you are open to dissenting opinions is refreshing.

These are the same ones who tell you that there is no need to change your transmission fluid or engine coolant, that they are lifetime fluids… All they are doing is advertising lower maintenance costs to try to sell more vehicles. I always do one better than owners manual service intervals. The manufacturer cant dock you for that. In the OP’s case, once a year AT LEAST.


If you make short trips, you may qualify for more frequent service based on “severe use” which is described in many owner manuals.