Low mileage oil change

I have a 2012 Subaru Forester 2.5 X Premium purchased new on 26 March 2012. As of today 6-18-13 this car has 3340 miles on it, obviously I drive very little and the recommended service intervals don’t apply very well to my car. I asked Subaru what they recommend for my low mileage Forester and they came back with service (oil and filter change-rotate tires) every 7,500 miles OR 7.5 months. I did have this done in Oct. 2012 with 1526 miles on the car. Now my second service is due according to Subaru’s plan but it seems such a waste to dump this barely used (1800 miles/7.5 months) synthetic oil. So, I would appreciate some input from the followers of this forum. I do want my Forester, which I love, to be well cared for but hate to waste money. Thanks for your help.

Given the low mileage, you must do a lot of short driving trips, yes? Assuming so, and the engine isn’t fully warming up, it’s not a bad idea to change it. The idea there is to keep the oil from getting too much moisture buildup from not fully heating up to temperature.

If you decide to leave it, I personally would not go past a year between changes, regardless of mileage.

In your situation, I would think once a year oil changes would be enough unless you do a lot of very short trip driving in the winter months…In that case, twice a year, spring and fall…Would it be possible for you to live without owning a car? There are alternatives that might make more economic sense…

On my little used car, I’ve been changing once a year and this time had about 100 miles between changes. Its time and mileage, plus sounds like you are severe service so the plan is fine in my book.

It might make more sense to just rent a car when you need to drive somewhere, based on your mileage.

I’d go with once a year synthetic oil changes, and consider getting a ‘battery tender’ to keep the battery charged if the car sets for long periods. Also, it’s not good to only drive on short trips. Cars need a good long drive with some spirited driving once in a while to stay clean. Once a month at least, if you can, it would be good to do at least a 20 mile highway drive with some brisk acceleration. The oil needs to get nice and hot to cook off condensation and combustion byproducts, and this will keep carbon deposits to a minimum too. Don’t forget to run the A/C once in a while to keep the seals lubed in that system too. Also, the engine computer can’t complete diagnostics on the system unless certain conditions are fulfilled, which will not be if you only drive to the corner store.

If you live in a “warm” climate where nighttime temps are about 40 degrees and rarely go below freezing, then I’d change the oil once a year. I’d only use synthetic oil if the owner’s manual specifies synthetic only. If that’s not what it says, then regular oil is fine.

If you live where winter temps frequently go below freezing, I’d change it every 6 months using regular oil.

You drive few miles, but what kind of miles? Do you start and run the car monthly and drive 50 or so miles? Or, do the start the car 5 times a week and drive only 2-3 miles each day? How you use the car has a lot to do with how much and how fast water condensation pollutes the oil. Short frequent trips, pollute the oil faster than letting the car sit for long periods between uses but drive 30-40 miles when you do fire it up.

While the advice about once a year oil changes is essentially valid, the OP has to bear in mind that following that type of schedule will void the warranty–at least as it applies to the engine.

When the mfr’s maintenance schedule specifies an interval of “7,500 miles or 7.5 months”, there is also the proviso, “whichever comes first”, and this is the minimum maintenance necessary to keep the warranty in force.

So, IMHO, it all comes down to whether the OP wants to save a few bucks on oil changes at this point, or to have the security of full warranty protection. The car must be serviced on the minimum schedule specified by the mfr in order to maintain warranty coverage.

VDC does raise a point for the OP to be aware of.

While I truly believe if the OP changes his oil more than once per year, it’s a waste of time, money, and oil - it does leave a slight opening for a dealership to cause trouble with any subsequent related warranty issue. They might be able to stir up something from not following the fine print. They don’t always nit pick that level of detail. YMMV.

My Matrix calls for 5000 miles or 6 months i the manual.
I drive ~4000 miles a year, not counting the occasional road trip.
So I changed the oil every 6 months during the warranty.
Now I change it once a year, dino (conventional, which is really semi-synth these days) oil.

My mother has a sludge-prone 2002 Toyota Sienna she doesn’t drive very far. I use synthetic oil in it and change it once a year. This year, she’s put less than 3,000 miles on the minivan.

If this wasn’t a sludge prone engine, I’d probably use conventional oil and change it every 6-9 months.

This vehicle is out of warranty, but if it wasn’t, I’d probably change the oil more often to keep the warranty intact.

While under warrantee, you need to follow the manufacturers recommendations. Those are located in the owners manual or a supplement to it. When you said that you asked Subaru about this, I assume that you asked the dealer and dealers are known to “enhance” the manufacturers recommendations to their benefit, so go by the book.

After the warrantee period, then you can do as you wish. If you drive this car everyday, then you need to follow the recommended interval for time. If you only drive it on weekends or something like that, i.e. once or twice a week, you can safely ignore the time interval if you want.

Change the oil according to the mileage or time interval as outlined in the owner’s manual. Do not exceed either the time or mileage interval, whether the warranty has expired or not.

I don’t mean to be offensive or flippant, but how can money be a factor in deciding this? We’re talking about an oil change, right?

What I said was that you can safely ignore the time limit on a car that is not driven daily and that is true. I do it myself on a couple of my vehicles that are only driven a couple times a week or less. Both of these vehicles, which get an oil change about every year and a half at 7500 miles are doing fine, are 16 years old (97 models) and have over 180k on them, neither burns any oil. I do use synthetic on both of them.

Its not about the money either, its about the environment, even though I do send the used oil to the recycler or recycle it myself.

I would stick to 7.500 month intervals. My guess it is driven very short trips and the oil likely gets contaminated with water/combustion by products etc in 7.5 months easily due to very frequent cold starts in the few miles on the oil.

Synthetic does not have any magical properties over conventional oil to withstand short trip or low mileage driving.

My vote is with andrewRA. Those factory recommendations are also not often real world and they usually cover their bases by tucking a severe service disclaimer in somewhere.

Valve lash inspection and automatic transmission fluid changes are a few examples of things that should be done more often than recommended.

I would follow the manufacturer recommendations in the owner’s manual for mileage, time interval, mineral/synthetic and viscosity. What does it say?

If you live in an urban area, think “Zip-Car”… When you buy a new car and drive it less than 2000 miles a year, your cost per mile to own a vehicle is extremely high…