Oil change frequency: Miles vs. Time



When I get an oil change, the mechanic usually affixes a sticker to my windshield telling me to get another oil change after 3,000 miles or six months. Now that I’m retired, it sometimes takes well over a year to go 3,000 miles (I live in a city, near an excellent public transit system). So, my question: Is the time factor as important as the mileage factor in getting oil changes?


Use the schedule in your owner’s manual, not this sticker.


Miles are more important than time…But a year is long enough…


The owner’s manual will give you a time and miles limit. You should use which ever comes first. That sticker that the mechanic (not a quick oil change places was it? They don’t have real mechanics) is a sales gimmick.


What is most important is how you accumulate those 3,000 miles.

If your usual driving pattern is mostly 3 mile trips to the grocery store, then you should have the oil changed every 3-4 months, regardless of how few miles are on the odometer. On the other hand, if your driving is mostly 40-50 mile drives once a week, then you should easily be able to go 6 months between oil changes.

However, the real answer to this question lies in your Owner’s Manual, also known as The World’s Least-Read Best-Seller. Find the maintenance schedule for your car. Now look closely to find the definitions of Severe Service. Does your driving pattern fit any of the descriptions of Severe Service? If so, then you need to follow Toyota’s Severe Service schedule for oil changes and other maintenance procedures.

If your driving patterns do not fit any of the descriptions of Severe Service, then you should be safe with oil changes according to Toyota’s “normal” maintenance schedule. You did not bother to tell us the model year of your Corolla, but for newer Corollas, the normal schedule calls for oil changes every 5,000 miles OR every six months, whichever comes first.

Given Toyota’s record of engines that develop damaging sludge, I would suggest that you adhere to an oil change schedule of every six months if you have “normal” driving patterns. As one of the most experienced members of this board has said, “Oil is relatively cheap, engines are expensive”.


Good post, VDC! My mother-in-law has the exact same driving pattern and we recommended she change oil and filter spring and fall. Her mechanic also gives her car the “once over” at that time to catch anything that may fail.

Such low mileage is defintely “severe” service, but oil changes every 3 months, as some manuals recommend, make no sense.


As usual, VDC gives good advice. One thing the OP should consider is that short hops and infrequent use often results in lots of undesirable things in the oil; water, gas dilution and particulates from combustion blow-by. Most concerning to me is the production of acids that your engine parts are basking in while it sits idle for long periods. I do the spring and fall schedule on my cars that experience infrequent use or short hopping. I base this primarily on the condition of the oil that comes out during the change. For my engines that are a bit more “experienced” or used hard (like weekend rompers), they get more attention because they tend to pollute the oil faster.


“not a quick oil change places was it? They don’t have real mechanics”

I use a Jiffy Lube with ASE certified mechanics. They don’t have many certifications, but they are all posted in the waiting room. A place like JL can be a good place to start a career. The pay isn’t great, so as they get more experience and certifications, they can move on.

I agree that the sticker is a sales gimmick.