Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Oil change frequency on a car not driven far

I see it’s been 7 months since my daughters last oil change, yet the car has just over 1000 miles since the last oil change. I’m wondering if I should change it for good measure or wait ( it’s a 1999 chevy malibu)

Her owner’s manual will specify recommended oil change intervals for “regular” driving and also for “severe service”, which includes conditions like severe cold, dust, etc. Vehicles that are driven mostly on short trips are also considered “severe service,” because short trips don’t get the oil hot enough to drive out contaminants (moisture from combustion) that will cause the engine to sludge up.

So yes, you should have the oil changed. I recommend changing the oil every six months at a minimum, no matter how little the car is driven. Oil changes are cheap compared to replacing an engine that has sludged up because the oil wasn’t changed often enough. And this happens mostly to people who drive only on short trips, and they don’t change the oil because they think short trips lessens the need for oil changes, but short trips are actually very bad for oil life.

1 Like

Ok. We don’t have a manuel but I guess changing it would never be a bad thing and that’s what I was planning anyway

You can probably find a manual online. For many cars it is XX miles or every 6 months. Best to consult the manual, but I’d certainly change it.

Let me throw a monkey wrench into this. It’s a waste of money to change that often. Most machinery that gets use less then the mileage or hourly use required to change the motor oil, yearly is fine. Your oil will come out clean, even after a year. Because it is used for short trips, I would drop the mileage to 2500 to 3000 or one year, and 5000 for normal use. I have known plenty of summer residents in our area who put fewer then 3k miles a year on their summer only cars which only got used around the lake with a very occasional trip into town. They got one oil change per year ( usually in th fall) and lasted for decades…not just years. Actually, the other maintenance is more important, like checking coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid levels etc., due to possible leakage from lack of use.

Good point Dagosa.

I agree with Dag on this. Annually is fine IMHO.

You do, however, want to keep an eye on things that contain elastomers, like the serpentine belt and the coolant hoses. And even the tires. On a low mileage car, time counts on those items much more than miles.

Let me disagree. Over 6 months of not driving a lot and probably many short trips the oil has been subject to a lot of condensation and a lot of rich running. Oil changes are so cheap that calling 2 changes per year a “waste of money” is a little bit odd to me. Figure $25 for an oil change. At once per year it costs you $2/mo. At 2 changes per year, its $4 / mo - a whopping extra $2 - to maintain multi-thousands of dollars worth of machinery. So IMHO, penny-wise and pound foolish not the change 2X per year at minimum.

But everyone will choose his or her level of quirkiness about such things. My real recommendation would be for Jenetix to actually find out what the manual says.

Ok, lets figure out how to get the glove compartment open to get to the manuel!! It’s been jammed half open since I bought it for her! LOLOL

My 79 gets an oil change at about 1000 miles elapsed and the last time I changed it , it had been two years since the previous.
no problems at all.
grand total miles now …71,000

I drive ~4000 miles a year. Not so much short trips but only 1-3 times a week.
I changed every 6 months while under warranty, but now once a year.
Oil and under valve cover look clean.

If the car gets a long drive to college or something and then just sits between visits home, I would be less worried about this than if the car goes 1/2 mile one way to and from work or school each day. If the car is only driven very short distances where it cannot warm up, by all means change the oil ASAP!

I have never had that low a mileage but consider spring and fall oil changes my preferred. Reasoning, it needs good oil in winter, it needs good oil in summer, and the change of season means a change of oil because of different demands to me.

On my one car that gets one to two hundred miles a year I change once a year. But that car sits most of the time and started maybe once a month. I would agree you can go once a year without a big problem but if those 1000 miles are from one or two mile trips rather than 10 or 20 mile trips, I’d be inclined to change it twice a year to get all the water and other contaminants out. But on a 99, how much damage can it be either way?

If the oil looks very clean and moisture-free on the dipstick, I personally cannot bring myself to change it.

If we’re talking about a daughter who, I’m guessing, may not keep a close eye on things like fluid levels, another advantage of changing the oil more frequently is that it reduces the chances that the engine might run low on oil and get damaged that way.

I have an older pickup that I might put 1000 miles a year on, I just change the oil once a year.

I suggest you start with the recommended, change frequency and change it a little more often if it makes you feel good. I once saw a study that changing oil too often can actually decrease an engines life. However the difference was minimal.

Again, meet or exceed the manufacture's recommendation.  Remember to use the oil (weight and etc.) 

Not all engines need or work best with the same oil.

Jenetix wrote:
We don’t have a manuel but I guess changing it would never be a bad thing and that’s what I was planning anyway

How do you plan to maintain the car properly without a manual? I’d suggest getting one.

Without a manual…you simply pay Manuel to do it :wink:
…Oh wiat…
She said she doesn’t have a Manuel to fix her car with no manual.