Oil Change Frequency



Why do Tom and Ray recommend changes at 5000 when my Honda Element booklet says 10,000?


This topic is debated here all the time, use the search function, type in oil change and you will have you answer instantly.



There is no one “right” answer. The two most common are:

  1. Cars have improved and don’t need changes as often.
  2. Extra oil changes can’t hurt and under some situations may help.

#1 is true but the amount can be questioned.

#2 Is almost true. There has been some limited evidence that too many oil changes may actually increase wear. However that increase is very very small. It is very true that under some conditions, like short trips, cold temperatures, etc. extra changes may be called for and likely the car’s manufacturer did list “severe conditions” as requiring more oil changes.

Do the search here and you will find details of all the choices.


They state that as the safe answer and it typically reflects the severe interval listed in your manual that most drivers fall into.


Agree, there are usually 2 intervals stated, one for “regular” driving, and one for “severe”. The severe is usually short trips, driving in heavy traffic, very cold weather, trailer towing, etc. So called regular is driving on a highway at posted speeds. Tom and Ray realized that almost all driving fits in the severe category, so they recommend the shorter severe interval of 5000 miles. Car manufacturers are falling over each other to tell us their cars are low maintenance, but that is only true under ideal conditions. So, if you read the manual carefully, your driving is likely in the severe category. The only time you drive regular is probably on a summer holiday trip across the country. The 5000 mile interval is a massive step up from the 2000 miles specified not so long ago. This is due to:

  1. Computerized ignition, resulting in fewer misfires causing soot
  2. Fuel injection, giving precise fuel/air ratios
  3. Platinum spark plugs
  4. Computerized engine management
  5. Vastly cleaner gasolines
  6. Much improved oils

So we are all correct; your driving style and weather determine the actual oil change interval!


I like to check my oil bi-weekly and actually look at the condition of it. I will smell it for a burnt odor and feel it to see if it’s a little gritty or not as slick as it should be. I also look at its color to see how dark it is because the new oil I put in it is almost clear. If the oil is breaking down I will schedule an oil change; usually about every 3 or 4 thousand miles. Of course, my car has a turbo so it breaks down oil faster than normal. This is a good way to gauge how often you need to change the oil.


Most of the people don’t keep their vehicle 300k miles like I do. In fact most rarely keep them past 100k miles. So if you changed your oil every 10k miles for 100k miles it’ll be fine. If you do this for 300k miles I’m not so sure. I’d bet it would be burning oil before 200k miles. But since the vast majority don’t keep their vehicles for 300k miles their advice is fine.


The only way to tell if your oil needs to be changed is to send a sample to an oil laboratory. Sight, smell and touch aren’t effective. If you don’t want to bother with laboratory analyses, change oil and filter according to the manual’s schedule for severe service.


Agree; like you I keep cars a long time. Having done the severe oil change for over 40 years, I have not worn out (overhauled) an engine since 1964.


I did both and found the test showed I had a very good safety margin with the “severe” interval. This car went over 300,000 miles without showing more than normal oil consumption! Additve depletion is the main enemy of oil deterioration. A good filter will catch the crud.