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Oil Service

I just bought a 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan and am wondering about oil changes. How does the oil life indicator work? Is it by mileage, hours, or actual oil quality? Do I wait for the computer to tell me to change the oil? Is it a good idea to do the first change at 1,000 or 1500 miles? Can I use synthetic. And finally, is there any special tool or trick to replacing the oil filter. I drive about 10,000 miles/year and keep my cars 10-12 years. This Dodge replaced my 2000 GMC Safari with 110,000 miles.

The oil change interval is determined by an algorithm. This is basically a computer program that determines when the oil should be changed based on the information the computer recieves. However, an algorithm doesn’t take into account if there should be a failure where an engine starts leaking coolant into the oil.

Oil change intervals have gotten longer. But when you get under the vehicle to do an oil change, you not only change the oil, but you have a chance for a vehicle inspection.

The auto manufacturer’s are dumbing vehicles to the point where the owner never has to open the hood. And when you get that lazy, you pay for it.


I have an OLM (Oil Life Monitor) in my 2010 Cobalt. According to the OLM it can go ~9k mile between oil changes. I’ve decided to keep a 5k interval as it’s easy to remember. I used to change the oil every 4k on my previous vehicles.

Whatever you decide to do with the oil change interval, remember to open the hood and check the oil level on a regular basis, Some folks seem to think the OLM means they don’t have to check their oil level between changes.

Ed B.

Check your owners manual for these answers and many more. The OLM has no idea what the condition of the oil is and just bases it on start ups, miles driven, etc. I change at 50% OLM or 5000 miles. I would never run it down to 0%. You most likely would need an oil filter socket. Whether you use syn or not depends on the recommended viscosity of the oil but still stay within the standard oil change intervals IMHO. Others will disagree and want to run to zero to save the planet at the expense of their engine.

Whether you follow your oil life indicator or stick with changing it every 5K miles is a subject of wide debate. Each camp uses some convincing arguments to present their respective position.

Oil life indicators are getting more accurate as time goes on. In a few years I believe they’ll have a much higher acceptance rate.

I also believe the answer to whether you should follow your oil life indicator can only be determined by sending your oil out for an analysis a few times - to gain confidence on whether you can trust it for your car and your driving habits.

I only use synthetic every 5000 miles. The 99 Camry had problems with sludging. It still runs great!

There is no absolutely correct answer for this one.

I am going to suggest this. As long as you do as many or more oil changes than recommended by the manufacturer, you should be fine. It would be very rare that you will suffer any problems caused by oil issues IF you meet or exceed the recommended (by the manufacturer) change interval.

However IF you have some sort of unusual situations like living in in the Arctic or topic or down wind from a steel mill. 

If you have any doubts, then do more not less.  

BTW it is possible to change your oil too much.  Not many of us are guilty of doing it too often, it is (at least in theory) possible.

In general current motors run “cleaner” than older generations of cars due to improvements in combustion efficiency and better additives in the fuel. Also motor oils have improved in refinement, additives, and better resistance to molecular breakdown. All these factors make motor oils last longer.

On the flip side modern motors run hotter. In particular motors with turbo chargers add extra stress on the oil due to very high operating temperatures as the oil cools and lubricates the turbo unit(s). If a motor has a turbo charger (as in Ford’s “Eco boost” motors you are best using full synthetic oils.

The Grand Caravan likely has a non turbo V6. No need for synthetic oil IMO. With 10K miles a year, 2X oil changes at 5K miles per year seems like a good system. Go with conventional oil and see what the oil monitor system shows at 5K miles. If the oil appears to be very clean and clear on the dipstick and the oil monitor says you are less than 50% perhaps you can extend your oil change interval.

In olden days, changing the initial factory supplied oil at about 1000 to 1500 miles made sense to me. Honda claims to use special oil and additives from the factory and recommends against a 1000K oil change in Honda’s. With your Caravan I’d do the 1st oil change at about 1K miles and the 2nd at something just over 5K miles, and every 5K miles thereafter. It is just plain easy to figure 5K oil changes.

Get a look at the oil filter location (many you can’t see unless you get under the car) to see about access. You can check the books at Walmart or just buy your 1st filter from the Chrysler dealer and then buy a wrench to fit it.

Can I use synthetic. [?]

I would think so. Your Owner’s Manual will give the service specs needed for you motor oil and also the correct viscosity and so will the motor oil bottle. Just make sure the motor oil falls within the manufacturer’s requirements. Some cars specify a synthetic and many newer cars specify a blend (combination synthetic and conventional).

I don’t go by the OLM and change oil every 5,000 miles using Mobil-1 Extended Performance. I take care of 7 cars and I change oil on them when the odometer reading ends with an even 5,000 interval (10,000 . . . 15,000 . . . etcetera). That way I don’t have to do any math or look anything up to know when a change is approaching. I have the drivers in the family helping to monitor this.

Look under the car to see the location and access to the oil filter and determine what type of wrench you’ll need (band type, socket type, etcetera). Buy the correct filter specified in the Owner’s Manual and of the brand you’ll be using and take it with you to get the right wrench.

You’d only need 2 changes per year ! Lucky you.


My kid has 03 vue with 3.0 motor. Is at 3k mile now. I checked oil and dipstick looks like honey. I had to wipe it off twice to clearly see oil level. Never seen such clean old oil. She just bought car 2 months ago. Maybe they put in veggy oil?

I like Testers answer best so far, but I would like to add to it. The OLM is a very accurate indicator of when to change your oil, but its accuracy is dependent on using oil that meets at least the manufactures minimum specifications. It also depends on the oil level not going any more than a quart low, so you still have to pull the dipstick once in awhile. Low oil level stresses the oil more.

You can use an oil that exceeds the manufacturers specifications if you want. The OLM will not compensate for this and will not extend the time before it comes on, but if you chose to use a better oil and you change it when the OLM tells you to, that is just a little extra protection.

I keep my cars a long time too. I have an 02 Saturn with 253k miles on it. I have used the OLM for oil change frequency and I use the cheapest oil that I can find that still meets the manufacturers minimum specs. It does burn a little oil now, about a quart every 1500-2000 miles around town, about every 1100 miles on extended highway trips, but thats not bad for its age and miles. Feel free to take better care of your vehicle than I do mine.

I take better care of my other vehicles, but the Saturn was one of those “Silver Blue Specials” that GM sold for $9995 with air. So when I bought it new, I decided to see just how low I could keep my costs on it, so that meant minimum maintenance. I would have been happy with 100k miles but it went a lot further than I expected and is still going strong.

The above example is meant as a testimony to the OLM, not necessarily to Saturn, though it has been an OK car. My point is that I may have been over maintaining my other cars and trucks, but they don’t have OLM’s so I have to use my best guess.

I have several cars with an OLM. My wife’s minivan has one and it has 135,000 miles on it. I change the oil when it gets to 10 to 15% remaining; about 7500 miles. The engine still doesn’t use oil. I think that you are safe using the OLM as long as you plan on changing between 10% to 20% life remaining and check your oil level every week or two. Once you establish whether your car loses oil between changes, you can gauge when to check the oil. You might do it every 3 weeks if you don’t burn any.

I agree with keith, and Tester.

If you have an engine without a design fault related to oil your are good. OLM or car makers interval is fine to go by if you maintain the oil level and don’t over extend ANY oil change. Also use spec’ed stuff.

I have run into 200k+ range without issue using car maker recommendations using regular conventional oil. (lot of SuperTech)

Troublefree related to oil owner of
Jetta GLI(212k)
Subaru Loyal(190k)
Honda Civic(225k)
Honda Civic(190k)
Subaru Legacy Turbo(150k)
Subaru WRX(100k)
Acura MDX(100k using OLM)