OIL CHANGES: How often should I change the oil in my car?


After the first year or 10,000 miles, whichever comes first, I recommend using either a good semi-synthetic oil such as Texaco Havoline 5w/30 (Ford dealer 'bulk' oil), or a fully-synthetic such as Mobil 1, and changing it every 5,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. This is a bit extreme and really only applies if you intend keeping the car for a very long time. Normally every 12 months or 10,000 miles whichever comes first is sufficient.

Always change the filter as well.

Change the manual gearbox oil once after the first 12 to 18 months, or 10,000 to 15,000 miles, if this is possible.

Change the coolant every 3 years if it is an MEG coolant, or every 4 years if it is an MPG coolant.

Change the brake fluid every 2 years unless it is Dot 5 silicon brake fluid (unlikely on a mass-produced car).

If the engine has a timing belt, change that every 4 years or every 40,000 miles, whichever comes first, unless the engine has no history of premature timing belt failures (Ford Zetec E and Zetec S engine timing belts generally exceed their design life of 80,000 miles, so can be changed at 6 years or 80,000 miles, whichever comes first.) Change the timing belt tensioner and any weeping camshaft or jackshaft oil seals at 80,000 miles (every second timing belt change for non-Ford Zetecs). VAG belts on diesels generally good for 60,000 miles. VAG belts on 1.4 and 1.6 16v have plastic pulleys that fail and need changing every 4 years or 40,000 miles. Early VAG 1.8 20v engines had water pumps with plastic impeller which can fail, throwing off the belt, so belt and water pump should be changed by 60,000 miles.

If the engine comes factory-filled with special, very expensive recommended oil, be aware that if the engine is not run-in properly it could use oil at the rate of 1 litre per 650 miles, so, in effect, it changes its own oil four to five times in 20,000 miles at a cost to the owner of around £275. It seems that to allow for these long oil change intervals manufacturers raised the level of contamination and degradation acceptable in the oil.


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