Has Engine Oil Been Proven to Last 20,000 Miles?

August 27, 2018 @ 7:51 pm
motor oil

Has Engine Oil Been Proven to Last 20,000 Miles?

Have you heard of engine oil that only needs to be changed every 20,000 miles? If you’re like most vehicle owners, the thought of changing your oil once every year seems like a great idea. But how true is this story – and can your engine go 20,000 miles without an oil change? 

Why we need to change motor oil 

To understand the 20,000 mile story, you’ll need to understand the purpose of engine oil. Engine oil is designed to lubricate the engine to ensure proper rotation, firing and overall function. Without oil, the engine will burn off any existing lubrication, leaving gears and cylinders exposed to the elements. Lack of lubrication can also lead to an increase in friction, which can wear down parts and overheat the engine.

So, that’s essentially why we need engine oil. We also use synthetic oil blends that have other benefits, such as improved performance, better resistance to low temperatures, etc. These additives allow our vehicles to work for as long as the oil is still in their engines. But what if there’s actually a synthetic blend that could last 20,000 miles? Would it work? 

Are 20,000 mile oil changes a myth? 

As we drive, the engine oil we use gets grit, dirt, water, etc. in it, and it no longer lubricates properly. It also “burns off” as the engine heats up. Traditional oil can be changed (according to the manufacturers and other car experts) about every 5,000-7,000 miles. Full synthetic blends can last up to 10,000 miles before it needs to be changed. 

However, other factors can decrease that mileage, including:

  • Road conditions
  • Driving style 
  • Engine health and age
  • Maintenance 

If you’re driving off-road in cold, rainy weather, your engine oil will not be as effective in 5,000 miles. If you accelerate and slam on your brakes, or demand a lot from your car, it won’t last the full mileage window. Most of all, if you have an older or poorly maintained engine, your oil won’t last nearly as long as you want it to.

That’s why the 20,000 mile oil change isn’t the whole truth. While strictly highway driving in decent weather could get you 20,000 miles (or once a year) between oil changes, that’s not realistic for most drivers. We drive in bad traffic, on snowy or rainy days, and we don’t always take our car in for regular maintenance. All of these things decrease the effectiveness of our engine oil, and the new 20,000 mile oil is no different.

Regular oil changes 

In general, it’s best to stick to the recommended mileage between oil changes – 5,000 to 7,000 miles. If you drive a lot, or drive in different areas, you’ll need to change it more often. Instead of listening to broad generalizations like “20,000 miles between changes,” check your dipstick. That’s the only way to know when you really need an oil change.