21 June 2012

Engine Oil: Consider time over mileage

Summer is here – time to pull out your classic after a long winter’s nap and go touring! But wait, before you fire the ol' girl up and take her for the first spin of the new summer, one question – when’s the last time you changed your engine oil? Did you know the average vintage car or truck typically travels fewer than 1,500 miles per year. You’re probably thinking that you should be OK, given the most common school of thought for engine oil, which is “change it every 3,000 miles.” We think not.

When considering the lifespan for engine oil in older vehicles, we suggest you use time in the crankcase and not mileage to determine when an oil change is necessary. Oil in a vintage engine that sits idle over the winter can break down from the residual gas, dirt and other contaminants generated from running. Regardless of the number of over-the-road miles, engine oil should be changed every 6 and twelve months. Several quarts of oil and a new filter are certainly less expensive than a premature engine failure caused by oil that’s lost its lubricity.

Enjoy the drive!

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Troy S. Alabama April 3, 2013 at 23:38
    I have an old air cooled 911.. There's no coolant in this engine, so an oil change of around 11 quarts plus filter and two gasket washers is somewhat costly and would be even more so every 6 months. Does living in a warm climate change the oil change interval at all?
  • 2
    Ben Leone Stratford, Ct. September 10, 2013 at 12:54
    I have three collector cars that I drive less than 800 miles per year. I use full synthetic oil but recently decided to switch to conventional oil. I change the oil ONCE per year with the filter of course. My mechanic says I am wasting my money. Thank GOD I never had to replace a motor in any of them. Fingers crossed! Oil is relatively cheap and this is my added extra insurance. If you feel I am wasting time and money, tell me your thoughts on this. Be well!!! Happy motoring!!!
  • 3
    John Ontario, Canada February 7, 2014 at 11:44
    I have a 1980 Trans am with a 301 cid non turbo engine. I am using Valvoline conventional 10w-30 motor oil. I see by the article above about "insufficient ZDDP (“zinc”) and specialty oils are usually needed, or an additive such as ZDDPlus". Am I safe running with this oil? I also read that zinc can destroy catalytic converters. The editors advice would be appreciated.
  • 4
    Petunia Evans Wyoming May 25, 2016 at 14:42
    It's been a while since I checked on my oil, but this article has reminded me why it's important to keep up on that. I had no idea that not changing your oil could cause so many problems to your car. I'll be sure to check on it and change it as soon as possible now, thank you for this advice!
  • 5
    Kevin Nelezen Wisconsin March 30, 2017 at 11:05
    I own a few classic Pontiacs. I do not see the need for the added zinc in engine oil. There are synthetic and conventional oils that are so much more advanced than oils of the old days. I have been using Valvoline and Mobile 1. Both give great protection and have long life. If you are running fuel injection on a classic engine you could easily go a full year without a change. If you have a carburetor and keep your engine in good time. Once a year oil change is perfectly fine. The best time to change your oil is just before storage period. Then you are sure not to have fuels and dirt sitting in the engine that could possibly cause corrosion. This is just my opinion and it has been working for me. Enjoy and have fun, that's what it's all about.

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