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How Often Should You Service Your Vehicle?

It’s no secret that regular maintenance on your vehicle will extend the life of your engine and save you from costly repairs down the road.  If you’re lazy (like me), or lack the basic mechanical skills (also like me), then you probably take your vehicle to an expert when it’s time for service.

We seem to have been conditioned to believe that we need to change our engine oil and filter every 5,000 kilometres, or every three months, whichever comes first. That’s what the local Mr. Lube service technician recommends whenever I bring my vehicle in for an oil change.

How Often Should You Service Your Vehicle?

Of course, the technician also bombards me with up-selling recommendations. Air filters, engine flushes, transmission fluid changes, coolant services, and fuel system cleanings, to name a few, all come with hefty price tags and stern warnings to take immediate action.

So, how often should you service your vehicle? This table shows the difference between the owner’s manual recommendations and the guidelines offered by Mr. Lube:

Service Owner’s Manual Mr. Lube Cost
Engine Oil and Filter 6 months or 6,000 KM 3 months or 5,000 KM $54.99
Cabin Air Filter 24 months or 48,000 KM 20,000 – 40,000 KM $54.99
Fuel Tank Air Filter 24 months or 48,000 KM 20,000 – 40,000 KM $64.99
Coolant Fluid Change 24 months or 48,000 KM 40,000 – 60,000 KM $99.99
Transfer Case Service Every 100,000 KM Every 40,000 KM $59.99
Automatic Transmission Fluid 84 months or 168,000 KM 40,000 – 60,000 KM $129.99

I’m only driving approximately 12,000 – 15,000 kilometres each year, and I normally take my vehicle in for an oil change every six months. I follow the owner’s manual for the other service recommendations, which usually means brushing off repeated requests from the service technician for a few visits.

Related: Why does my car dealer want to buy back my car?

Following the owner’s manual recommendations for these service intervals has saved me nearly $500 over the last three years.

The more you change your oil, the longer your engine will last, but the debate about exactly how often you should service your vehicle is a bit of a grey area. The owner’s manual may tell you every 6,000 – 10,000 kilometres. Your buddy with a classic car may tell you every 3,000 – 5,000 kilometres. Your Grandpa, who drives a 25-year-old truck, might tell you he’s never changed the oil in his vehicle.

The optimum time to change your oil might be more closely related to other factors besides time and distance travelled. The number of cold-starts, driving in extreme temperatures, repeated short distance driving, and excessive idling are all signs of severe driving conditions and more frequent maintenance should be considered.

How often do you service your vehicle?

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20 Comments

  1. Emily Hunter on October 16, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    I’m usually getting my vehicle serviced about every three months because the normal mileage driven is usually around 5K miles. I’d not really thought about the propensity for mechanics to really really want individuals to come into the place sooner – for a second, I’d forgotten that they, like all businesses, are after the cash.

    • Echo on October 16, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      @Emily – Apparently this is a conspiracy brought on by the quick lube industry to get more money out of our pockets.

  2. SophieW on October 16, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I have a thing (notice the technical term… lol) that monitors everything for me. I take it in for an oil change when it tells me to. I just got my winter tires put on last month and my reminder had popped up too for the oil. Turns out it had been a year since I had the oil changed (about 10,000 km), but when I asked the service guys (cuz I’d heard the 5,000 km advice too) they said that it tests the oil’s viscosity and so was fine and still warrantied.

    • Echo on October 16, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      @SophieW – I’ve seen those “things” on newer vehicles, that would be very handy for someone like me, too. I’ve heard that there was a test conducted with NY cab drivers to see how well the oil’s viscosity holds up in their vehicles, and after 6,000 miles (about 10,000 KM) the oil was still good.

    • JoanneL on March 13, 2018 at 6:42 am

      When I took in my car for an oil change, I was told that my car could only take synthetic oil (0W-20). Looked it up and saw people are using 5W-20 in them. The service tech informed me at Mr. Lube that, in fact, the synthetic would last twice as long, so the cost would break even. I looked that up as well and confirmed that he was correct, which I found interesting. Funny how I, like most people, had always believed the one-size-fits-all advice about how often to get an oil change but never actually thought about the factors that would make a vehicle vary from that norm.

  3. Steve Oliver on October 16, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Hello folks! If Honda and GM auto service alert on instrument panel kicks in around 12,000 km, why would any of you part with your money at anything lower? I have a 10 year old six cylinder Hyundai Tuscon and I have not changed my oil for a year! It only has 4,000 km of use since last oil change so must I change it because Hyundai says change at 6,000 km or 6 months whichever comes first? Does my oil breakdown over time and lack of use? Does oil in oil bottles break down on a shelf at Cdn tire? Seriously, stop following manufacturers recommendations! I know that oil gets quite dirty and black at about 10 to 12 thousand kilometers so then I change it. The only reason manufacturers want your car in sooner is to check all other components such as brakes and to do preventative maintenance. I do all of the simple maintenance. Get yourself a decent bicycle air pump and adjust your tires with that on a monthly basis. Never trust the car maintenance people or tire shops on your air pressures. They always over inflate mine by 5 PSI or more! I always do my own cabin airfilter which is easily changed behind the glove box. I also do the engine air filter. I also did the power steering fluid in the honda Civic.

    • fbgcai on October 12, 2019 at 4:11 pm

      Good on you for doing the simple maintenance.

      No the oil on the shelf doesn’t get older and break down but it is also not subjected to use i.e. in your engine – the oil in the engine is subjected to pressure, heat, combustion by-products, bits of metal wearing off the engine etc. doing it’s lubrification job – that’s why it’s dirty at the 10-12k mark – if you re-refine that dirty oil (get rid of the gunk) you could use it again but that is very difficult to implement and not cost effective.

  4. Jordan on October 16, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    It is kinda weird that back in the days of the imperial system you changed it every 5000 miles, then Canada changed over to the metric system and it changed to 5000 kms. Hmmm that is interesting

    With today’s technology and better oil products (Synthetic) most drivers can probably get away with changing it between 7500kms and 10000kms.

    Driving conditions matter the most but I don’t think that there is a hard an fast rule to live by. Just my opinion.

    • Echo on October 16, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      @Jordan – Interesting point. I think the quick lube industry in the U.S. recommends to change your oil every 3,000 miles now.

  5. Craig on October 16, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    I tend to change oil, shocks, springs, rack and pinion, sway bars, steering columns, wheel bearings, control arms, brakes, and such myself. I take cars to mechanics only when I don’t have time or have gotten to the limit of my skill and/or parts availability (replacing computer modules was the last time)

    This stuff is not hard. 25 years ago, most people could do this stuff. Why is everyone so helpless these days?

    • Jayce on October 16, 2017 at 11:17 pm

      Well said! This is easy stuff and for under $20!

      Pay someone to teach you oil change and lube, air filter change, cabin filter change and you now have 3 regular occuring items that cost more than $50 each in your control for well under $20 each.

      Learn to change your brakes and now you have a $500 item in your control and under $200.

      Remember cars are made to have these things easy to work on… but not too easy…

      I learned this stuff out of necessity after a difficult divorce. No money to fix my crappy car… a good and knowledgeable friend guided me… my beater car that i thought was near wrecker ready in 2009 is going strong to this day because I took a few hours to learn some basic skills.
      Although i have my finances well in hand now, i still drive it in the winter.

      • Brendan on December 19, 2017 at 11:41 pm

        You can learn many of these skills, and for your specific make/model of car, on youtube.

  6. John McKay on October 16, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Mr Lube is a total rip off.
    Their business practices are financially in their favour.
    They are into the upsell and they suck at it.

    Get your oil changed avery 6,000 km like the manual says.

    Preferably Do it Yourself.
    Buy the correct weight oil (on your oil filler cap) at your local Canadian Tire, and buy the stuff that’s on sale don’t worry about the brand (they are all the same, including the Motomaster house brand).
    If your manual says use synthetic, use the proper oil. Like GM says use Dexos-1, VW says use their spec synthetic etc. Most vehicles are nothing special, but just confirm that you purchase the right specification of oil. (it’s not that hard).

    Buy a 6 pack of quality oil filters (Wix or Baldwin only) at your local Auto Parts Store (like Napa or Uni Select or online). If you are shopping at the local store, ask for the trades discount becuase you need that discount, you might as well ask them for a new drain plug gasket while your at it.

    If you decide that you don’t want to change your own oil, go to your local community garage and tell them you were going to change your oil yourself but changed your mind and decided to pay the garage. Give them your stuff and they’ll usually charge less than the Mr Lube and without the up sell baloney.

  7. Bill on October 16, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    I have done my own oil changes for a couple of decades now, saving me a couple of thousand dollars over that time (I buy full synthetic oil when its on sale).

    I also do my own air filter changes (engine and cabin) at a cost of $2-7 each, not $50+ ! Yikes!For cabin filters I cut up a HEPA furnace filter to fit the frame.

    Oil changes should be about 6-7500 km to be safe. Newer engines and oils can go longer, but why? Especially if you do it yourself for $20. Its cheap insurance if you keep your car.

    I recently had my “maintenance minder” pop up to tell me that the coolant needed changing at around 100K km. I googled it, and discovered how easy it is to do on my Civic. $25 later it was done. I plan on doing it around every 75K now – again, cheap insurance.

    I found an oil analysis place recently that will take a sample of your oil and test it for you, telling you exactly how “used up” your oil is. Costs about $30, but I figure it will be interesting knowledge – especially when my winter change is due in late January. If I could stretch that change a few weeks …

    I also have a separate set of winter tires on rims – the cost of the rims is about the same as one change over at a dealer or tire store, but I can do it myself.

    When in doubt, your owners manual RULES. Mr Lube and the like are there to make money off you.

  8. Charles Jackson on October 16, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Very useful article. Vehicle maintenance scheduling is one of the frustrating tasks we are facing in our life. It is true that maintenance recommendations mentioned in owner’s manual and that by local service centers are entirely different. However I prefer local service centers. This is because they have years of experience in this industry. Some service centers like Apex specialized automotive in Canada often offers free checkups and consultation for regular customers. They approach us with very friendly and will take care of everything just like what they do with their own vehicles.

  9. John on October 17, 2017 at 5:33 am

    We just bought a new vehicle and because of that I’d like to follow the manufacturer’s recommended service. Also due to warranty issues when you don’t. And when the vehicle is new one is much more willing -and I bet the dealers know this- to spend some more on service because you like to keep the vehicle in the best possible shape. However, the newer vehicles tell you when your due for an oil change. They have a little monitor build in and it pops out on your dash when its due. If you are a city driver this may be 3000Km but highway commuters will get a lot more. I bought a Honda Accord back in 2008 and went to the dealer for a first oil-change after 3000Km. The service guy asked me why I was there. “Well”, I said “I thought being a new vehicle and being the first oil change, it should be done after 3000Km”. He told me to come back when the vehicle indicated the need for one. My first oil change was after 12000 Km. Sold it after 180000 clicks, never had an issue and or engine problems. If anything I would recommend rust proving by places like Krown. So you don’t drive a well serviced rust bucket in a few years.

  10. Mrs. Picky Pincher on October 17, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Yeah, this is a tricky one. We get our oil changed probably every three months or so. We definitely don’t follow the manufacturer’s suggestions, though. I do feel that the manufacturer has a lot to gain by suggesting we spend more money getting the vehicle serviced at *their* service stations.

  11. Garth M on October 17, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Interesting comments on oil change intervals. Today, most manufacturers seem to be recommending and/or using synthetic oil. I have been using synthetic oil in cars since the early/mid 1970s (Mobil1 back then). At the time, I remember they were advertising that Mobil1 could go for 100,000 miles between changes! Synthetic oil has apparently been used in aircraft engines in the Arctic since the 40s and 50s. Surely today’s synthetic oil is even better, so what’s with the 3 months/5,000 km recommended oil change intervals?

  12. Doug Boraas on October 17, 2017 at 9:45 am

    The guy on Dragon’s Den owns Mr. Lube and Boston Pizza-Jim Trevilon said that he believes in owning business’s that have a low overhead but plenty of cash flow, so I will go to neither Boston Pizza or Mr. Lube as they are both rip-offs! His pizza has hardly any toppings, and Mr. Lube continuely say you need services that a person doesn’t require! Cabin filter change, transmission fluid change, etc.

  13. Tom on July 12, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    I use to change my own oil etc, but cars have changed. Newer cars have the oil filter at an ackward location so unless i want a neckache i get it done.
    I have never replaced the cabin air filter, but i do not live where there are dusty roads.
    Get an electric car, no oil, no fan belt, tranny fluid, motor air filter, radiator etc.

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