Finally, you are driving away with a brand-new car from the dealership. You possibly spent weeks or months considering which vehicle to purchase and learning all about it. Now comes the part where you get to enjoy and take care of your car. To ensure that your vehicle lasts 300,000 miles or longer, you need to know when to do a first oil change for a new car. The oil, after all, is the lifeblood of the combustion engine.
Here is what you need to know about changing the engine oil for the first time in your new vehicle.
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What is the Break-In Period for New Cars?
You may be wondering why the first oil change is so important. With brand-new engines, there is something known as the break-in period. As soon as you drive the car off the lot, it begins to accrue miles. Between 0 and 500, you have something called the break-in period, where the engine is just beginning to experience any measure of effort.
Manufacturers recommend that you give the new vehicle time to break in. This is because the piston rings need to seal against the cylinder bores.
In the past, new cars would struggle during this period and could not be driven very far or for too long. Thankfully, modern cars do not have these limitations. New technology and better construction have enabled new cars to be taken from the lot and right into a road trip without any damage happening to the internal parts.
Speaking of breaking in engines, this video explains everything in detail:
How Long Should Break-In Oil Be Left in a New Engine?
First off, what is break-in oil? It is a formulated conventional oil that is designed to help seal the piston rings within the engine against the cylinder wall. This contributes to increased engine compression and more power. Break-in oil does not contain anti-wear additives, as it wants to help wear down the cylinder wall and pistons in a controlled way. The additives that are included are zinc and phosphorus to protect other vital components, like the camshaft.
Obviously, having some controlled wear is important—but you want to protect your engine too.
The break-in time for most new vehicles is between 500 and 1,000 miles. Break-in oil should not be used any longer than that. Past 1,000 miles, the break-in oil will only be damaging the cylinder and pistons in the engine. Also, keep in mind that driving your vehicle at higher speeds (about 60 mph) during that first 500 to 1,000 miles could also damage the internal parts.
As such, remove the break-in oil around 500 miles, if possible.
When to Change the Oil in a New Car
Each vehicle is unique in that it has specific maintenance demands. You can find the recommended oil change intervals and other useful information in the owner’s manual, provided by the manufacturer. Back in the day, the recommended interval for an oil change was every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Newer engines and technologies have led to an even greater mileage range.
Modern cars can go even farther with the synthetic oil they use—around 7,500 to 10,000 miles.
It is essential that you know the make, model, and year of your car to decide when to do the first oil change. In other words, a used 2006 Toyota Corolla has a far shorter range between oil changes than a brand-new 2022 Honda Accord.
However, to be on the safe side, every new car should be treated to a new batch of oil sooner than later. Some mechanics even suggest that you should get the oil changed within 500 to 1,500 miles of driving the vehicle off the dealership lot. Once the oil is changed for the first time, you can then go according to the recommended mileage intervals stated within the owner’s manual.
How Often to Change the Oil in a New Car
As mentioned above, most modern cars have a far greater mileage range between oil changes than those from 15 or 20 years ago. These days, the typical oil change takes place every 6-12 months or 7,500-10,000 miles. In fact, since 2014, most automakers have been recommending a 7,500-mile interval between changing the oil and oil filter.
The shortest interval in new cars is 5,000 miles (which applies to Kia, Honda, and Toyota cars with supercharged engines). The longest is 15,000 miles. Such a range is primarily for eco-saving options or vehicles that are not driven every single day in stop-and-go traffic.
Improving technology has made it easier for vehicles to monitor the amount and quality of the oil circulating through the engine, too. You may have notifications telling you when it is time for an oil change. If you notice that the check engine oil light comes on, that is a good sign that your oil is going to need to be refreshed far sooner than later.
Keep in mind that if your vehicle’s recommended oil change interval is upwards of 7,500 miles, changing it every 3,000 miles or so is going to be a waste of energy, time, and money.
Can I Change the Oil Too Early?
You may be wondering if there is a point when the oil change is too soon. Naturally, changing the oil in your vehicle routinely is going to keep the engine going strong. That said, changing the oil in your car frequently is not going to impact it negatively. The only thing you may notice is that your bank account is far less full.
There is no evidence out there suggesting that oil changes can be done too often or too soon. No damages have been recorded either. Yet, it is best to follow the guidelines written in the owner’s manual by the manufacturer. More often than
What Kind of Oil Should I Use During the First Oil Change?
Choosing the right kind of oil for the first oil change is important. You should once again refer to the owner’s manual for your vehicle. Furthermore, new cars and those with a higher mileage require different formulas. Do not choose a high-mileage synthetic oil for your brand-new car with less than 2,000 miles on the engine. It does not need the formula for older cars!
Look to see what viscosity the manufacturer recommends. For example, you might see either 5W-30 or 10W-30. The numbers depend on a variety of factors, including the temperature of where you live.
Just as a refresher, the number preceding the W describes the rate of flow when the temperature is at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (or -17.8 degrees Celsius). The W does not mean weight; it means winter. Thus, if you live in a colder climate, you want to choose a 0W or 5W formula, since it will thicken up less than 10W. Living somewhere hot? Then you will want an oil that does not thin out when it is too hot, such as 10W.
There are other factors that also alter the oil change interval for the first time. Aside from the type of oil, you also have to consider the engine type and the driving conditions.
Is your brand-new car turbocharged or diesel? Then the frequency of oil changes is going to be different compared to that of a 4-cylinder sedan. Diesel engines, even the most modern ones, tend to get dirtier more quickly than those running on regular gasoline. As such, if you’re cruising around with a turbocharged vehicle using break-in oil, change it right at 500 miles. For those with a smaller, less powerful engine, changing your oil for the first time around 1,000 miles is perfectly safe.
Driving around during extreme temperatures can also warrant a shorter oil change interval. Hot and cold temperatures can be damaging to the engine, particularly when it has not broken in completely yet. Even a short trip during freezing temperatures can cause wear and tear within a new engine. Therefore, if you just bought a new car during a cold snap, you may want to reduce the break-in period. Start protecting your engine with the proper oil formula right away.
Now that you know when to do a first oil change for a new car, what do you think? Will you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations or will you swap out the oil around the 500-1,000 mile mark? To be safe, it may be wise to wait no longer than 1,500 miles to change the oil. This is particularly true if your car’s engine is being lubricated with a break-in formula. If you know that full synthetic is already in the oil reservoir, then you can go along with what is in the owner’s manual without anything to worry about.
Frequently Asked Questions
To be safe when breaking your new car in for the first time, consider changing the oil between 500 and 1,500 miles. However, most auto mechanics and vehicle manufacturers recommend between 7,500 and 10,000 miles. This differs between automakers, though. For example, a 2020 Nissan Altima can wait until it reaches 7,500 miles on the odometer for its first oil change.
You will notice that mechanics often tell you to change the oil sooner than what is printed in the owner’s manual of your vehicle. The auto technician is simply taking the “rather be safe than sorry” approach. Listening to the automaker’s recommendation is not necessarily going to harm your new car, but if you want to be safe and ensure the best health of the engine, then yes, change your car after the first 500 miles.
The recommended service interval is 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first from the point you first drive the car off the dealership lot.