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When your vehicle is stopping and going all day long, your car needs all the love it can get. Giving your engine the attention it needs requires you to know how often to change oil.
Not changing your vehicle’s oil is much like smoking a cigarette. While your vehicle may seem alright, your car’s engine will be quietly deteriorating on the inside. When the engine damage is enough for symptoms to finally appear, the costs can be enormous.
In this article, you’ll learn why oil changes are needed and when you really need your next oil change to circumvent the effects of severe driving conditions that come with a rideshare lifestyle.
- Why Do I Need to Change the Oil?
- How Often to Change Oil
- Reasons to Delay Your Oil Change
- Reasons to Change Oil Early
- Can I Change Motor Oil Myself?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do I Need to Change the Oil?
Changing engine oil is of great importance in a machine with constantly moving parts. When you do so, the lubrication reduces the friction between the parts, preventing damage and allowing your engine to last longer.
For rideshare drivers, this is especially important because your vehicle usage naturally increases. More importantly, your usage likely consists of enormous amounts of idling and short trips, which actually causes faster engine wear than several longer trips.
To receive a good return on your vehicle investment, you need to make your car last. Oil changes will also benefit you by improving your gas mileage and preventing your engine from overheating, especially during the summer. Combined, this all means fewer out-of-pocket expenses for you.
Committing to consistent oil change intervals is a way to be proactive about your vehicle maintenance. Rather than allowing debris to pile up, your motor oil will easily pick up contaminants while improving your engine’s function. Over time, this will certainly save you the thousands that you would have spent on repairs for actual damages.
How Often to Change Oil
Most experts recommend that car owners change their oil once every three months or 3,000 miles — whichever comes first. For rideshare drivers specifically, we recommend always going by your mileage. Full-time drivers put three months’ worth of wear on their oil filters and engines in just one month.
However, a 3,000-mile oil change is actually quite frequent for modern vehicles, even when you’re driving all day long. While this traditional maintenance schedule is a great practice, note that the standardized 3,000-mile interval isn’t necessarily accurate across the board.
Reasons to Delay Your Oil Change
Frequent oil changes will never hurt your vehicle, but if your oil change schedule is more frequent than necessary, you’re wasting time, money, and good oil. To keep the money in your pocket and get more hours on the road, we recommend changing your oil well over 3,000 miles in these two situations:
1. Your vehicle model was made in 2013 or later.
New cars have made strides in their ability to drive for more miles without oil changes. It’s rare that you’ll find any newer vehicle that requires oil changes prior to 5,000 miles. Car manufacturers are increasingly creating models that can last 7,000 to 10,000 miles. Many modern vehicles now also have oil life monitors that will tell you exactly when you need an oil change.
No matter your vehicle’s year, checking your owner’s manual will give you the most accurate statement about when your oil actually needs to be changed.
2. You’re using synthetic oil.
The type of oil your vehicle uses has a significant impact on the longevity of its use. Most newer vehicles, as well as luxury vehicles like the ones you’d drive for Uber Lux, use synthetic oils. This oil is a pricier option that can halve the amount of oil changes you need every year. This is because it’s more far resistant to heat and grime.
If your owner’s manual specifies that you need synthetic oil, don’t skip out to save money, as this can damage your vehicle in addition to increasing your oil change needs, leading to greater costs.
If you own a vehicle that uses conventional oil, we recommend consulting with a professional at your mechanic or auto parts store before switching to synthetic. The wrong synthetic motor oil on a conventional oil engine can cause damage over time, due to chemicals mixtures that your vehicle was not built to handle.
Reasons to Change Oil Early
While many oil changes can be delayed past the traditional 3,000 interval thanks to modern technologies, there are two situations in which you may need to change your oil even earlier than recommended.
1. Your oil doesn’t look like it should.
It’s natural for your engine oil to grow darker in appearance over time. This is a sign that it’s doing its job by reducing dirt, debris, and grime in your engine. However, there comes a time when your oil signals that it needs to retire and an oil change is needed. To check your oil:
- Let your vehicle rest on a level parking spot for at least five minutes, then open the hood.
- Pull out your car’s dipstick, which is a long, thin piece of metal. Its handle is traditionally a brightly colored loop.
- Take a look at your oil on the tip of your dipstick.
If your oil is closer to a tea or amber color, you’re good to go. If it’s dark brown, black, and/or thick, you need an oil change. A milkier color is a sign of a different issue, such as coolant leaking in, and requires you to bring your vehicle to the mechanic as soon as possible.
Regardless of your oil colors, you should perform this check at least once per month for proper maintenance, and monitor more often as your oil color approaches a dark brown color. Monitoring is important because you’ll get a more accurate reading, since factors like hot weather can contribute to oil temporarily darkening.
2. Your car warranty requires it.
This one’s a simple one. If your car is still protected under a warranty, we recommend reading through the warranty terms before deciding to delay the traditional 3,000-mile oil change interval. Most warranties require you to properly maintain your car according to the owner’s manual to receive your money when needed. In rare cases, you’ll be required to do your oil change early.
Can I Change Motor Oil Myself?
If you’re handy with mechanics and enjoy at-home DIY projects, you certainly can change your vehicle’s motor oil straight from home. However, we do not recommend this, as it may save you no money at all.
Changing your oil is a time-consuming process for amateurs, and even for hobbyists, taking up to an hour of your time and labor. On the other hand, professionals allow you to sit back and relax, while they change your car’s oil in as little as 15 minutes.
In addition, the investments that you put into your motor oil and necessary tools don’t really pay back, as you won’t be paying wholesale prices like mechanics do. You even have to take an extra trip to an auto parts store to recycle your used engine oil later on, as it’s illegal to throw out.
That said, it’s definitely worth it to put in the money for professional help. Oil changes can cost as little as $25 for conventional oil, or $45 for synthetic oil, and rarely exceed $70 — if they do, you can definitely get a better deal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Properly maintaining your vehicle is all part of the rideshare gig. While you don’t need to do it yourself, you should know how often to change oil in your specific vehicle. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you with your next oil change:
1. Do I need to change my oil when my vehicle’s oil light comes on?
In some cases, yes, but this warning light can be triggered by a handful of different causes. Regardless, you’ll likely need to take a trip to the mechanic for at least a diagnosis.
Before you do so, we highly recommend that you check your oil levels using your car’s dipstick as soon as the oil light appears. If your dipstick comes out completely dry or significantly low, it is extremely important to call a tow truck to ensure you do not completely ruin your engine by driving with dangerous oil levels. You’ll know your oil levels are low if you pull out your dipstick and the oil doesn’t reach the lowest notch or dot.
2. Do Uber and Lyft cover oil changes?
Since you’re an independent contractor when you drive for either rideshare platform, your vehicle maintenance expenses are not covered. However, Uber states that its drivers can receive 15% off oil changes at Firestone, Maaco, Meineke, Midas, Jiffy Lube, Sears Auto Center, Valvoline, and Advance Auto Parts. Lyft states that drivers can receive hefty oil change discounts at Pep Boys.
3. Can I get a tax deduction for my oil change expenses?
In most cases, oil changes do qualify for tax deductions, since this vehicle maintenance is directly aligned with your work. We recommend speaking to your CPA or automatically tracking expenses with accounting software like Freshbooks before writing these expenses off, but the majority of the time, you’ll receive at least a partial deduction.
4. Do Uber and Lyft have oil change requirements?
Because rideshare companies cannot predict your driving habits, since most drivers use their vehicles for personal and professional use, Uber and Lyft do not have oil change requirements. It’s up to you to keep up with this part of your maintenance schedule and understand that poor maintenance can affect your safety and your passengers’ safety.
Keep Up With Your Engine Health
When it comes to your engine, frequent oil changes can be the secret to life. Understanding your vehicle’s required maintenance routine will allow it to last for more years, which means an immense return on investment within your rideshare gig. The more proactive you are, the fewer damages you’ll have in the long run, which means thousands of dollars saved.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.