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How Often to Change Oil in Your Classic Car

Owning a classic car gives you a real connection to the machines and history of the past.

The big question though is how to maintain it?

There can be very specific maintenance requirements depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle. One of the most basic questions is how often to change oil.

Read on to make sure you know what to look at for a classic car.

How Often To Change Oil

Knowing when to change the oil on a classic car comes down to several factors. The most important ones being the make of the vehicle and its age.

It isn’t enough to follow conventional oil change wisdom when working with a classic car. They will often have specialized engines and demanding maintenance schedules.

Counterintuitively, you may need to change the oil on a vehicle that is driven less than one that gets more regular use. This comes down to the life of oil and how quickly it can break down.

One of the best resources for oil change information is the repair manual for the classic car in question. They contain useful information on a wide variety of repair tasks and maintenance.

This includes the type of oil best suited for the vehicle and how often to change oil. Local dealerships, like in Granger, IA, can provide a great resource for collectors who don’t want to perform their own maintenance.

Depending on the type of car they may even have specialized tools and training

Make and Model

One of the biggest factors in how often to change oil is the type of classic car. There are major differences between an Italian sports car and an old Chevy truck.

High-performance engines and muscle cars need both different kinds of oil and more frequent maintenance. This has to do with the additional strain placed on them.

Vehicles that have been modified for racing or that have had their exhaust system adjusted will need different oil schedules.

it’s important to find out exactly what kind of engine a specific car has. Many classic car enthusiasts can spend hours telling you all about the peculiarities of their favorite ride. Getting started doing your own repairs can be helped along by the experiences of gearheads who came before you.

Depending on the model car in question, more specialized oils may be called for.

If it’s a relatively recent classic car with lower mileage, a quality conventional or synthetic oil should do the trick. Once the mileage starts creeping up a higher grade oil with targeted cleaning and performance goals will be needed.

Age and Condition

Knowing how often to change oil is only half the battle. Engine oil has been redesigned and formulated many times over the years.

A lot of classic cars need specialized oils to keep them running at their best. This has to do with several factors.

Engine design has changed radically over the last century. Both the materials used and the type of mechanical components vary greatly from decade to decade.

Modern engine oils are designed to work in engines with microscopic tolerances. The materials are machined in high precision, robotic, factories and need oil that can work at very high pressures.

Older engines often used more natural materials such as cork or graphite seals. They also ran at much lower pressures, using larger combustion chambers for the same power output.

Classic car oils need to match the specifications of engine oil as it was used when the car was built. Many manufacturers specialize in producing legacy oils like these.

Time vs. Mileage

Everyone’s heard the old adage changing your oil, right? Three months or 3,000 miles.

Most people assume its an either or and go with the 3,000 miles. This is a major mistake with a classic car.

For many people, a classic car is basically a very large toy. It’s not getting regular use as a commuter or work car. If It only gets 20 or 30 miles a week put on it, there will be a long wait for oil changes.

Engine oil is an organic compound. It degrades while sitting around. When you add in the change in temperature and contaminants, oil starts to break down pretty fast.

It can often take two or three years for a classic car to reach 3,000 miles. The last thing it needs is degraded oil gunking up its motor for this long. A good rule of thumb is to always put fresh oil in before and after a major season change.

In a regular car, this isn’t a big deal. It probably gets 30 or 40 miles a day through regular driving.

3,000 miles comes very fast.

Filter or No Filter?

Many people get confused on whether they should change their oil filter at every oil change. Just knowing how often to change oil doesn’t mean you know when to change your filter.

Many manufacturers recommend changing an oil filter every other oil change. Oil companies and parts makers usually say every oil change.

So which is it?

Many mechanics agree with the manufacturers. The basics of it come down to the high quality of modern parts.

Filters are made to such high standards that they can last up to about 7,500 miles. This is far longer than the standard advice of 3,000 miles for oil.

It can seem even longer when you factor in the increased tempo of classic car oil changes. Since they often need their oil changed sooner than 3,000 miles. It can be several oil changes before the filter needs replacing.

This changes if a vehicle goes through a high-stress activity like racing or heavy towing. Both the engine oil and the filter will need much more frequent maintenance.

Learn More

Owning a classic car can be a dream come true. The strictly mechanical components, throaty roar of those big engines and beautiful anachronistic bodies really draw some people.

Even the maintenance itself can be a major source of relaxation. If you would like to find out more about general automotive maintenance and classic car care, check out our other articles.