How Often Should I Change The Oil In My Classic Car?


If you own a classic car, you’ll probably find yourself doing a lot of maintenance work because of how old your vehicle is. One of the biggest forms of maintenance anyone can do for their classic car is changing the oil. People often wonder how often they need to change their oil in their classic car because they don’t drive them that much which makes their rules a little different from normal cars.

So, how often should I change the oil in my classic car? When it comes to your classic car, you should change the oil every six months or every 3,000-5,000 miles, which ever comes first. Because classic cars are older, their maintenance schedules are different from other vehicles and require more frequent oil changes.

I have rebuilt and owned several classic cars and have often found myself wondering this very question. I’ve done extensive research, and through my own trial and error I have been able to pinpoint the best and healthiest ways to maintain your classic car’s oil and engine life.

What Happens To The Oil In Your Classic Car

Oil is a vital part of a classic car’s system. Without it, the engine would cease to function and you would find yourself in a very expensive rut. That’s why oil maintenance is so important.

Owning a classic car is an extremely rewarding experience. However, most people who own a classic car don’t drive them all too often aside from the occasional car show, cruise-in, or mini road trip. Because classic cars are older, they’re less reliable and tend to break down a lot more frequently. The main reason people love having them is because of the way they look and to show them off to other people. They bring a pride of ownership that other vehicles don’t do.

Because classic cars aren’t driven as often, they mostly sit either in the driveway, garage, or carport. People often make the mistake in thinking that because they don’t drive their classic car very often, they don’t need to change the oil that often either. If it’s not being used, why replace it? The fact is, oil continues to break down whether it’s being used or not. In fact, if you let your car sit for longer periods of time between rides, it can actually speed up the break down process of oil.

Water vapor is likely diluting the oil while it sits in addition to the oil naturally breaking down. In most cases, the few miles that are put on a classic car per year are usually short-distance, around town driving. This kind of driving doesn’t let the engine and oil get to a high enough temperature to evaporate the water vapor that gets inside, so over time the oil becomes diluted.

The mixture between the diluted oil and the engine running a bit more rich because it’s not warmed up completely can create a form of sludge and possible corrosion, which can ultimately lead to some damage to the engine.

You may check your oil or even change your oil at the suggested intervals and see that the oil looks perfectly fine and be less motivated to change it as frequently in the future. While oil can still look golden in color when you change it every six months, that doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden elements and build-ups inside that are unhealthy for your classic car.

Changing your oil every six months or every 3,000 – 5,000 miles will ensure the best life for your engine. An oil change really isn’t that expensive any way, especially if you do it yourself. Give yourself the peace of mind and insurance that your classic car can live the longest life possible.

The Best Type Of Oil To Use

If you are maintaining a regular routine of oil changes, the type of oil you use isn’t as important, though it can certainly help.

Every classic car is different, especially if they have been rebuilt. Many classic cars have the original engine in them which would obviously give them high miles. Other classic cars have new or newer engines placed in them. Newer engines are okay using whatever the manufacturer recommends. High mileage engines should typically use a high-mileage synthetic oil. Synthetic oil is designed to navigate the extra lubrication protection a high mileage engine may need.

The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) number or code that you find on the type of oil you get is an important number you need to pay attention to because every engine requires a different number. 5W-20 or 10W-30 are the most common type. It will usually say on the engine oil cap what SAE number you will need with your oil.

How To Change The Oil

A lot of classic car owners prefer changing the oil on their car themselves, especially if they were the ones who rebuilt the car. Changing the oil is a fairly simple process and can easily be done by someone who has never done it before.

If you have low clearance under your car and you need it raised, make sure you use reasonable and reliable means to do so, such as using strong jacks.

First, you’ll need to locate the drain plug which is located under the engine at the bottom of the oil pan. It’s a large bolt. You’ll need to put a large container underneath it to let the oil run into. Turn the drain plug and let all the oil drain, about 10 – 20 minutes.

Next, locate where your oil filter is. It is usually located somewhere underneath the engine and close to the oil pan. Unscrew the oil filter. You may have some residual oil leak out, so make sure that there is a container underneath it.

Replace the drain plug and place in the new oil filter. Pour all but one quart of engine oil into the engine. Turn the car on and let it run for a few minutes, turn it off, then add the last quart of oil. Check the dip stick often after to make sure you have the right amount of oil. Overfilling an engine with oil can be equally as harmful as under-filling.

You can get the correct oil and filter at any auto parts store. The store clerk will be able to look up the right equipment you need.

Other Maintenance Required On A Classic Car

Aside from the oil maintenance, there are several other things you should consider while maintaining your classic car. There could be a huge list discussed here, but we’ll point out the most important maintenance needed.

Be sure to always check your coolant level. Older cars have a higher tendency to over heat, so keeping up with the cooling system is a must. Every few months, inspect the important components to the cooling system. Check the radiator to make sure it doesn’t have any large dents or clumps of dead bugs on it. Make sure the fan is working well while the car is on. Always make an effort to occasionally check the temperature gauge while you’re out for a ride.

If you’re the type of classic car owner that only takes your car out for a stroll several times a year, it’s a good idea to pay some special attention to the battery. There are a few options. First, you can disconnect the battery completely and keep it inside to keep it out of extreme weather and temperatures. The second option would be to hook the battery up to a battery tender.

A battery tender will be able to sense when your battery is losing voltage and automatically start charging until it reaches optimal voltage. It is not recommended to use a trickle charger unless you are present as that will give a constant charge and may ruin your battery by over-charging it.

Whether you store your classic car outside in the driveway or in the garage, it’s important that you use a quality car cover to cover up your car. This can prevent any dirt, dust, or grime from getting on or in your classic car. If you store your car outside, the cover will do a great job at blocking any potential sun damage or other damage caused by the elements.

Related Question

How old does a car need to be to be considered a classic? Each state has different rules and regulations regarding what age constitutes a car to be a classic. On average, a classic car is defined as such at about 20 years old or older. A car is considered an antique when it is 30 years old or older.

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