Should You Use High-Mileage Oil in Your Car?

Should You Use High-Mileage Oil in Your Car?

Stroll down the oil aisle of a typical auto-parts store and you’ll be confronted with a literal wall of lubricant.

Dozens of brands vie for your attention and dollars with countless different types and formulations. Some promise cleaner-running engines, others boast about improved fuel efficiency and still more claim to enhance performance.

Auto Parts Store

Causing further confusion, there’s conventional and full-synthetic, plus blends of the two; there are oils made specifically for diesel engines and some for certain automotive brands. Others feature fancy-sounding metals including molybdenum, zinc and even titanium. And then there are lubricants that are supposedly tailor-made for older vehicles with lots of miles. All of this is confusing enough to make you head straight to your local dealership for service.

But let’s say you drive a well-worn vehicle, something with an odometer that’s been around the planet a few times. Is special high-mileage oil worth the extra price compared to a conventional lubricant?

SEE ALSO: What is Motor Oil?

Z. George Zhang, Ph.D. and director of Valvoline Technical International thinks so. He said there are “distinct differences” compared to regular oils.

“Most of the high mileage oil will have a seal conditioner,” he said. “Normally they will have more seal conditioners in the formula.” But that’s not the only difference between them and conventional lubricants.


“We actually talked to a lot of people with high-mileage [vehicles],” Zhang said. Their top complaint had to do with leaks. Drips and puddles on the pavement are embarrassing and unnecessary.

Different SealsHaving a car or truck that “marks its territory,” so to speak, is often the result of seal degradation. Over time the rubber components inside a powerplant can become brittle and shrink; small cracks can even form. All of this decay can lead to seepage and leaks,.

“Most of the high-mileage oil will have a seal conditioner,” Zhang said. He also noted that Valvoline introduced its MaxLife product range around the year 1999 or 2000, so they’ve been on the market now for about a decade and a half.

With elastomers, a fancy name for the rubber materials seals are made from, Zhang said over time certain chemical components can leach out of them. Special conditioning compounds “tend to react with elastomers,” replacing what’s been lost over time and increasing their sealing abilities. Think of these chemicals as a salve. If your hands are dried out and the skin is cracked you can rejuvenate it with lotion, which restores its flexibility.

“We researched a lot of these chemical compounds that can be used to rejuvenate seals” Zhang said. He also mentioned that seal conditioners help make seals more flexible and can cause them to expand slightly, another thing that helps stop leaks.


When is the time right to start running a high-mileage oil? The folks at Valvoline recommend you make the switch at 75,000 miles. Zhang said “we use 75,000 as a typical reminder,” though you can certainly run MaxLife or a similar product beyond that, or even before.

Valvoline Oils“It’ s really good for high-mileage engines” said Zhang, though the lubricant’s unique formulation includes more than just seal conditioners. Valvoline’s product for instance features extra anti-wear additives as well as additional dispersants and detergents to help break up any sludge and keep things clean.

Zhang said that when moving parts are out of tolerance, such as inside a high-mileage engine, there’s a greater chance for “metal-on-metal wear,” which is a very bad thing. He said “anti-wear materials form a sacrificial layer between metal surfaces” stopping harmful friction.


In general terms high-mileage oil probably costs a bit more than a comparable standard lubricant, but if your car has been around the block a few hundred thousand times, the benefits can be well worth the added expense.

For instance, the abovementioned seal conditioners can be surprisingly effective. According to Zhang “usually after two oil changes the leaking will be gone.” Additionally he said “some of the older vehicles tend to produce a white-bluish smoke,” which is a symptom of burning oil.

SEE ALSO: Should You Use Synthetic Oil in Your Vehicle?

For instance, if an engine’s valve-guide seals have gone bad, the conditioners found in high-mileage lubricants can help reduce seepage past these parts, but that’s not all.  Valvoline’s MaxLife product has a lower volatility rating, which means it’s less likely to burn in the first place. Zhang said this is “a fairly apparent thing [owners] can see after an oil change,” that is, less off-color smoke coming out of the tail pipe. Can you say instant gratification?

Engine Cut Away

But you don’t have to drive a hooptie to run this kind of lubricant. Zhang said “it’s really good for high-mileage engines… for when vehicle performance is deteriorating,” but it can be used in brand-new cars as well. Added anti-wear and detergent compounds are just as helpful in a factory-fresh vehicle as they are in one that’s got 75,000 miles on the clock.


Asked directly about whether high-mileage oil was worth the added expense Zhang said “absolutely; it’s for the benefit of the engine.” He also noted that regardless of when you switch it helps keep your car or truck’s powerplant “running in optimum condition longer.”

Maintaining an older vehicle and keeping it rollin’ down the road for years to come is money in the bank compared to a monthly car payment, even if you have to spend a couple extra bucks at each oil change.

  • Rich

    I tend to disagree. My 1992 gmc now has 423,321 miles on it and it has only had Kendall 5w30 in it. I do not use the high milage oil because there is no need if you are doing your oil changes at the correct time. I haven’t had any of the leaking seals of blue smoke. The truck is, just take care of your vehicle, do all recommended services at the correct time and if your like me use a oil that is recommended by the manufacturer.

  • craigcole

    That’s a very good point. PROPER maintenance is key to keeping any vehicle running for a long time. We live in a throw-away society; nobody seems to take care of anything these days. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Laarry

    So I’ve heard (related to Transmission leak-stoppers) that seal conditioners in additives tend to soften seals.
    This may prevent leaks in the short-term, but is detrimental to the life of the seal in the longer term.
    Any thoughts on this?

  • Wein

    I inherited a VW Golf that was burning too much oil not leaking but in fact burning, i did try thicker viscosity but things did not improve, then one day while buying new oil and filter decided to give high mileage formula a chance, Just came back from a 1000 mile trip, oil level is same as before i left. I own 3 cars all of them with more than 100K miles on the odo in fact one has more that 275K on the odo not burning or leaking oil, already switched to high mileage formula. By he way it’s not more expensive than the regular formula at least not the brand i use.

  • Tea

    Nice ad for Valvoline — anyplace to get more unbiased perspective?

  • Chemical driver

    I have a 2009 toyota matrix I’ve used Valvoline 5w20 with service every 5,000 miles
    It has used a qt of oil between oil changes ever since I bought it new ?
    It dont leak a drop but it does use it ?
    I started using maxlife 5w20 and its still using 1 qt between services ?
    Im thinking of going full synthetic but fram don’t make a filter for my car ,
    Can I use a tough gaurd filter with synthetic oil ?
    It’s got 93500 miles now !

  • Mark

    lets see, asking of a Valvoline employee, yeah, you’ll get an unbiased opinion…

  • Bill Rogers

    Total B.S. Anyone who deems a 75000 mile engine a HIGH MILEAGE engine is just out to expand his wallet. Engine life,firstly, is not measure in MILES, technically. It’s measure in HOURS. Just that ALONE deems the ‘high mileage oil’ product a ruse. Secondly, once you put this snake oil in a perfectly good engine, the seal swelling properties in the concoction, basically ruin engine seals. And if you attempt to go back to proper oil, now you WILL ruin your engine.

  • steve

    You wont ruin your engine switching back and forth, I done both for many years with 100’s of thousands of miles on the clock of many vehicles. You obviously haven’t done proper research or have been reading to many FORMS. Lastly who clocks their engines in hours on automobiles? !? You made the statements, the burden of showing proof is in your hands as for me I’m living or should I say DRIVING my proof!!!

  • Bill Rogers

    You must be mistaking me for someone you know, with a tone like that.

  • Pim

    Its true they may
    But if they already are cracking, tgey have lost elastsity. I guess usign high mileage oul will rejuvinate that elastisuty and hell keep the car on the road for longer without leaks

  • walterbrob

    Sounds like an infomercercial to me.

  • Jon

    Fram Tough Guard filters are garbage. Go with BOSCH or Mobile 1 filters.
    I also have a 2009 Vibe 1.8L (Toyota engine.. same as Matrix).

    My car also eats a decent amount of oil… Generally means the oil is getting past the piston rings.. Which isn’t a bad thing.

    I use Mobile 1 Fully Synthetic.. It is decent.. works well and is fairly cheap at times.
    You can go from synthetic to conventional to semi-synthetic if you want. (Fully synthetic Mobile 1 is a Class 4 oil.. Interchangeable with any oil unless (from what i know) it is a Class 5… like Royal Purple which is Class 5.. literally synthetic.).

    I have 125km on my car.

  • Terri Roberts

    You gonna let him talk to you like that, Bill? ON THE INTERNET??!?!

    Kick his ass–right here, right now! Show him who really wears the pants around here!

    …then take them off. Start…you know…”making up”

    Get a big handful of him and just let your old, wrinkly, flag-waving flesh melt like putty in his arms…


  • alex smith

    sounds like valvoline are in these people’s
    pocket books

  • alex smith

    I learned long ago that is doesn’t matter what you put in your engine (as long as it is a name brand) but to stay consistent. Switching it up is what does the most damage. An old mechanic long ago told me to pick something and stay with it. I chose Quaker State (for gas, Shell Rotella for diesel) and have stuck by it ever since. No leaks, or engine failure to date after 30+ years. Truth be told it doesn’t matter, pick a name brand and only use that oil, AND change your oil and filter regularly. When you go from this kind of lubricant to “oh this is on sale this week”, you are changing things that matter to your engine, and that is what breaks seals and bearings down -they need consistency to be consistent.
    I run Quaker State 10-30, and always will, because that is what I have chosen. Run a good air filter, and a quality oil/ oil filter, and change them as per manufacture recommendations, don’t beat the piss out your engine, and it will last a million miles.Done.

  • alex smith

    Full synthetic has a higher burn temperature than conventional motor oil, so in theory, you won’t loose that quart of oil between oil changes running synthetic. However, as a mechanic, if an engine is burning a quart of oil between oil changes there is a problem, unless you are towing something heavy (then it is borderline common, but if not), you have a problem, such as valve seals, or piston rings.

  • alex smith

    Soft seals stop leaks. I can’t imagine anything being detrimental to a seal in the long term other than age, it is a seal. Seals gets hard after time it cracks, or stiffens and leaks. Seal is soft, it flexes and maintains a seal. A seal is a seal. Hard seals leak, soft seals seal. Anything that will provide a conditioner, to your seal will make your seal last that much longer.

  • alex smith

    Proof positive: You chose a band and stuck with it.

  • alex smith

    higher mileage formula has a higher burn temperature. problem solved for the short term.

  • alex smith

    Exactly. Read your owner’s manual and do what it says. Your vehicle will last you for as long as you own it.


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