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Are you an extreme driver? Your car might think so

Rob, I have a 2011 Grand Caravan. The owner's manual says the first oil change is due at 13,000 km but at just over 5,000 km, the change oil light has come on. What should I do? When should I actually change the oil? And how will this affect the warranty?

Thank you for your time, Robert

It's true that Chrysler wants you to change your oil at 13,000 km, but (and this is a big but), there are circumstances that affect the oil change interval in reality. If you take a look at the preamble in the maintenance schedule section of your manual, you will see a paragraph that gives an overview of some of the operating parameters that turn on that pesky warning lamp. Chrysler states that different operating conditions will affect when this lamp gets illuminated. In the first paragraph (in the same section), a statement reads:

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"More frequent maintenance may be needed for vehicles in severe operating conditions, such as dusty areas and very short trip driving."

Given the time of year, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that you are not driving in dusty conditions but are likely making a lot of short trips.

The latter point is often a source of consternation because most drivers do not understand the impact of short trips on a vehicle's powertrain. Short trips do not allow the powertrain to heat up, or heat up for at least 20 minutes. Combine this with the time of year and there is a potential perfect storm brewing in your crankcase.

Your on-board electronics are monitoring your driving habits and have determined that you will have to change your oil sooner than later. This is the piece covered in the preamble and is truer than most of us think. The preamble goes on to state that if the oil change warning lamp comes on, the oil should be changed within the next 805 km (500 miles) from the point of illumination.

Robert to answer your questions directly:

1. Change the oil and filter

2. Change the oil and filter now

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3. Your warranty (and engine) will love you if you get this done now.

It is always best to err on the side of caution. Your vehicle's longevity depends on TLC.

Send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to Globe Drive experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com

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