Severe Driving Conditions: “Normal” is a Myth!


Severe Driving Conditions – let’s talk about them. How often you need to change your oil, and other fluids, has always been something debated by consumers. Today’s auto manufacturers are recommending longer “normal” service intervals than ever! But, even cracking open your car’s manual can leave some room for interpretation, and further questions.


Because it’s not just about how far you drive, but where you drive and how. Many OEMs refer to these factors as “driving conditions,” categorize them as normal or severe, and offer different maintenance recommendations for each.

What is “Normal” and “Severe Driving Conditions”?

“Normal” according to most manufacturers’ information, is described as any driving that does *not* include one or more of the following:

  • Frequent idling for long periods of time
  • Stop-and-go driving in heavy traffic
  • Sustained highway driving in hot temperatures
  • Sustained highway driving in freezing temperatures
  • Short trips (less than 5 miles) in normal temperatures
  • Long-distance trips at speeds of 50mph or less
  • Regular trips along steep hills or mountains
  • Any trips along dusty, muddy, salted, sanded, or gravel roads
  • Any trips that involve towing a trailer or a camper
  • Any trips that involve transporting items via roof rack or car-top carrier

So, by default, any driving that does include one or more of the above points falls under Severe Driving Conditions.

If some of these sound familiar, you’re not alone. A study by AAA found that around 6% of drivers asked felt like they drove mostly in severe conditions. But, when asked about their actual driving behaviors, roughly 62% said that their driving behaviors align with the above points all or most of the time.

So, “Severe” is Normal?

Basically, yes. Weather, traffic, drive-thrus, etc. are a normal part of most people’s daily lives. These “severe driving conditions” mean a more personalized approach to vehicle maintenance—including when that maintenance is needed! Those extended factory service intervals may not be the best choice for you and your car!

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