How often to change engine oil in a rally car

Over the years its a discussion we’ve had many times. How often to change engine oil in a rally car.

Often the question is: “Why do we need to change the oil again in the rally car? The car has only done 200km since the last oil change, my road car only has an oil change every 10,000km.” It’s logical enough on the surface, especially since road cars have a service every 6 months or so.

The major difference however, is the conditions that rally engines operate in and how they are driven in comparison to a road car. Dust, mud, dirt and high RPM are just some of the stresses that a rally car engine must cope with. Add to that performance tuning, rotational idle and anti lag in some turbocharged units and the operating life of engine oil is severely reduced.

Whilst many components on a rally car can be changed during a rally, the engine is not one of those. In other words, a failing or failed engine is a show stopper on an event and therefore pre-race preparation should include as much safe guarding of the engine as possible.

We call changing the oil and filter before each rally “cheap insurance”. Sure we use more expensive synthetic race oils and good quality filters, however they are still only used for one event. It may add an extra couple of hundred dollars to the budget for each rally, however losing an entry fee and all the associated costs due to engine failure is much more expensive and can cost valuable championship points too.

The simple answer to the question is, at least  before the rally. On long, hot and dusty events, we may change the engine oil more than once.

Changing engine oil more frequently is not just limited to rally cars either. Temperature extremes of hot and cold or dusty and muddy conditions can affect the oil in everyday road going vehicles too. If you drive in any of these sorts of conditions, its worth changing your engine oil more often (see the video) or talk to your mechanic. An engine is usually one of the most expensive parts of a vehicle and the part you least want to fail.