5 Facts About Changing your Oil

by : Denise Palmer

When was the last time the manufacturer of your car went out of their way to tell you to change your oil every 3,000 miles?

Isn't it funny that in fact, automotive manufacturers have not agreed with this "opinion" for more than 20 years.

So WHO created the "change your oil every 3,000 miles" rule anyway? And why, have we as consenting adults, with brains and knowledge of our own, bought into it for so many years?

Let's take a look at the "reasons" we've all heard, time and time again about why we SHOULD change our oil every 3,000 miles.

We're told:

1) Oil breaks down after 3000 miles

2) Oil changes are great preventative maintenance

3) 3,000 miles is an easy number for the car repair customer to remember

4) The 3,000 mile interval is traditionally viewed as best by mechanics

5) It's necessary due to the elements, driving patterns, and weather conditions.

But when we really look at the people, or entities that are URGING us to change our oil every 3,000 miles, we realize, they are the same people and companies that profit the most from us following their lead.

This is not to say that oil changes aren't important - they are. They're just not as frequently needed as we're made to believe.

Here are 5 FACTS about the 3,000 mile oil change myth.

1) Quality motor oil recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer does not break down after 3,000 miles

2) Yes, changing your oil is great preventative maintenance, but it should be done in accordance with the manufacturer service intervals

3) The easy-to-remember 3,000-mile interval actually creates more confusion as to the real maintenance needs of your vehicle. Thus, it is easier to follow factory guidelines, more economical, and more appropriate.

4) The traditional view that 3,000 miles is best for your car is old school, wasteful, and fails to appreciate today's mechanical and oil technologies

5) Unless you're in a constant high-speed police change in the dead of winter - your oil will be just fine

So with all of that said, it begs the question; how often do you really need to change your oil? While it depends on the year, make, and model of your vehicle, it's clear that for today's vehicles it's not every 3,000 miles. 20 years ago this was true of many vehicles. However, this is virtually obsolete as most vehicle have 5,000, 7500, 10,000, and even 15,000 mile oil service intervals.

So just what is motivating the auto industry to push 3,000 mile oil changes? Let's look at it in real life. If you change your oil every 3,000 miles, and like most, you average 15,000 miles per year, then you'll be in the repair shop 5 times in only 12 months. Do you really need to perform maintenance on your car 5 times per year? Seems excessive doesn't it?

The average oil change price is $30.00. $30.00 X 5 = $150.00. If you changed your oil every 5,000 miles, you'd only need 3 oil changes per year = $90. That's a $60 savings. And not to mention all the "extra's" you are pressured to buy into while getting your oil changed. See below for more on these.

For the most part oil changes are cheap, as it's a very competitive market. They're also not very profitable for repair shops. However, the more times your vehicle is in the shop, the more chances that shop has to sell you something else - an alignment, tires, wiper blades, brakes, shocks, fuel cleaning services, transmission services...etc - these are money-makers. This is not to say that these services aren't needed, but they should be performed according to manufacturer guidelines only and performed by only a certified repair company.

A detailed manufacturer's maintenance schedule (this is separate from your manual) is the best and most accurate guide. You may stumble across one in all the unnecessary paperwork you find in your glove box, but ask your repair shop or dealer for a detailed print out of your entire maintenance schedule. If the service center can't produce one quickly - you're in the wrong place for your car's needs.

Finally, have a little fun: the next time your local mechanic tells you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, ask him what the manufacturer recommends. It's fun to watch him stumble through the answer or tell you, straight-faced, the wrong answer.