Do I Really Need to Change My Oil Every 3,000 Miles?

There are certain times in my life as an adult I still hear my parents voice in the back of my head; “Use a coaster”, “Separate your laundry”, “Brush you teeth” (…alright, maybe not that one), “Change your oil every 3000 miles”.

Oil-Change-3000-MilesAll of this is sound advice and I’m thankful my parents, like most parents, were there to guide me along the way.  I have appreciated it all and even though I don’t always separate my laundry or use a coaster, I always brush my teeth and until recently I was always changing my oil every 3,000.

What happened over the last five or so years that has made people change their mind about this one solid truth I have always been told?  What could have possibly changed in the very recent history that has outdated what my father hammered into my brain since I was 16?  In search of the truth, I turned to the one place I knew I could find some semblance of hope; the interweb. 

Tell Me Lies Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

I’m kidding.  I didn’t troll the internet.  

You can’t believe just anything you see on here.

I found out that my father was wrong (though I’ll never tell him) when I went to my local Chevy dealership for my first quick oil change.  This was the first car I’ve owned that only gets treated by the dealership.  I skip local repair shops and go straight there and this is just the reason why; I trust them.  When they turned me away as I tried to get my oil changed they said it simply wasn’t yet necessary. Why?

Cars that have been manufactured in the last seven to ten years are made with improved oil chemistry and engine technology.  So advanced are cars now compared to 20 years ago that some people don’t change until the 10K mark.

How long have I been living this way? And further, how much money have I wasted on unnecessary oil changes?

If Not Now, Then When?

Your car’s manual should be able to tell you how often you should be changing your oil.  As a standard for now, which we learned is always subject to change, a good estimate to go by is roughly every 7,500 miles.

While that is quite a change from the 3K you are used to, you can also suggest an oil change every 6 months when you get your tires rotated.  Doing it all in one visit is helpful and convenient.

To The Extreme

When figuring out which milage is best for your car, there are some variables to consider, like how severe are the conditions your car is most often being driven in.  Is where you are really hot or very cold?  Are you mostly in a stop-and-go urban setting?  These are factors that can influence an oil change every 5,000 miles, but not less and I still would consider that even as ‘extreme’ as your setting may be, it’s not that ‘extreme’ compared to what vehicles are made to withstand.  

Because cars are being built with smart technology, more often than not, a light will come on indicating when you need to add or change oil.  This is another reminder to relax with the oil changes.  

Consulting the Oracle

Consulting your owner’s manual will tell you more than just how often to be changing your oil.  It will tell you what type of oil you should be using.  This information may just surprise you.  You may think that even though you drive a sort of basic, nothing too crazy sedan that you don’t require a special synthetic oil, but upon further inspection into your manual, you do.  Most people just assume special types of oils are reserved for performance or really expensive cars.  All engines are not made the same and some do require special attention.  

Going the Distance

The oil that is used in today’s car is different.  Synthetic oils are now more commonplace and stretching the time necessary between changes.  The oils have improved in quality providing the ability to protect engines against heat and normal wear.  They also have improved fuel economy and omit less emissions.

Play Your Part

Frequent oil changes means an excess of oil that’s being used and discarded.  Manufacturers of these newly improved synthetic oils are onto this problem that’s being exacerbated by unnecessary oil changes and taking large stances against the 3,000 mile change.  

If everybody started waiting till the appropriate time to change their oil, the amount of oil saved and not wasted would be exponentially better than what it is today.  It would legitimately cut in half the amount of wasted oil.  Everyone has a part to play.  

Be a Smart Consumer

Unfortunately, your father isn’t the only one perpetuating this outdated piece of advice.  More likely than not, local oil and repair shops are still going to want to see you every 3,000 miles and they’ll write it on the sticker when they place it on your windsheld.  It is up to you, the smart and educated consumer to tell them when you’ll be back.  Like you, they know that the more you return, the more money they get.  It’s an understandable practice.  Not ethical, but understandable.  

You are the only person responsible for the care of your vehicle.  Treat it like it matters.  

One more thing: the manufacturer is not getting any money from you once you’ve bought the car.  In fact, anything that could go wrong because of infrequent oil changes would most likely happen under warranty and they would be the ones paying for the repair of damages.  It wouldn’t really be in their best interest to guide you toward an incorrect mileage.  

Becoming an adult is largely relearning what you knew to be true as a child.  Even though my father was (and still is) the smartest man I know, I do remember knowing he did get things wrong from time to time, like when he taught me how to punch but didn’t give me the follow up lesson when NOT to.  And maybe I was too young when we first watched the Godfather together, (maybe) but the only person who regretted that was him.  

So, maybe he didn’t always have it right, but I am glad, at least, I do about this one.