You're Changing Your Oil Far Too Often if You Still Buy Into the 3,000 Mile Oil Change Myth
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You're Changing Your Oil Far Too Often if You Still Buy Into the 3,000 Mile Oil Change Myth

Most auto manufacturers today recommend oil changes between 6,000 and 10,000 miles, but oil change shops want you to still go on shorter intervals

May 13, 2021

The days of the 3,000 mile oil change are long gone, yet many car owners are still wasting money on oil changes done far too often. Even conventional engine oils last much longer than 3,000 miles, but many people blindly follow the oil change sticker in the corner of the windshield. Oil changes are big money makers for shops, which don't want you to know that you can push your oil changes further.

Burying the Oil Change Myth

The 3,000 mile oil change myth needs to be buried. Both oil chemistry and engine technology are much better today than they were even a decade ago. They've become so good, in fact, that oil can outlast even today's seemingly high oil change intervals. In fact, if you are changing your oil between 6,000 miles and 8,000 miles, you may be able to push your oil changes about 25% longer. Even though oil change intervals have gone, they are still sometimes kept at a conservative amount to account for varying conditions, varying oils, and varying driving habits.

Recommended Intervals

Most auto manufacturers today recommend oil changes between 6,000 and 10,000 miles, but there are some manufacturers that go as high as 15,000 miles. Even if you are on the low end of the scale, you would still be changing your oil at least twice as often as necessary if you stick to the old 3,000 mile recommendation.

The quick Lube factor

Many drivers are scared into getting an oil change every 3,000 miles by the quick lube industry, even if the manual in their glove boxes say otherwise. Compounded with very modern-looking components under the hood, a crafty oil change 'technician' can easily take you for hundreds of dollars on each visit, making your next return visit all that much more important to the business. To help remind you of your next pocket-flush, you even get that fancy sticker on the windshield that tells you to come back in 3,000 miles. It's nothing more than marketing, and you shouldn't fall for it!

The automotive service industry wants you to come in for oil changes more often. If everyone came in for an oil change at 6,000 miles as opposed to 3,000 miles, the shop's income from oil changes would be cut in half. Getting you in for an oil change is crucial for keeping the service department busy, so there is a financial incentive to getting you back as quickly as possible.

Oil Last So Much Longer than it used to

Oil technology today is much better than it was even a decade ago. Even conventional motor oil, which is the most prone to sludge, outperforms oils made ten years ago. New standards introduced in the mid-2000s made for a cleaner and longer-lasting oil because of the various anti-friction additives and detergents. Most oils produced today have superior anti-wear and anti-sludge properties that keep your engine running smoothly well past the 3,000 mile mark. It may have been necessary to change your oil every 3,000 miles back in the day, but it isn't necessary anymore, even with your basic budget-conscious motor oil.

Synthetic Oil Gets You More Miles

If you happen to use synthetic motor oil, you are doing even better as it typically gets you better fuel economy, resists sludge much more, and lasts much longer. Despite what you may have heard, synthetic motor oil doesn't cause oil leaks. In many cases, the increased cost of synthetic motor oil is well worth it, especially if you buy your oil at a supercenter or wholesale club and bring it with you for your oil change. Yes, you can do that, though some shops don't want you to because of the markup on motor oil. For instance, Supertech synthetic motor oil manufactured and distributed by Walmart can cost about $17 for a five-gallon jug, while the same amount of motor oil in a shop may cost as much as $100! And then there is the labor cost on top of that!

Know Your Car

So what does all of this mean? Know your car! Open your manual and take a look at the service intervals recommended by your manufacturer. You will almost always require the "normal" maintenance schedule, unless you're operating a taxi or using your vehicle for some kind of delivery service that puts a lot of stress on your vehicle. If your manual says 10,000 miles, you should get your oil changed at 10,000 miles, though it will probably last a little bit longer than that. If your vehicle has an oil change indicator, pay attention to it. Your oil change frequencies will be calculated based upon real world conditions, such as temperature and driving habits, giving you a conservative estimate of when you need your oil changed.

Select an honest oil change shop

Do you find the closest place to get an oil change, or do you select an oil change shop based upon history and good reviews? Whichever you choose, make sure to select a shop that honestly tells you how often you should be changing the oil. If your manual says 7,000 miles and the shop tells you 3,000 miles, go somewhere else. If that shop will tell a white lie in order to make money from you, what else will that shop do to get your money? Don't always presume that your dealership will give you the honest maintenance schedule, either. Their staff make a commission on your repairs and oil changes are just as important to their bottom line as it is to a quick lube shop. Many dealership staff will still make useless recommendations based upon what they call their 'real world knowledge' of your vehicle.

Change your own oil and filter

Want to save money? Change your own oil and filter. Just make sure to select the right products for your vehicle and that you know the proper way to do it. Check out YouTube for detailed videos on how to change your oil or ask someone to show you. Your owner's manual or the oil filler cap under the hood will list the correct specification for motor oil, so make sure the oil you buy matches this spec. When you're done, a lot of auto parts stores will accept your used oil free of charge for recycling.

Changing your own oil will not void your warranty unless you directly damage something. But you should keep receipts in case you need to help prove that the oil has been changed.