Oil Change Mania

While picking up trusty F150 after having it serviced during its annual safety/emissions inspection, the service manager at my mechanic's made mention that I don't put lot of miles on the truck, seeing that since the previous inspection the odometer showed less than 9,000 miles. He also brought up the subject of oil changes, mentioning that the oil in the F150 was due to be changed in 1500 miles.

This remark got us talking about oil changes in general and how too many people are having the oil in their cars and trucks changed too frequently. The oil in the F150 gets changed every 7500 miles, just like it says in the owner's manual. That oil change frequency is based upon using standard 5W30 grade motor oil. I use a synthetic, meaning if I desired I could probably go to every 10,000 miles or so between oil changes.

So why do people have the oil in their vehicles changed every 3,000 miles? Quite simply, marketing hype.

Oil chemistry and engine technology have evolved tremendously in recent years, but you'd never know it from the quick-change behavior of American car owners. Driven by an outdated 3,000-mile oil change commandment, they are unnecessarily spending millions of dollars and spilling an ocean of contaminated waste oil.

Although the average car's oil change interval is around 7,800 miles — and as high as 20,000 miles in some cars — this wasteful cycle continues largely because the automotive service industry, while fully aware of the technological advances, continues to preach the 3,000-mile gospel as a way to keep the service bays busy. As a result, even the most cautious owners are dumping their engine oil twice as often as their service manuals recommend.

After interviews with oil experts, mechanics and automakers, one thing is clear: The 3,000-mile oil change is a myth that should be laid to rest. Failing to heed the service interval in your owner's manual wastes oil and money....

Back in the bad old days of leaded gasoline, ignition points, and carburetors, motor oils weren't as good as they are today. Add to that the fact that engines are also far better than they were back then. So motor oil needed to be changed every couple of thousand miles to remove many of the combustion byproduct contaminants, dirt, and debris accumulating in the oil.

Cars and trucks also needed regular tune-ups every few thousand miles to compensate for wear and tear on ignition system components (coils, condensers, points, plugs, wires, rotors, and caps). Today's ignition systems have done away with most of those components and few have any moving parts. As a result engines run more efficiently and do not require the maintenance engines needed in the past, meaning less work for the service shops. So with vehicles not requiring nearly as many trips to the shop for regular maintenance over their lifetime, what are service shops to do?

Sell oil changes.

People were already programmed to have regular oil changes and by selling the idea that they would extend the life of their car's engines, it was an easy money maker. Since car owners rarely peruse the owner's manual they probably don't know what the recommended oil change interval is for their vehicle, so they leave it to the shop to determine that. Hence the window stickers showing the next recommended oil change...every 3,000 miles. That's a lot of oil being changed for no reason other than the guys at the shop making more money from those oil changes.

So do yourself a favor and check the owner's manual to find out how often you really need to have the oil changed...and don't buy into the “but your car/truck/SUV needs it changed more often because your driving comes under 'severe service', requiring more frequent oil changes” scam. Unless you're driving a taxi cab, police cruiser, fire truck, ambulance, or delivery truck, the chances are you're style of driving is not severe service. So stop wasting time and money and read your owner's manual.