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Changing Your Oil Too Often? You Might Be Surprised


2011 BMW X3

2011 BMW X3

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How many of us grew up with the admonition from our parents, usually from our dad, that the car’s oil needed to be changed every 3,000 miles?

Actually, it was more like three months or 3,000 miles. Times have changed, but far too many of us are still adhering to those outdated recommendations.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the state government is trying to break owners’ habits in California of changing their vehicle’s oil too often. According to a recent national survey conducted by NPD Group, about 51 percent of vehicle owners stick to the three month/3,000-mile oil change rule, while 33 percent more wait just until 4,000 miles to head back in for another oil change.

In California, the numbers are even higher. A survey by the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery found that nearly half of all California drivers are changing their oil every 3,000 miles or sooner.

All this too-frequent oil change is resulting in millions of gallons of oil wasted every year as well as polluting America’s waterways from contaminated motor oil that’s not properly disposed of.

If not 3,000 miles, what is the recommended interval for changing our vehicle’s oil? CalRecycle has a nifty widget that can quickly help you determine how often to change the oil in your vehicle. Go to www.checkyournumber.org and enter your year, make and model of vehicle and then click “Let’s Go.” The “odometer” will change to give you the mileage recommendation for an oil change for the year/make/model you entered.

Granted, this is for normal driving, not severe driving, which is defined as:

  • Extensive idling or driving in stop-and-go traffic
  • Cold weather, less than 10 degrees
  • Extreme heat, more than 90 degrees
  • Extreme humidity
  • Repeated short-distance trips of less than five miles
  • Towing a trailer or hauling heavy materials

2012 Ford Escape

2012 Ford Escape

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Newer models have extended oil-change intervals

Doing a quick check of some older model year vehicles using checkyournumber.org, it’s easy to see how the auto manufacturers have gradually implemented changes in engines so that they require oil changes less frequently.

2004 Chevrolet Malibu LT

2004 Chevrolet Malibu LT

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A 2000 Pontiac Montana and a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu, under normal driving conditions, still require an oil change at the 3,000-mile interval.

2007 Ford Fusion S

2007 Ford Fusion S

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A 2007 Ford Fusion and a 2010 Toyota Sienna have a 5,000-mile oil change recommendation for normal driving.

2010 Honda Odyssey

2010 Honda Odyssey

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Taking two other popular minivans, the 2010 Chrysler Town & Country and the 2010 Honda Odyssey, shows two different recommended oil change intervals: at 6,000 miles for the Town & Country and at 7,500 miles for the Odyssey.

A 2009 Cadillac CTS should have its oil changed – again, under normal driving conditions – at 7,500 miles. The same applies to a 2009 Saturn Vue and a 2012 Ford Escape.

But there are some manufacturers with vehicles that really go a long time between recommended oil changes. For the 2011 Ford Explorer, the interval is 10,000 miles, while the 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is 12,000 miles and the 2011 BMW X3 is 15,000 miles.

The point is that there’s probably some money to be saved, not to mention time and convenience, and less pollution and waste of resources, if we pay attention to the right time to get our vehicle’s oil changed.

Oil Change Monitor

Oil Change Monitor

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Some manufacturers have oil monitor reminders to alert us to when this should be, based on what’s actually going on inside the engine and due to our “severe” as opposed to “normal” driving conditions. We can also check our owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations for our particular vehicle.

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