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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 Times have changed, but far too many of us are still adhering to those outdated recommendations.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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Comments (6)
  1. I don't ever change oil in my LEAF :-)
     
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    Bad stuff?

     
  2. Excellent point, Red Baron. Thanks for sharing.
     
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    Bad stuff?

  3. BMW only says 15 k miles, so their free maintenance consists of 2 oil changes, and that's it! If you don't believe me go 15k, and send your oil to blackstone labs for analysis. It's very cheap, or you could just google it, and see what other people havre discovered. You can go 6-7k now with improved oil, and gasoline but that's about it without having too much metal content suspended in the oil. If you plan to trade your car before 100 k miles, you can go 20 k intervals, but if you want your car to last as long as possible I would not go past 7 k miles. It's no coincidence bmw doubled their change interval, and made other fluids ” lifetime” when they introduced” free maintenance”
     
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  4. there is something deeply wrong with these numbers. The car has an oil change service light and it monitors driving habits, the condition of the oil and so on. In the UK, a petrol M class Merc driven hard will 'ask' for an oil change after around 30.000 miles...that's THIRTY THOUSAND miles....Not three thousand miles.

    The vast majority of modern UK cars, including diesels, have oil change intervals exceeding 20,000 miles and many of those are THE SAME cars that have 5,000 mile intervals in the US. Either your oil is junk, your cars are sub-standard (despite being the same cars...), or your oil companies are tricking you into spending four times what you need to on oil...You decide...
     
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    +1
    Bad stuff?

     
  5. Americans expect their cars to last longer than we do here in the UK. British are just happy that a car can just about make it to 100k before completely falling apart. My family in the USA nearly all own cars with at least 100K on the clock and as high as 337K. They barely consider a car to be run in before it has 100K on the clock. I know people with cars that have done 550K and 650K and they both say the trick to long engine life is frequent oil changes. If you look on Auto Trader for a Vauxhall/Opel corsa with the highest miles you will find that they seem to dissapear once they have 110K-135K on them. This is because after 110K the head gasgets start to fail. Nearly all the Corsa cars have had 12K+ oil changes as recommended by Vauxhall
     
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  6. The brutal truth is that you do not have to change your oil - EVER! Oil does not get used up or get old, it simply gets dirty. If you keep your oil clean with a good by-pass refiner, not a by-pass filter, you can go 100,000+ miles of the engine without ever changing the oil. It must be a by-pass refiner though. A by-pass refiner removes the dirt, soot, metal, and acids, and it also removed fuel, water, and antifreeze from the oil. A by-pass filter only deals with solid particles so the liquid contamination requires oil changes 4x more frequently.
     
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