The following article clarifies the myth of the 3,000 mile oil change – and may even help to lower your car repair prices.
For decades mechanics have been telling us to change our oil every 3,000 miles. Interestingly, no automotive manufacturer agrees with this maintenance schedule – not in the last 20 years any way. So why are we being told to change our oil every 3,000 miles if it’s unnecessary?
First, let’s look at the auto industry’s argument. It makes 5 primary points.
1) Oil breaks down after 3000 miles
2) Oil changes are great preventative maintenance
3) 3,000 miles is an easy number for the car repair customer to remember
4) The 3,000 mile interval is traditionally viewed as best by mechanics
5) It’s necessary due to the elements, driving patterns, and weather conditions.
It’s important to note that those telling us to change our oil every 3,000 miles (the automotive industry) are the same folks who will profit most. This is not to say that oil changes aren’t important – they are. They’re just not as frequently needed as we’re made to believe.
Here are the 5 truths about the 3,000 mile oil change
1) Quality motor oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer does not break down after 3,000 miles
2) Yes, changing your oil is great preventative maintenance, but it needs to be done in accordance with manufacturer service intervals
3) The easy-to-remember 3,000-mile interval actually creates more confusion as to the real maintenance needs of your vehicle. Thus, it is easier to follow factory guidelines – it’s more economical, and more appropriate.
4) The traditional view that 3,000 miles is best for your car is old school, wasteful, and fails to appreciate today’s mechanical and oil technologies
5) Unless you’re in a constant high-speed police change in the dead of winter – your oil will be just fine
How often do you really need to change your oil? While it depends on the year, make, and model of your vehicle, it’s clear that for today’s vehicles it’s not every 3,000 miles. 20 years ago this was true of many vehicles. However, this is virtually obsolete as most vehicle have 5,000, 7500, 10,000, and even 15,000 mile oil service intervals.
So just what is motivating the auto industry to push 3,000 mile oil changes? Let’s look at it in real life. If you change your oil every 3,000 miles, and like most, you average 15,000 miles per year, then you’ll be in the repair shop 5 times in only 12 months. Do you really need to perform maintenance on your car 5 times per year? Seems excessive doesn’t it?
The average oil change price is $30.00. $30.00 X 5 = $150.00. If you changed your oil every 5,000 miles, you’d only need 3 oil changes per year = $90. That’s a $60 savings.
For the most part oil changes are cheap, as it’s a very competitive market. They’re also not very profitable for repair shops (see the article “Why an Oil Change is Never Just an Oil Change“). However, the more times your vehicle is in the shop, the more chances said shop has the opportunity to sell you something else – an alignment, tires, wiper blades, brakes, shocks, fuel cleaning services, transmission services…etc – these are money-makers.
This is not to say that these services aren’t needed, but they should be performed according to manufacturer guidelines only.
A detailed manufacturer’s maintenance schedule (this is separate from your manual) is the best and most accurate guide. You may stumble across one in all the unnecessary paperwork you find in your glove box, but ask your repair shop or dealer for a detailed print out of your entire maintenance schedule. If the service center can’t produce one quickly – you’re in the wrong place for your car’s needs.
Finally, have a little fun: the next time your local mechanic tells you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, ask him what the manufacturer recommends. It’s fun to watch him stumble through the answer or tell you, straight-faced, the wrong answer.