If you’re having your car’s oil changed every 3,000 miles, you’re likely overdoing things and wasting money.  Most modern vehicles can go much longer between oil changes – in some cases, up to 15,000 miles. Check your Owner’s Manual or go to checkyournumber.org to see what your car’s manufacturer recommends:

I should note that if your vehicle sees extreme service – extended use in sub zero or extremely high temperatures, dusty conditions, frequent short trips, and the like, your oil change intervals should be shorter; check your Owner’s Manual.  If you’ve lost your Manual, most manufacturers have them available for download.  Finally, the widget at checkyournumber.org assumes you’re using conventional oil; if you’re using synthetic oil, you can extend your change interval up to 20,000 miles.

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2 Comments on Have you fallen prey to the oil change industry’s 3,000 mile hype?

  1. Michael W. says:

    One potential silver lining in the 3,000 mile oil change interval “scam” is checking tire pressure more frequently and doing an undercarriage inspection.

    In general I have found car dealerships to be much better at oil changes than lube chains. They strip drain plugs less often (and when they do, are more likely to fess up and fix them), and don’t engage in as much upselling. The sense of ethics is generally higher, and the staff is better trained and generally more committed to staying at the dealer; many independents have understandably high turnover. Pricing at car dealerships is very competitive too – especially after the first oil change, when you start getting coupons in the mail or email.

    Finally, the industry went through a whole cycle of unnecessary fluid changes as well – transmission, brake, and power steering.

    The factory recommended interval for transmission and power steering is often 100,000 miles or life of the unit. Brake fluid is trickier. Some manufacturers don’t offer any recommendations (or at least they didn’t) while VW and MINI recommend replacement every 2 years.

    It’s worth looking into the reasons for fluid change on brake fluid. The fluid that works the hardest is obviously engine oil – it is subject to extreme heat (from engine operations) and to contamination (from cylinder blow-by etc.) Power steering fluid, on the other hand, suffers almost no contamination. Brake fluid experiences some heat from the brakes themselves, but it is not severe. The real reason brake fluid needs changing is degradation from absorbing moisture from the air – brake fluid is hygroscopic or water loving.

    So generally I take an anti-over maintenance stance – most recommended services are b.s. But when it comes to checking tire pressure and changing brake fluid – and undercarriage examination for road damage (and tire inspection for sidewall damage from potholes) I’m all in favor of it. The problem is that those services alone are not big profit makers, so “placebo services” have historically been way oversold.

    Then there are people who lease cars, who believe the service interval is when they turn in the car after lease expiration ….

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    Kevin Reply:

    MW: Thanks for a great comment. Agree that checking tire pressure is important (ironically enough, I checked mine yesterday). I’m not sure when I’ve ever changed the brake fluid on any of the cars I’ve owned over the last 15-20 years… doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea, I’m just not sure I’ve done it. …and you’re right: brake fluid is indeed hygroscopic.

    [Reply]

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