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November 26, 2008

Auto Experts Debunk 3,000-Mile Oil Change Myth

Pouring_oil The often shared advice about the oil in your car is that you should change it every 3,000-miles or three months in order to keep your engine running smoothly. To help save drivers' time and money, while being environmentally efficient, auto experts are busting industry myths on car maintenance.  The one thing that many people do not know is that this is not a fact, it is just a myth. In fact, most manufacturers recommend more than 5,000 miles between oil changes instead of the traditional 3,000.

The traditional 3000-mile oil change recommendation was based on engine and oil technologies of the past. Today's more modern engines are built to strict tolerances using advanced technology, reducing or eliminating contaminants that might enter the engine. In-vehicle technologies such as General Motors' Oil Life System can also reduce the frequency between oil changes by actively determining each engine's oil "life."

Making this adjustment can save eight to ten gallons of oil a year and put as much as $76 back in your pocket. Following new recommendations can also help improve the environment: In some cases, just one gallon of improperly disposed motor oil can contaminate one million gallons of drinking water.

 As this video shows, motorists can help prevent the unnecessary use of motor oil by following their own automaker's recommendations for oil change intervals. Because people drive differently, and under different operating conditions, the rate of oil breakdown will vary from vehicle to vehicle. For drivers of cars equipped with active systems like the GM Oil Life System, your car or truck can tell you when it's time to change the oil.

Such systems can extend oil change intervals significantly compared to the former 3000-mile recommendation depending on the vehicle/engine combination and other factors. These systems -- found in many newer cars manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, and others -- use sophisticated algorithms that measure key engine functions such as start-up cycles, engine rpm levels, temperatures, and run time, to determine the ideal time for an oil change.

Engine_oil_lifeWhen equipped with the GM Oil Life System, the average GM vehicle typically needs oil changes half as often as the popularly advertised 3000-mile recommendation. Based on driving 15,000 miles per year, this could mean between two and three fewer oil changes annually. That would help reduce the environmental impact and help the pocketbook as well.

Owners of vehicles not equipped with the these active oil-life monitoring systems should follow the recommended maintenance schedules and waste oil recycling recommendations in their owner's manual. Older cars driven under harsh use may still require 3000-mile oil changes as stated in their manufacturer-issued manuals, especially if driven under more strenuous conditions such as extremely hot weather, frequent short trips, driving off-road, towing vehicles, carrying heavy loads, or when driven in dusty areas.

Gm_check_oil Even respected sources such as Consumer Reports say "Although oil companies and quick-lube shops like to promote this idea [that engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles], it's usually not necessary." An article in its December, 2006, issue recommends "Go by the recommended oil-change schedule in your vehicle's owner's manual. Most vehicles driven under normal conditions can go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Some models now come with a monitoring system that alerts the driver when the oil needs changing. Depending on driving conditions, these can extend change intervals to 10,000 or 15,000 miles."

Here are some more of the most common maintenance myths that have been adjusted based on new vehicle technologies:

- Tune-ups.
Today's engines have computer-monitored systems that still need to be checked but don't need a traditional tune-up every few thousand miles.

- Wheel Alignment.
Although it's important to keep tires properly maintained and inflated, it's not always necessary to have them aligned every time they are rotated.

- Unnecessary services.
Routine maintenance services such as fuel injector cleaning and transmission fluid flushes aren't necessary as often anymore.

Www-3000milemyth-org "Needing to change your car's oil at 3000 miles is a myth," the www.3000milemyth.org Web site says. "Many cars today can go longer without affecting engine wear. Automakers are regularly recommending oil changes at 5000, 7000, or even 10,000 miles based on driving conditions." If you follow your vehicle's owner's manual maintenance schedule, you will ensure your car offers a long, reliable service life.

By Brandy Schaffels
AskPatty.com Editor


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