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Frequency of Oil Change debate

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Kirk G

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OK, we're not all going to agree, but let's try to calmly discuss the recommendation for changing your auto oil AND filter, every 3000 miles.

When I started driving in the early 1970s, the recommendation was oil change every 5,000 miles and the oil filter every other oil change.
We were already past the winter weight/summer weight days, and my first oils were 10W-40.

Nowadays, in my 2009 Toyota Corolla the oil is 5W-20 and every 3000 miles is recommended, with a filter change every time.
The 2006 Pontiac Vibe calls for 5W-30 and also every 3000 miles.

When I asked a car mechanic in a social setting how they could change the periodic service, and the weight of oil required without changing the internal combusion engine, he laughed.
He said, "It's only because of a stroke of a pen." Meaning, they simply printed a different number in the owners manuals of the newer cars because the government wanted them to...to get higher miles/gallon out of the new cars.


Discuss.....
 

Kirk G

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I might also add t hat I drive the Toyota 37 miles to work and again back home five days a week. This adds up to 20,000 each year. But they are virtually all highway miles.
The Vibe is driven within a two-three mile radius for home errands and sometimes less than a half a mile to work or school, and almost never at high speed on a highway.

To save money, I buy a jug of 5W-20 or 5W-30 for 4 or 5 quarts, and the local Autozone store always seems to be running a special that includes a replacement Fram oil filter of my choice.
As a result, I have at least a half a dozen filter that fit the VIBE, but I cannot access the Corolla's internal oil filter without a hoist, pit, and specialized wrench. So I take it two blocks down the street to an oil change place,
and they do it every other oil change.

Total cost: VIBE change: Under $25 (used to be under $19 regularly)
Corolla change at the shop down the street: $28.95 with 4-5 quarts of standard 5W-20 oil and a new filter. Service with a smile. They see me every 2 1/2 months, and sometimes more frequently.
 
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boatgeek

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When I asked a car mechanic in a social setting how they could change the periodic service, and the weight of oil required without changing the internal combusion engine, he laughed.
He said, "It's only because of a stroke of a pen." Meaning, they simply printed a different number in the owners manuals of the newer cars because the government wanted them to...to get higher miles/gallon out of the new cars.
I am far from a gearhead, so everything below may well be corrected by someone more knowledgeable. First of all, the engines of today are vastly different from engines of the 1970's. Power per cubic inch displacement, parts tolerances, reliability, etc. etc. It stands to reason that oils would have changed as well. Lower weight oil does reduce internal friction in the engine, which is a pretty cheap way to increase gas mileage a little. If the manufacturer needs a little more to make the threshold, that's certainly better than redesigning engines or God forbid adding a turbo (or pulling a VW and cheating).

That said, I understand that synthetic oils are supposed to last longer so you can go longer between oil changes. I don't know if that's real or not, but it's something else to consider. I have seen manuals with different recommendations for oil change intervals depending on whether it's highway or city driving, what kind of oil, etc. If you want to assume positive intentions, you might assume that manufacturers are reacting to buyers wanting more life (say 150-250K miles) out of a car than the 70's (say 80-100). On a less positive note, one may also wonder if the short interval is a ploy to get more dollars from the gullible at the dealership or to deny warranty claims if they come up. Tinfoil hats on, then discuss. :)
 

rcktnut

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Oil change frequency all depends on what kind of driving you do. Lots of mostly highway driving you can go longer between changes. If I were using regular oil in my vehicles I would be taking them to one of the local changing stations. Most times cheaper than doing it myself. I use synthetic so cheaper if I do it myself. The oil will last a lot longer than the filter is what I always heard which was the reason for the 3000 mile limit. Filter technology has changed since that was true and now they advertise filters as well as some oil that have protection for 15,000 miles. I change mine between 5000-6000 miles, sometimes takes 2 years before that happens on my pick up. It is a 2000 GMC Sonoma still running just fine.
 

chrisudy

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Mostly highway driving for me in a 2003 Toyota Echo. Total 220,000 miles so far. Goes to the dealership every 8,000-12,000 miles for oil, lube & filter. My father in law takes it in - he's their top mechanic and I get discounted parts and labor... :)
 

manixFan

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My 2003 Honda Pilot manual says to change the oil and filter every 7,500 miles and uses 5-20W oil. That's all I've ever done and my son now has it and it has nearly 200,000 miles and still does not burn oil nor suffer any other issues. My current 2010 Pilot has the same recommendations and it's nearly 120,000 miles.

The tolerances of the motors are so much better nowadays that a lot less contaminants get into the oil. The gasoline also seems to be a lot better and with fuel injection the engines run far cleaner. A good example of this is that fact that neither car required a spark plug change until around the 100,000 mile mark. Unthinkable not that long ago.

When my son took my 2003 Pilot it had about 160,000 miles on it. I had him check the oil and he thought it was below the dipstick. I had him turn it sideways to show him the oil was right at the mark. It was so clear he could not see it.

As always, YMMV!!


Tony
 

Cl(VII)

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My 2010 Prius with 104k goes into the dealership very 10k for full synthetic and a filter (that is recommended in the maintenance guide)...I did the oil changes on my old Mercury Tracer, but the Prius has too many instant death electrical cables in it for me to want to poke around in there. I paid for the lifetime oil changes when I bought the car. For most people this probably works out for the dealer, but I keep my cars untill the wheels fall off, so I'm already about 2 changes to the good. :cool: The other routine maintenance stuff gets done at a local garage that specializes in Toyotas and Hondas.
 

Peter Olivola

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The difference between engines produced in the 1970's and today can be summed up in racing terms. Current engines are manufactured to the tolerances achieved by skilled race engine builders in the 1970's. Combined with synthetic oils, change intervals, especially for highway driving, can be extended. The number is almost entirely arbitrary. Anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 is quoted. Normally aspirated on the high end. Turbo on the lower as they're subject to much more extreme thermal cycling. Non highway driven engines accumulate moisture in the oil because they aren't being run long enough to dissipate it. That moisture combines with any foreign substance in the oil to produce corrosive compounds. The additives in the oil designed to neutralize those corrosives can only last so long.
 

Screaminhelo

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Petroleum based oils do break down faster during normal use than a full synthetic but, even with dino oils, contaminates are a much bigger issue than worn out oil. I am an Army aircraft mechanic and we do not change the oil in anything unless there is an indication that there is an issue with the component. The oil filters in the engines and transmission of a Blackhawk go down to 3 microns and I have seen main transmissions go well over 1k flight hours without anything more than adding oil on occaision if needed. It doesn't get terribly hot in there but there is a great deal of mechanical stress on the oil. The engines can reach temperatures of over 1000 degrees F and there is no problem with breakdown, it does discolor some but it stays clean.

My take is to follow manufacturer recommendations as long as it is in warranty and use the best filter that you can get. After the warranty is expired, I go 6k miles between oil changes on my 2004 Colorado and change the filter every 3k. On our 2006 Pilot, I follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule based on the oil life indicator and an usually around 10k miles between oil changes. I use full synthetic on both with no leaks and both have over 175k on the meter.

For those that want to change their oil every 3k, I say go ahead. Even though it may be overkill, it is better than ignoring it and ruining a motor. If were going to overspend on vehicle maintenance, frequent oil changes would be the place where I would start.
 

mkadams001

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My BMW says every 15000 miles. I change it at half that interval only because I think that 15000 is too long. However, I think the engineers who design and test this stuff would know better than me or a mechanic. Generally, I will follow the owners manual.

I did not know that anyone could change oil for less than thirty bucks. I always use synthetic oil in my cars and do it myself.* The normal synthetic oil costs me about five a quart. The BMW 0il is around eight bucks and takes seven quarts. *(I will take it to the dealer sometimes when they are doing it for $70 - 80 - plus they wash the car inside and out)
 

jderimig

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There are oil testing labs that will help determine what YOUR frequency should be. For die-hard motor heads an oil test can be very interesting.

On an oil change you collect and send some of the oil to the lab and all sort of interesting content will come back such as how much life is left in your oil and the state of your engine. Here's a lab for such informtion...

http://www.blackstone-labs.com/
 

OverTheTop

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There are oil testing labs that will help determine what YOUR frequency should be. For die-hard motor heads an oil test can be very interesting.
I did this years ago. The testing showed my diesel Nissan Patrol could go to about 15000km before needing an oil change. I always changed at about 6000km for the diesel. Oil is cheap, engines are not. Caterpillar have the service (known as SOS, Special Oil Sampling I think, here in Australia) down here. Some surprising results can be found. Bearings wearing leave trace metals in the oil and can indicate maintenance that is needed. It is quite dependent on the type of driving you do and the car. High silicon content can even tell you if your intake system has an air leak! Interestingly a lot of the labs that do this service use the spectrometers that I had a major part in designing!
 

Jozef

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My vehicles are newer and all use synthetic oil, one uses semi-synthetic as recommended by GM for that engine. I follow the oil life indicator on the Pickup and SUV as there are the primary drivers. When oil life gets to 20% I begin considering service. The respective dealers are very reasonable and charge about $12 labor for the service. The difference in the cost of oil vs buying my own, the mess of changing it and having to dispose of it at Wal Mart is well worth the slight difference in cost. The hight performance car only gets about 6,000 miles a year, so the oil and filter get changed annually (Mobil 1). The dealers put a bring it back in 5,000 mile sticker, but the service manager says follow the oil life indicator. It uses an algorithm of use variables to determine oil life.
 

Flyfalcons

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I use 5,000 miles or one year, whichever comes first, using synthetic.
 

Pat_B

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Our two Honda vehicles calculate the oil change frequency based upon the type of driving. Never looked into the details of what's included in their calculations, but just generally get an oil change when recommended-- usually 6-8K miles.
 

TangoJuliet

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I bought my 2013 Dodge Caravan used and it's supposed to have a 10,000 mile interval. I had the oil changed about a month ago after only having the van since April. I don't drive it all that much, mostly preferring to ride my motorcycle, but when I do, it's a combination of city and highway miles. I don't know that I trust 10,000 miles between oil/filter changes, but I haven't determined what interval I do trust yet.
 

GregGleason

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I use semi-syns in our two vehicles. Oil is changed every 3 to 4 K miles. Might be overkill, but one vehicle is at 150K miles and the other is at 200K miles. I've only had one mechanical failure in the vehicles, a broken valve spring. That was likely not an oil related failure.

Greg
 

Zeus-cat

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I did this years ago. The testing showed my diesel Nissan Patrol could go to about 15000km before needing an oil change. I always changed at about 6000km for the diesel. Oil is cheap, engines are not. Caterpillar have the service (known as SOS, Special Oil Sampling I think, here in Australia) down here. Some surprising results can be found. Bearings wearing leave trace metals in the oil and can indicate maintenance that is needed. It is quite dependent on the type of driving you do and the car. High silicon content can even tell you if your intake system has an air leak! Interestingly a lot of the labs that do this service use the spectrometers that I had a major part in designing!
So what is the cost for these tests? I would think you want to test the oil as the car ages to see if the frequency of oil changes needs to increase as the car ages and wears out faster. It almost sounds like have bloodwork done on humans o see what is wrong. If the cost is high for the tests than this is not practical.
 

mkadams001

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So what is the cost for these tests? I would think you want to test the oil as the car ages to see if the frequency of oil changes needs to increase as the car ages and wears out faster. It almost sounds like have bloodwork done on humans o see what is wrong. If the cost is high for the tests than this is not practical.
Blackstone charges $28 according to their website for the type of oil test for this topic. There are added services for more $$.

What I thought was interesting was the oil test for buying a used car.
 

Screaminhelo

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So what is the cost for these tests? I would think you want to test the oil as the car ages to see if the frequency of oil changes needs to increase as the car ages and wears out faster. It almost sounds like have bloodwork done on humans o see what is wrong. If the cost is high for the tests than this is not practical.
$28 per sample. That seems to be a reasonable cost as long as you are sending a sample once each year it would get expensive if you were sampling every oil change. You may send a sample on consecutive oil changes, maybe even clean oil from the bottle if you really want a solid baseline, when you first get started.
 

michigander

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I like to go 5000 miles Mobil 1


I just changed the Buick 4500 miles on Mobil 1 , oil life monitor displayed 66% left ,

oil was in car 1 month from long trip out east changing gets us through the winter
 

Bowman

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Ok,

I'll weigh-in.
From 1973 to 1983 I was a GM (Mr Goodwrench) and Pontiac Master Technician.
Just saying that to establish that I have been inside a few engines.
Here's what I can share:

When we took valve covers off an engine back in the 70's, if it had more that 20K on the engine, there was sludge!
Frequent oil changes (2000) was better, but it still built-up. That was due to a number of causes; Sloppy machining (best they had at the time) meant more blow-by, Internal hot-spots due to primitive engine design, like exhaust cross-overs in intake manifolds that baked oil that came into contact, Lead and other crap in fuel, but I think mostly it was due to less advanced oil.

Today, many engines, my current 2013 corolla and old 2003 Jetta diesel (198,560 miles when traded) included, specify light grade Full Synthetic and 10,000 mile oil changes.
Take the covers off these engines @50K and they look almost new inside. Better engineering for sure, but MUCH better oil chemistry.

Back in the 60s and 70s most engines were ready for a rebuild at 60,000 and the body was probably rotted away in many places.
Today most cars and their engines are expected to see 200K with little problem.

My experience today is that when I take my Corolla, still under warranty, into a jiffy-lube or similar, their reminder sticker still says 3000 miles, yet the manufacturer who is on the hook for repairs still says 10,000. Why do you think that is???? Do you think the Jiffy-lube parts-changer is smarter than the risk-averse manufacturer?
Manufacturers are going to err on the side of conservative for their own benefit, but they know, as do professional mechanics that the engines generally don't wear like they used to due to better materials and much better synthetic oils. If they were worried about mechanical failures costing THEM money, you can be darn sure they would be telling you to pony-up for more frequent oil-changes!

Bottom line, Follow the Owners Manual! If it says synthetic every 10K, believe it and do it.
Forget the urban legends and the shade-tree mechanics masquerading as experts, the things that fail today are not those protected by the oil, it's all the complex electronics.

Cole
 

Nathan

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I get annual oil service on my 2008 Porsche but I only drive it about 3500 miles per year.
 

cherokeej

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Stick to the manufacturer's maintenance schedule, and it's hard to go wrong.

I just bought a new car. Negotiating from a position of power, I negotiated them paying for my "premium maintenance package." It's already paid for. They contacted me at 3 months, said it's time for the first oil change. Car only had 1800 miles on it. OK by me.

But over the life of a car, how much can oil changes cost? How much does it cost to replace an engine?

It's your car, and your money.
 
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Andy Greene

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35 plus years of auto service industry and I will say just this-
Oil changes are cheap insurance- 3/5k is a good rule of thumb but will 8/10k kill ya- no.
The reason the mfg's are going longer on the interval is very simple- it lowers the cost per mile on the marone label- period.
 

BDB

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I had a friend who had a long commute and drove 20k+ miles per year in a Ford Ranger. He always said he "changed the oil once per year, whether it needed it or not!"
 

manixFan

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Lets see:

Average oil change cost with tax: $35.
Miles driven over 10 years - 180,000
Cost of following Honda's recommendation of every 7,500 miles - $840.00
Cost of doing it like they did in the 'olden days' every 3000 miles - $2,100.00

Based on owning 4 cars reaching at least 150,000 miles following the makers oil change recommendations I'll keep the $1,260 and spend it on something that will make a difference in my life.

But your mileage my vary.


Tony
 

Pat_B

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All our vehicles are Hondas and I just follow the dash light indication. My last Accord had 210,000 miles on it before I sold it, and our Civic 176,000 after 17 years. Works well for me.
 

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