Advice: Nix The 3000-Mile Oil Change

oil changes synthetic oil

It may be a sign of people tightening their belts, but recently many people have called the show to ask me “Do I really need to change my oil every 3000 miles?” The answer is simply no. There are no circumstances by which anyone needs to change their oil that often.

The biggest reason for the longer intervals is tremendous improvement in the quality of oil products. Over the past decade or so, technology has advanced greatly to enable oil to last longer and be more tolerant to heat. Of course, the automotive service industry has tried to keep this quiet it appears.

Many of us grew up being warned to change your oil every 3000 miles, and the consequences for not doing that seemed dire. I grew up being scared to go even 3100 miles without a complete oil change and a new filter.

If you are not 100% sure what your car’s manufacturer recommends as your oil change interval, you should find out ASAP. The car companies spend millions testing oil change intervals as well as the proper weight of oil. They have a vested interest in your engine lasting as long as possible. You should follow their recommendation. You can find it in your owner’s manual or scheduled maintenance guide, and if you cannot locate it, go to this website: checkyournumber.org.

According to Edmunds.com, the average recommended oil change interval for all new cars in 2010 was 7800 miles. I suspect that number is even higher as the 2013 models are rolling out.

One big mistake people make is, they base the time to change their oil on that little sticker the lube place puts in the top left corner of the windshield. Many people think that is the gospel, but many lube places put the 3000 mile interval on the sticker, and you may not even realize it. If you use the same place all the time for oil changes, they have a good idea when the 3000 miles have passed, and they send you a somewhat urgent postcard, and they may even call you to further to add a little urgency.

You have to understand that for many “quick lube” places, the oil change itself is not the big issue, and many do oil changes at prices that are actually a loss. They know however, that the more often they can see your car, the more often they have an opportunity to sell you something else.

More and more, newer cars are coming with oil life monitoring systems. In the old days, it was just a reminder based on time and mileage. Today, these type systems actually monitor the wear of the oil. Even I was skeptical at first, but many post-oil change studies of the old oil have shown these systems to be wildly accurate. I love these systems because it takes the elements out of the equation. In cases of extreme heat for instance, this type of monitoring will keep you from changing your oil too soon or going too far.

Bottom line here, if you are still changing your oil every 3000 miles, you are wasting your money and only aiding the people that do the oil changes and the oil companies themselves. Fewer oil changes are also good for the environment!

Photo Copyright: otomobil/Shutterstock
15 Comments
  1. Darryl Stolleis 5 years ago

    I remember a few years back we used to be able to buy recycled oil and used it in our cars.
    Since the newer oils are reformulated to last 5,000 or 10,000 miles, why do they not offer recycled oil for cars today? I am assuming that the majority of current owners have oil changes at 3,000 to 4,000 miles. This should be an opportunity for someone to make money and help the environment. What’s your take on this?

    • Michele Sanders 5 years ago

      That’s a good question actually. As oil has gotten better, it has also gotten cheaper for the consumer.

      I suspect the price difference isn’t worth the risk of recycled oil, but I’ll be the first to admit, I am not an expert on this subject.

      THANKS for listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

      • RICK EADS 5 years ago

        Hello Jerry:
        I may be unusual, but I have two cars that don’t get even 6,000 miles a year these days. One is a 2002 Mercury Sable (61,000 miles) and the second is a 2005 Lincoln Town Car (57,000 miles). Both have had excellent maintenance at David McDavid Lincoln and Prestige Ford. Is there a realistic time limit before changing oil I should be attentive to for these cars?

        Why am I holding on to these two cars? Well, I am waiting for fuel issues – and the attendent technologies – to be settled before I invest in a new automobile . ( I personally suspect that LNG or CNG will eventually prevail.) In the meantime I drive two cars I like very much. What would you advise?

        BTW: Both cars have newly extended warranties for the coming 2 1/2 years and 25,000 miles. The extended time will probably be more important than the addied miles. So far, my investment in the warranties is keepig up with time-related issues.

        Best wishes!

        • Michele Sanders 5 years ago

          Rick, good to hear from you! You should change the oil once a year if you do not get to the mileage that requires it. Otherwise you should be fine!

          THANKS for writing and for listening to the show!

          -Jerry

          Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
          President, Car Pro Radio Networks

      • David Bartley 5 years ago

        I have a ’01 Dodge w/Cummings Diesel engine. I have used Valvoline Synthetic oil since my first oil/filter change. I change the oil once a year and the engine runs perfectley.

        • Michele Sanders 5 years ago

          Thanks for sharing David, I know our listeners and guests to the website appreciate it, and so do I.

          -Jerry

          Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”

  2. John Wright 4 years ago

    Yeah but………doesn’t the oil itself have a bearing on all of this? I understand that a synthetic oil can go longer without changing. Ford says it uses a “semi synthetic” oil and recommends a 7500 mile interval in the truck I have. But, if you only use a conventional oil, does that last a whole year? I only drive about 8000 a year. And more importantly, does your oil filter last a whole year? I doubt it.

  3. James Irish 3 years ago

    I have a 2011 Kia Forte Koup SX and i have always used full synthetic oil changing the oil every 7500 miles as the owners manual states… at present i have 34k miles on the car. what i want to know is will it hurt the engine if i switch to regular oil going forward or do i need to keep using fully synthetic.

    • Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      No, it will not hurt anything at all, just use a quality oil and a good filer, you’ll be fine.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  4. walt 3 years ago

    Transmission fluid change interval? Also substitute for Honda fluid?
    thanks

    • Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Walt, always go by what the HONDA (not the dealers) suggest in your scheduled maintenance guide. It should be in the glovebox. I would go by that strictly. Not sure on the fluid, sorry-but you can’t go wrong with what the factory uses.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  5. Paul 3 years ago

    Jerry, great info. I have always been a maintenance nut. But I have to say, being an Amsiol Dist. for many years, that frequent oil changes with today’s quality oils is not necessary. I ran my oil 10-12k before changes using Amsoil and their filters. I have two current vehicles, a 98 Buick with 385k mi, and an 01 tahoe with 355k mi and still going strong. If a person can’t get at least 200k mi out of an engine today, they are really abusing it.

    • Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Paul, good to hear from you. I totally agree and talk frequently about how much better oil is today than in years past. I don’t recommend going past what the automaker says as an acceptable interval however, for fear of a lack of warranty coverage.

      Sure appreciate you listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  6. Mary Kirk 2 years ago

    I have a 2013 Subaru Legacy.It came from the factory with the Synthetic Oil and the dealer says I cannot use conventional oil because it will void my warranty. This car burns oil and I have to change it every 3500 miles instead of the 7500 miles the manufacture says. Since I have to change it every 3000 miles, I want to go to conventional oil.what is the purpose of the synthetic oil other than a very expensive oil change?

    • Michele Sanders 2 years ago

      Mary, synthetic oil offers a lot more protection. As to whether you can use regular oil, I really don’t know. I would ask them at the factory to see if they require synthetic, (1-800-782-2783).

      GOOD LUCK!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

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