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The 3,000 Mile Myth of Oil Changes

Published 9/25/07 (Modified 6/24/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

What do you think about this statement - true or false? To prolong the life of your vehicle, experts recommend that you change your vehicle's engine oil every 3000 miles.

The answer? False! Modern engines today are much more advanced and don't require oil changes every 3000 miles, and research has shown that frequent oil changes have no appreciable benefits. The only experts that push for this are those from the oil industry.

The 3,000 Mile Myth

The long handed down concept of the 3000 miles oil change was the brain child of Jiffy Lube and propagated by oil industry officials. While it's not exactly a scam per-se, it's quite a lucrative myth for the engine oil maintenance industry. The average American drives 12,000 miles in a year, and with an oil change every 3,000 miles costing in excess of $25 each, that's $100 annually for each customer. Every visit to the auto mechanic or oil change facility gives them yet another opportunity to push for other pricey maintenance services such as air filter replacement and transmission flush.

Although oil companies and quick engine lube shops like to promote this idea, it's usually not necessary. Instead, drivers should consult their vehicle owner's manual oil change schedule for more credible guidance. Most vehicles driven under normal conditions can reliably go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Some models now even come with monitoring systems that alert the driver when the oil needs changing. Depending on driving conditions, they can help extend oil change intervals further - to 10,000 or 15,000 miles.

If you want some test trial and research backing, just take a look at what Consumer Reports discovered. They performed an experiment to test engine oil performance in 1996 using New York City taxi cabs. After examining the results, they concluded that:

Even in the severe driving conditions that a New York City taxi endures, we noted no benefit from changing the oil every 3,000 miles rather than every 6,000. If your driving falls into the "normal" service category, changing the oil every 7,500 miles (or at the automaker's suggested intervals) should certainly provide adequate protection. (We recommend changing the oil filter with each oil change.)

My Vehicle's Correct Oil Change Interval

I checked out my Honda Accord's driver's manual and lo and behold, the car manufacturer recommends oil changes every 5,000 miles for severe driving and every 10,000 miles for normal driving. Every car model's different, but in my case, my manual indicates that severe driving is characterized as mainly operating the vehicle under the following conditions:

  • Driving less than 5 miles per trip, or in freezing temperatures, driving less than 10 miles per trip,
  • Driving in extremely hot (over 90 degree) conditions,
  • Used primarily as a delivery vehicle or taxi that is driven mostly in stop and go traffic and/or parked with the engine idling,
  • Trailer towing, driving with a roof top carrier, or driving in mountainous conditions, or
  • Driving on muddy, dusty, or de-iced roads.

My owner's manual also notes that if you only occasionally drive under the above severe condition, than you should follow the normal driving conditions maintenance schedule. With this in mind, I would consider my driving to be fairly normal with more highway driving than local since I commute to work mostly via public subway transportation. Thus, I now get an oil change every 6,000 miles (a compromise between severe and normal), which comes out to twice a year, and I find it to be very sufficient.

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49 Responses to “Oil Changes | Oil Change Frequency | Money Blue Book” 

  1. Old Pro says:

    I agree with jason. Oil does break down, synthetics do lubricate and reduce friction better(dynos prove this). When vehicles are run, turned off and cool down, condensation forms inside the engine. Over time this moisture become acidic, so it is a good idea to change oil before putting a vehicle back into service. I have no problem with extended service intervals, but let's remember on the majority of cars etc., the LOF service is the only maintenance(including checking oil) that is routinely performed unless repairs are required. I also prefer Synthetic at higher intervals, but could and have safely run most of the major conventional oils. No matter what you use or how you use it.... CHECK THOSE FLUIDS. Counterman is correct recycled motor oil is not used for engine oil.

  2. Symon says:

    @ TheEqualizer Says, so I heard you switch from conventional to synthetic & your vehicle didn't blow up. Let me mindful here, so Joe the plumber decides to drain his oil & dump some synethic in his vehicle. Hoping he gain more mpg am I'm correct & you saying I'm an idiot. I can't help laugh at people when they do these silly things. Of course they were no side affect because your engine has already broken in with a base layer of conventional oil when it left the dealership. I'm simply saying if you want to enjoy the full benefit of synthetic oil one must either completely flush your engine with synthetic oil or purchase a vehicle with synthetic from the factory. It a high pressure machine that pump synthetic oil into your engine but only individuals who work in high performance shop, race team & machinist would be aware of such process. Please think twice & read between the lines before making such a comment. Obviously someone was sold the idea that synthetic oil is much better than conventional oil hence you said you switch over at 100k & was happy with the result. Likewise, everyone can beat on this matter like their no tomorrow. Beside Cars were originally made for consumers & repairs, tune up are recommended to be done by an automotive technicians not your average backyard mechanic but that just another subject all together.

  3. TheEqualizer says:

    @LubeDealer...people like you are THE reason I quit using Amsoil products, which as I stated before, are very fine products. You are the problem with your cult-like fanaticism. How do you know if there was any "sludge" and/or contaminants in my engine...I never told you how many miles were on the motor.

    Also, if you're going to dismiss your competition, spell Mobil 1 properly...you might have more credibility. Also, don't start spouting 4-ball wear test results because they are NOT a legitimate test for motor oils.

    BTW, there are Amsoil reps out there who aren't so vitriolic.

  4. LubeDealer says:

    I see I made another typo, I mean ASTM, sorry.

  5. TheEqualizer says:

    Your "facts" are provided to you by Amsoil using their tests, they are not performed by an independent lab.
    Regarding "my engine", I pulled the valve covers and found no "sludge" whatsoever after running Castrol GTX for 100K miles. That said, I believe in the superior properties of synthetics whether they be Amsoil, Mobil, etc.
    I have Amsoil gear oil in the differential of my Infiniti!
    I am not an engineer, but I do know that the 4-ball wear test (which used to be highly touted by Amsoil) was designed for EP (extreme pressure) applications such as gear oils and grease. I discussed this once with a Timken Bearing Co. mechanical engineer. He said that using the test for motor oil applications was dubious at best and deceptive at worst. Doesn't matter because Amsoil's latest 4-ball test shows that Mobil 1 Extended Protection is right there with you...heck Motorcraft Dino oil matches you!
    I can get a 5 qt jug of Mobil 1 EP 5w-30 for $25 at Wal-Mart. I usually run a Mobil 1 oil filter.
    My last oil analysis was done using the above for 15K miles in a 2002 Camry 4-cyl with 80K miles. They said I could have run another 3-4K miles with no ill effects.

    There is a law in Economics referred to as "The Law of Diminishing Returns"...look it up.

  6. LubeDealer says:

    Excuse me, but 1; the facts I'm posting ARE NOT from AMSOIL! They ARE in fact test results from INDEPENDENT testing labs, who don't care WHICH brand/company comes out on top, only that their results & data are accurate. 2; AMSOILs' Motor Oils along with AMSOIL Gear Lubes, Greases, Trans. Fluid, Hydraulic Oil etc. ARE Servere Service/Extreme Pressure. 3; Mobil 1 Extended Protection DOES NOT equal AMSOILS' Specs. & Motorcraft "Dino oil" as you call it is LIGHT YEARS away/inferior. THERE IS NO PETRO. OIL ON EARTH LIKE YOU CLAIM & DEFINITELY does NOT match AMSOIL, NOT EVEN CLOSE!! That's an boldfaced LIE!! 4; It is plain to see that you're just a argumentative, self-proclaimed know-it all & A LIER who makes up your own specs. Truth is, I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU PUT IN YOUR VEHICLES, YOU CAN FILL THEIR CRANKCASES WITH MUD FOR ALL I CARE, I'M FINISHED WITH YOU, YOU'RE NOT WORTH MY TIME AND YOU'RE REALLY PISSING ME OFF!!!

  7. LubeDealer says:

    TO: Everyone,
    I have spent the last two days researching the "test chart" shown on a link posted by an indiviual. The chart shown on that link is FRAUDULENT. (Likely made on home PC using Adobe or similar program). To see the GENUINE chart, go to www.amsoil.com then scroll down to ATM (4th oil down) then "information", then "stacks up to Competition".
    AMSOIL Inc. manufactures several grades of Gasoline & Diesel Oils & ATM is one of our lesser grade Synthetics for those who desire to run a quilty Synthetic at a lower cost. But it still out performs the competition.

  8. The Equalizer says:

    @LubeDealer: Please quit making a fool of yourself and spoiling this thread. The link I posted came directly from Amsoil's website. All I did was circle a few things in red. If you spent 2 days "researching" this then you need to get a life. I have maintained that Amsoil makes fine products, but questioned the value of the 4-ball wear test for motor oil apps. That is all...o.k?

  9. Symon says:

    @Lubedealer, this is blog for consumers not the pit crew from a Nascar race team. You think an average joe got time to special order his motor oil? No we simply buy motor oil from the local auto store, walmart & if I wanted to at the dealership or internet as well. The point of this blog is if the 3,000 myth was something the Automotive industry made up & if it true or not. I simply back this myth up because overall a consumer should also pay attention to other fluids as well not just your motor oil. For those who said their car didn't experience engine failure after so many years is because Engine block & cylinder head were design to last a long time & it vary by car company but generally speaking they are not suppose to fail after 10+ year of use. We need to understand how combustion works which involve air, fuel,spark etc. Of course if you live in the desert & you suck all that sand into your intake yes they will be engine wear & what not. In addition majority of driver are not hitting 6000 to 8000 rpm to cause excessive heat. Those driver are the one who beat on their engine but at the same time love their cars to death. Then you have your backyward mechanic as they say & then people who don't have a clue where their dipstick is . The point I'm making is " just follow your vehicle maintenance if you want the best out of your car. This blog is simply classifying two type of driver. The Driver who love their car & who will buy the best motor oil money can buy & then the conservative owner who take they car to their local auto mechanic because 3,000 miles & it time for an oil change. It not science , we have better thing to worry about than an oil change.

  10. LubeDealer says:

    toyota owner, I own a 2003 Pontiac Vibe. The Vibe is the GM version of toyotas' Matrix, both having the same Toyota Power & Drive Trains. ie; Toyota 1.8L 4Cyc Engine & 4 Speed Overdrive Auto. Trans. I purchased it used with 30,000 miles, now has over 65,000. The next day after I purchased it, I flushed the engine with AMSOIL Engine Flush then installed AMSOIL 0W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil & AMSOIL Oil Filter. Then 3 months later, I had a shop flush the Transmission & install AMSOIL ATF. All of this was in 2006. Since then I have had NO problems of any kind. Also, after installing the above AMSOIL Products, its fuel economy increased from 28cty. to 29cty. & from 31hwy. to 34.30hwy. I change its engine oil & filter only once each year. (I drive around 12,000 miles/year). If you would like to know more about AMSOIL Ultra-High Performance Products or have any questions please see my Dealer Web-site

  11. LubeDealer says:

    toyota owner, Post-script to my above reply. You need not worry about running Synthetic in your Matrix. As I have stated, I have had no problems & I doubt that you will. Its fuel economy will likely increase, however, since I do not know the brand of Synthetic which was installed, I suggest you follow the manuel as long as you continue to run that brand. You should know that AMSOIL Inc. developed & marketed the World's FIRST API approved Synthetic Motor Oil in 1972. Since then dozens of "copycat" Synthetics have flooded the market, but independent testing shows AMSOIL is the finest. None of the others are superior to, OR EVEN EQUAL to AMSOIL! Since you drive so few miles, I suggest AMSOIL "XL" Motor Oil of the correct viscosity. The "XL" series is our 7,500 mile/6 month Motor Oil. I hope you (& all interested parties will contact me).

  12. LubeDealer says:

    I received an email from an individual pointing out my typo on my Feb. 28 posting @ 1:53PM. Yes, I ment to say AMSOIL "Toll-Free" Order Number, but it was too late to correct, had already been posted.

  13. Name says:

    You know, it's been fun listening to (reading) you guys go at each other, but I've become bored. I own a delivery service and I have multiple vehicles with over 400.000 miles and still running strong. (Admittedly, the ones with that king of mileage are wore the "F" out, and are used for back ups). I take great care of my vehicles by immediately repairing anything that breaks... and changing the oil, since it's in the shop, anyway. That is my oil change schedule, and it has worked well. The way I see it, 1, it just doesn't make enough of a difference because I'm buying a newer vehicle by the time it has that many miles, 2, I can spend a fortune maintaining to the best of my ability, every system on every vehicle I own, only to have it totaled, or stolen, or ??? It's happened. "Some" of you guys talk like this stuff really matters. Get a life.

  14. LubeDealer says:

    Name, there are advantages other than vehicle longevity. My Vibes' fuel economy has increased just under 11% hwy. Its hwy. mpg went from 31 to 34.30mpg, & from 28 to 29.2mpg cty. when I checked it at my last fill-up a few days ago. The money I've saved in gas is many times the cost of my yearly Oil & Filter change. Overall performance is also much better than when I purchased it used w/30,000 miles in '06.

  15. LubeDealer says:

    Name, Your assumptions are WAY OFF. If you will re-read my posting of March 19th, 11:52AM. You will see that I stated that I change my Oil & Filter once a year & drive around 12,000 miles per year. Also, I drive 75% in city, 15% country & 10% hwy. Changing my Oil & Filter takes 45Minutes to 1 hour which I do myself. As for cost of 1 Gal. & 1 QT. of AMSOIL 0W-30 Motor Oil & 1 AMSOIL Oil Filter, it's $60.00 @ wholesale/dealer/preferred customer price. You're correct about the price for gas averaging $3.00/Gal.

  16. LubeDealer says:

    OK, here's the bottom line. I have been an AMSOIL Dealer for 25+ years & have run nothing but AMSOIL in everything I own ever since. I have never needed to replace any parts in any vehicle, machinery or equipment I own which are lubricated & protected by AMSOIL Lubricants, Filters etc. So, if you really want to protect your vehicles & equipment to the most infinite degree, run AMSOIL Products. You'll also gain MPG, HP, Torque, Performance......... If you don't care about vehicle longevity & protection, then stay with one (or more) of the copy-cat so-called "synthetics".
    Go to my Dealer Website for contact information.

  17. lube tech says:

    You know I my self work at an oil change place and have heard several different service intervals. I personally change my oil every three moths three thousand miles,
    I my self am not gona risk my engine over 25 to 30 bucks an oil change or around a 100.00 a year. I'd rather pay that than costly engine repairs. Thats my two cents.

  18. brad chandler says:

    I know one thing, the newer, the fresher, the cleaner the oil, the better!

  19. car service says:

    I always go with the manufacturers manual to check when you need to make oil changes. It saves money in the long run.

  20. Tom Joe Billy Bob says:

    Old air cooled motors are a different story, 914 and VW motors(Type 4, 3, 1) etc. Owning and building these motors I found if I changed the oil every 1k miles(I know this is crazy) I could get a motor to last 2 to 3 times as long before a rebuild was needed. Newer water cooled motors, synthetics and etc. I usually go 5,000 miles. I only run Amsoil in my motorcycles, putting it in anything else is too expensive and unless I am selling Amsoil, no point to be honest. There is a reason when racing cars, motorcycles, etc. they change the oil after every day of racing, or every run(usually drag cars)

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