Busting the 3,000-Mile Myth, Part 1

3000 mile oil change

For years, drivers have been hearing the slogan, “Get an oil change every three months or 3,000 miles.” Then they find themselves driving to the local lube shop to get the oil changed just like clockwork. But, the reality of it is the requirement to change your vehicle’s oil every 3,000 miles is a myth. In this first of a two-part blog, we’re going to begin to dispel that myth to set the record straight.

Today, oil chemistry and engine technologies have advanced tremendously, but you’d never know it from the quick-change behavior of American car owners. The majority of automakers today will tell you that oil changes can be performed at either 7,500 or 10,000 miles, and some vehicles can even go as high as 15,000 miles between changes. Driven by consumerism, lube centers thrive on the 3,000-mile myth to bring in business day in and day out.  However, little consideration is given to car owners who are spending millions of dollars unnecessarily, which in turn creates more oil waste and drives up the prices of a depleting commodity.

This wasteful cycle continues largely because the automotive service industry, while fully aware of the technological advances, continues to preach the “3,000-mile gospel” as a way to keep the service bays busy. As a result, even the most economy-minded owners are dumping their engine oil twice as often as their service manuals recommend. Oil experts, mechanics, and automakers agree that the 3,000-mile oil change slogan is a myth that needs to be busted!

Not all of the blame for this over-servicing falls on the automotive service industry – part of it lies in our own insecurities about increasingly complicated engines that are all but inaccessible to the average driver. Under the hood of most modern cars is an engine practically encased in plastic and in some cases, the only thing you can easily access is the oil cap.

The 3,000-mile myth is also perpetuated by the quick-lube industry’s “convenient reminder” windshield sticker, which is nothing more than a highly effective marketing tactic that is used to get car owners into the service bay on a regular basis. Some service departments at dealerships are also guilty of incorrectly listing the mileage for the next oil change. Despite the owner’s manual recommending oil changes at the 5,000-mile or 10,000-mile interval, you still see recommendations for 3,000-mile oil changes. Because busy car owners seldom read their owner’s manuals, most have no idea of the actual oil change interval for their cars and blindly follow the windshield reminder sticker, whether it’s an accurate indicator of the need for an oil change or not.

Our oil-change addiction also comes from the erroneous argument that nearly all cars should be serviced under the schedule for driving under “severe” conditions found in the owner’s manual. On the contrary, the argument that most people drive under severe conditions is invalid. In fact, a number of automakers, including Ford and GM, offer substitute maintenance schedules for those who drive under everyday conditions. The truth of the matter is that the only ones who benefit from a 3,000-mile oil change schedule are the quick-lube outlets and dealership service departments.

In our next blog, we’ll discuss the hows and whys of motor oil and how to know when it’s right to get your oil changed.

Have you kept the 3,000-mile rule regimen to schedule service on your vehicle or have you been relying on the expertise of the manufacturer’s recommendations and making your own schedule? Let us know in the comments section below! Your input is very valuable to us!

*image: brownpau on flickr.com