Busting the 3,000 Mile Myth, Part 2

motor oil change

In our last blog, we talked about how quick-service lube centers and some dealership service departments have perpetuated a myth regarding the necessity of oil changes every 3,000 miles. In this second of two parts, we’ll talk about the how and the why of motor oil advancement, as well as give you some recommendations on how to know when to service your vehicle.

While the car-servicing industry relies on the 3,000-mile oil change to keep service bays filled and money coming in, customers tend to hold on to that myth because they’re largely unaware of advances in automotive technology. Among 2013 models, the majority of automakers call for oil changes at either 7,500 or 10,000 miles based on a normal service schedule, which turns out to be more than double the traditional 3,000-mile interval.

According to an online survey, the longest recommended oil change interval is 15,000 miles for all Jaguar vehicles. The shortest recommended oil change interval is 5,000 miles for some Hyundai and Kia models with turbo engines and Toyota vehicles that require non-synthetic oil. Toyota has been shifting its fleet to 10,000-mile oil change intervals using synthetic oil.

In addition, synthetic motor oils such as Mobil 1 are stretching the length of oil change intervals, leaving the 3,000-mile mark in the dust. In fact, the company’s most advanced synthetic product, Mobil 1 Extended Performance, is guaranteed for 15,000 miles.

But how has technology changed oil, a natural by-product, or fossil fuels to allow for longer intervals? Well, today’s longer oil change intervals are due to:

  • Improved “robustness” of today’s oils, with the ability to protect engines from wear and heat and still deliver good fuel economy with low emissions.
  • More automakers using synthetic oil.
  • Tighter tolerances of modern engines.
  • The introduction of oil life monitoring systems, which notify the driver when an oil change is required and are based on the way the car is driven and the conditions it encounters. Sixteen of 34 auto manufacturers now use oil life monitoring systems in their 2013 models, including all three domestic automakers; that represents a majority of the vehicles sold in the U.S.

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, waste oil is a problem only made worse by too-frequent oil changes. The agency, which has campaigned against the 3,000-mile directive, reports that 153.5 million gallons of used oil is generated in California annually, but less than 60% of that is recycled. Oil experts and car manufacturers agree that less-frequent oil changes can help alleviate some of the excess waste.

So, where does this leave the driver who has been indoctrinated to the 3,000-mile oil change myth by years of exposure? The short answer is to consult your service manual to learn your car’s actual oil change schedule.  This could save you hundreds of dollars over the next few years, while still fully protecting your car and its warranty, and limiting the over-use and waste of a natural resource. If you happen to have a car with a built-in oil life monitoring system, respect it and follow its readings to determine your service schedule.

So, there you have it – the 3,000-mile myth has been busted and your eyes have been opened to the truth!  At the very least you learned a little something new to consider. Either way, let us know what your thoughts are in the comments section below! We always appreciate your feedback!

*image: oemebamo on Flickr

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

Synthetic vs. Conventional Motor Oil: Which is Best for Your Vehicle?

Motor Oil

The question of whether one should choose a synthetic over that of conventional motor oils has been asked over and over again since synthetics first appeared on the market more than 40 years ago. This is an age-old battle amongst auto enthusiasts – some of whom believe that synthetic oil is the superior lubricant, while others are steadfast in their support of the traditional motor oils.

For this post, we’re going to go into some of the pros and cons of both synthetic and conventions motor oils to allow you, as vehicle owners, to decide for yourself which might be right for you. We’re going to start with the synthetics, since there is a large majority of drivers that don’t use or know much about them.

Synthetic Motor Oils

Synthetic motor oils first became available to drivers in 1997. Synthetic oils often use a combination of up to three different synthetic base fluids, including synthetic esters, polyalphaolefin (PAO) and alkylated aromatics. Regardless of the exact chemical makeup, synthetics share similarities. Whereas conventional oils contain molecules of varying sizes, the molecular structures in synthetics are consistent in mass and shape. This uniformity means those molecules create less friction as they collide, and less friction means less heat.

The Pros

The technical advantages of synthetic motor oils include:

  • Measurably better low- and high-temperature viscosity performance at service temperature extremes.
  • Better chemical and shear stability.
  • Decreased evaporative loss.
  • Resistance to oxidation, thermal breakdown, and oil sludge problems.
  • Extended drain intervals with the environmental benefit of less oil waste.
  • Improved fuel economy in certain engine configurations.
  • Better lubrication during extreme cold weather starts.
  • Can provide longer engine life.
  • Superior protection against “ash” and other deposit formation in engine hot spots (particularly in turbocharged and supercharged engines) for less oil burn-off and reduced chances of damaging oil passageway clogging.
  • Increased horsepower and torque due to less initial drag on engine.
  • Does not contain detergents.

The Cons

The disadvantages of synthetic motor oils include:

  • Potential decomposition problems in certain chemical environments (predominantly in industrial use.)
  • Because rotary engines inject small quantities of motor oil into the combustion chamber to lubricate the apex seals, and burned synthetic oil causes gummy deposits on the apex seals, synthetic oils are not recommended in automotive rotary engines.
  • A synthetic motor oil change can be 3 times more expensive than using conventional oil.

Conventional Motor Oils

Conventional motor oils have been used in one shape or another since Henry Ford rolled the Model-T off the assembly line in 1908. Conventional motor oils are derived from petroleum-based and non-petroleum-synthesized chemical compounds. Motor oils today are mainly blended by using base oils composed of hydrocarbons, polyalphaolefins (PAO), and polyinternal olefins (PIO), thus organic compounds consisting entirely of carbon and hydrogen.

The Pros

The technical advantages of conventional motor oils include:

  • Conventional motor oil can be up to 3 times cheaper than that of a synthetic.
  • New car engines require a break-in period of approximately 5,000 miles after they come off the factory line and are sent to dealerships. Manufacturers use their own brand of conventional oil when they assemble the car, so it’s best to continue “seasoning” the engine with conventional.

The Cons

The disadvantages of conventional motor oils include:

  • Conventional motor oil cannot be broken down to a level that just rots away and disappears such as organic waste and even when it is used up, it still leaves an environmentally toxic sludge in it’s wake.
  • Due to our dependance on it, scarcity has become an issue over the last 20 years, driving the prices of oil (and as a by product, gasoline) up in cost.
  • Reduced lubrication at extremely cold temperatures and increased breakdown in extreme heat.

The debate between Synthetic and Conventional Motors may be one that never comes to an end, but now you have the pros and cons of both. Do you have a preference on what you put in your vehicle? Let us know your thoughts in the comments sections below – we always appreciate your feedback!

*image: Desert Bug on Flickr