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

Spring Cleaning for Your Vehicle

spring cleaning for your car

Winter is the harshest time of the year for pretty much everything, but especially cars!  This is doubly true for vehicle owners who live within the snow belt. Corrosive road salt, loose stones, and road debris from snow plows, traction sand, and repeated freezing and thawing can wreak havoc on your car’s exterior, and leave your second largest investment looking like a jalopy. These severe aspects of winter driving can also put a strain on the moving parts of your car.

So, to help you get your vehicle ready for hitting the open road with the windows (and maybe even the top) down, we came up with 8 areas that should be checked once spring’s warmer weather hits.

  1. Check Your Alignment, Tire Pressure and Brakes – Potholes and other less-than-optimal driving conditions can throw your wheels out of alignment, putting more wear and tear on your tires. If your vehicle displays any signs of veering off to one side, you should have your alignment checked and readjusted as soon as possible.  In addition, check tire pressure against the recommended pressure for your vehicle and particular type of tire. The change in temperature can cause changes in air pressure within your tires. The change of seasons is a great time to check your brakes because they generally lose performance slowly over a long period of time, so we might not notice that they are not functioning properly until they get into the danger zone.
  2. Replace the Air Filter – Replacing a clogged air filter can increase a vehicle’s life expectancy and fuel efficiency by reducing strain on the engine, especially heading into the warmer months of spring. During the winter, snow-related debris and other impurities may build up in a vehicle’s air filtration system, and replacing the air filter can improve acceleration time by around 6-11%, according to fueleconomy.gov.
  3. Change the Oil and Top-off All Fluids – A typical driver generally changes the oil every 3 or 4 months, which corresponds perfectly with the change in seasons. However, during the winter months, cold weather puts extra strain on the engine as it must contend with more viscous motor oil. Once spring gets here, we advise an oil change to flush out the old oil and make sure all fluids are property topped-off – especially the coolant in the radiator. Proper fluid levels are critical for your vehicle’s best performance.
  4. Check Wiper Blades – Although people use their wiper blades often, their maintenance is something that is easily forgotten. Once winter is gone, you should check your current wiper blades for cracks, dry-rotting or excessive wear. If they look shabby, they’ll do a shabby job of clearing your windshield.  That’s definitely something you don’t want heading into spring (April Showers, anyone?). Don’t forget the rear wiper blade if you have one!  A good rule-of-thumb for the replacement of wiper blades is every six months to ensure the best possible clearing of your windshield.
  5. Check Your Battery – Winter weather can cause problems for your battery’s connections, so you will want to check posts and connections to make sure they are free from any dirt, grime, or corrosion. If the posts are dirty, remove the cables (negative cable first) and clean each of them thoroughly. If you don’t know how to properly clean them, check out this article. In addition, you should know your battery’s power level and the charge it is holding. If you don’t have the tools to do this, many auto parts stores will check your battery for free.
  6. Wash and Wax Your Car – Salt, sand, and debris from winter driving can damage your vehicle’s exterior, so wash it thoroughly as soon as temperatures rise and stay above freezing. Be sure to clean the underside of your vehicle, as well. That is where corrosive elements can do the most damage – even though you might never see it. Spring is also a good time to check your entire vehicle for rust, which can worsen during the winter months. So, in early April, give your car a good wax. Spring rains will roll right off and your vehicle will be much easier to clean the next time you decide to wash it.
  7. Touch-Up the Paint – You might have spent much of the last few months with your vehicle covered with snow, dirt or road grime, but salt, stones and even ice scrapers can cause damage that lies just below the surface grime. After you wash your vehicle, check for chips, scratches, or blemishes that need a paint touch-up. Buy a small amount of matching vehicle paint to do it yourself, or consult your local body shop.
  8. Detail the Interior – Your floor mats and carpets have probably seen better days after winter debris has been constantly tracked into your vehicle. If you have special all-weather floor mats, a simple hosing off will do wonders. If your floor mats are carpeted, vacuum them and clean any stains. With the floor mats out of the car, vacuum the interior carpets and around the various cracks and crevices of your vehicle’s floor. Use a vinyl/leather protector, like Armor-All, to brighten up dashes and trim that may have suffered during the cold weather.

Once you get your ride all spic and span, you’ll be ready to enjoy the warm weather while driving your well-maintained vehicle. Do you have any other Spring Cleaning Tips you’d like to share? Let us know down in the comments section below – we always love your feedback!

*image courtesy of hezoos on flickr.com

Vehicle Maintenance You Can Do Yourself

DIY vehicle maintenance

In a recent post, we talked about the importance of regularly scheduled maintenance to protect your vehicle investment. Although routine maintenance is a necessity, it can add up very quickly. But there are several areas of vehicle maintenance that you can do on your own for a fraction of the price – all you need is a little know-how, a little time and a little cash for supplies!

Not all of the things listed below are able to be performed by every vehicle owner. Due to details like time/space constraints or lack of proper tools and general know-how, you may not feel comfortable tackling any or all of them, but even performing one or two of them can help you to save money in the long run. Here’s our list of vehicle maintenance you can do yourself, listed in order of difficulty, with 5 being the most difficult and 1 being the least difficult:

Oil Changes/Topping Off of Fluids – Probably the most involved item on the list in terms of time, space, and tools required, replacing the oil and checking the fluids in your vehicle yourself can seem a bit daunting. With so many different makes and models on the road, it’s best to do a little research about your vehicle’s needs. Items to look into include: proper grade of motor oil; amount needed to fill the engine; type and size of oil filter needed; and location of fluid reservoirs. An extremely important aspect to consider before undertaking this maintenance on your own is the disposal of the used motor oil. It must be disposed of properly due to EPA regulations and cannot be simply dumped down a drain.  Difficulty Level: 5

Replacement of Hoses/Belts – Most hoses in vehicles are easy to locate and replace with simply a screwdriver and/or a ratchet set. Belts, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge as they will more than likely require the movement of other engine parts like the alternator or radiator fan. Again, a little research is needed to find the proper sizes, as well as the average useful life of both hoses and belts for your particular vehicle.  Difficulty Level: 4

Replacement of a Battery – Replacing an old or depleted battery in a vehicle usually takes nothing more than a screwdriver and a ratchet set, but sometimes requires a little extra elbow grease to clean any corrosion off of the terminal cable clamps. In some newer vehicles, especially electric hybrid vehicles, there may require a few extra steps to replace the battery, so be sure to check out the requirements (i.e. size, voltage, etc.) before disconnecting the battery.  Difficulty Level: 3

Replacement of Windshield Wipers – Probably the easiest item on the list, replacing windshield wipers is as simple as buying the correct size blades for your vehicle and snapping them into place. There are several different grades of wiper blades, so be sure to pick up ones that best suit your vehicle’s needs. Things to consider include: amount and type of precipitation in your area, driving conditions for everyday travel, and the durability type of the blades.  Difficulty Level: 1-2

Vehicle Detailing – Maintaining the interior of your vehicle is almost as important as maintaining the mechanics and the exterior, especially for retaining resale value. Auto detailing companies charge a lot of money for something that can be easily done on your own. Investing in the cleaning products and your time is a small price to pay to maintain the integrity of your vehicle’s interior. Simple things like treating leather seats and dashboard and vacuuming floorboards and seats requires little more than some Armor All and a handheld vacuum cleaner!  Difficulty Level: Varies depending on how detailed you want to get.

We mentioned earlier that all of these items required a little bit of know-how, but where do you go to find out how to maintain your vehicle? Great question! There are many resources available to you, but the first place to start is with the Owner’s Manual that came with the vehicle. This is where you will find all of the important information regarding your specific make and model and year.

From there, you can jump online and check out e-learning sites like eHow, wikiHow and How-Cast to get step-by-step maintenance instructions for your vehicle. In addition, there are a plethora of great blogs (like this one) that write reviews on different types of products, like motor oil and wiper blades.

As we said, with a little know-how, a little time, and a little cash, you can perform your vehicle maintenance at home! Have any other suggestions for DIY/home vehicle maintenance? Got an online resource that you use regularly for repairs? Let us know in the comments below – we always appreciate your feedback!

*image courtesy of marie_claire_camp on flickr.com

How Important Is Scheduled Maintenance For Your Car?

maintenance for your car

It goes without saying that a vehicle is a pretty large investment and that, new or used, it will come with the responsibility of maintaining its parts and systems. It’s through the routine of regularly-scheduled maintenance that owners can extend the road life, maximize fuel efficiency, and retain resale value for their vehicle.

Oil and filter changes are just a few of the important maintenance items that need to be done throughout the life of your car. While some maintenance items are more frequent than others, they all play a role in the overall care of your car.  Below is a list of the top 10 most common maintenance services. Some of them can be DIY if you have the tools, knowledge and time, while others require you to take the vehicle to a certified mechanic.

The Top 10 Most Common Maintenance Services:

  1. Changing the Oil and Filter – This is the most common and widely-known maintenance for all vehicles on the road, and it is also the most important. Changing the oil and oil filter every three months or 3,000-5,000 miles (depending on the use of conventional or synthetic motor oil) is crucial to maintaining the internal parts of the engine and preventing the build-up of damaging sludge, which can be fatal to the engine.
  2. Changing the Air/Cabin Filters – In most cases, when you take your car to a chain store for oil changes, a change of air filter is included with the oil change services. However, those who change their own oil need to be aware of the importance of a clean air filter. Clean air filters help to improve gas mileage, increase engine life and provide better acceleration, all while lowering the harmful emissions created by the vehicle.
  3. Tire Maintenance – Regularly balancing and rotating tires helps prevent the imbalanced wear of tires and may also reveal problems such as bald spots and partial punctures. In addition, properly inflated tires help increase fuel mileage and extend the life of the tires.
  4. Fuel Filter Change and Cleaning of the Fuel Injection System – For high-mileage vehicles, it is recommended that the fuel filter be changed every year to help maintain fuel mileage and prevent the build-up of harmful particles from gasoline in the fuel injectors. It is also recommended that fuel injection cleaner be added to a tank of gas every 15,000 miles to keep the fuel injection system performing properly.
  5. Flushing the Cooling System – This service is recommended every two years to help extend the life of the car’s radiator, heater and engine by flushing away dirt and rust that can clog the cooling system. The integrity of antifreeze also breaks down over time and should be replaced at the time of the system flush.
  6. Maintaining the Brakes – Next to steering, your brakes are the most important aspect of your vehicle, so brake shoes and pads must not be neglected. Poor shoes and pads can lead to more dangerous (and expensive) problems with rotors, calipers and drums. A yearly inspection is recommended to keep on top of any potential brake problems and a flush of the vehicle’s brake fluid is suggested every two years.
  7. Changing the Transmission Fluid – Much like the cooling system, the transmission fluid also requires regular changing to prevent the build-up of dirt and rust, which can cause damage to the gear system of the car. Changing the transmission fluid on a regular basis (every 30,000 miles) will help to extend the life of the transmission.
  8. Replacing Spark Plugs and Wires – Damaged spark plugs can cause engine misfires, rough idling and even problems with starting the vehicle. For optimal engine life, spark plugs and wires should be replaced every 100,000 miles.
  9. Replacing the Timing Belt – Timing belts should be replaced between 60,000 and 105,000 miles depending on the make and model of your car, and they should be inspected at least once a year.  Having to replace a broken timing belt can cause severe damage to valves, pistons, heads and the engine block and could possibly leave you stranded!
  10. Replacing Hoses and Other Belts – An annual inspection of all hoses and belts should be performed in order to maintain the integrity of the systems that connect to the engine through them. In addition, replacing rusted or damaged hose clamps can prevent failure of these systems and help them to perform at their best.

The good news is that most car maintenance facilities and dealerships keep records of your vehicle’s maintenance history and will keep you informed of when an upcoming service needs to be scheduled. In addition, there are a number of smartphone apps that can help you keep track of and schedule your own maintenance for your vehicles.

We hope this article brought to light the importance of proper maintenance of your vehicle.  If you would like to schedule an appointment for maintenance, simply click on the link below. We will be happy to go over everything you need to keep your car running at peak performance!

Was this article helpful or informative? Let us know in the comments below – we always appreciate your feedback!

*image courtesy of em2me on flickr.com