Scheduling Your Next Oil Change

May 12th, 2015 by

Oil changes are crucial to the life of your engine and your vehicle’s overall performance. Some people even compare the fluids of a car to the blood of a human being.

Oil is your car’s life force.

But, just how often that force needs to be checked and changed has been the topic of debate in recent years.

The conversation has taken a myth-buster type tone.

And the myth that’s been busted is the one which states that all cars need to have their oil changed every 3,000 miles.

Turns out, they do not.

This is an antiquated, hand-me-down belief that is costing both you and the environment unnecessary service fees and an excess of wasted used oil.

When you schedule your next oil change in Albany, have a discussion with your service technician to determine once and for all just how often your car needs an oil change.

The answer might surprise you.

 The 3,000-Mile Moneymaker Myth

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Generations of car owners have heeded the advice of those generations that came before them when it comes to routine oil changes.

If you’re a conscientious automobile owner, you change your oil every 3,000 miles to protect your engine and keep your car running smoothly.

Lest you forget, there is usually a helpful reminder sticker situated somewhere on your windshield, reminding you of the next 3,000-mile interval.

The wisdom here is that frequent oil changes also safeguard against wear and tear, protecting you from paying for future repairs.

And while routine oil changes can enhance your engine’s performance and protect the life of your car overall, they should not be scheduled every 3,000 miles.

Why?

Stronger, Additive-Enriched Oil

If you think about how much automotive technology has improved, it stands to reason that the quality of motor oil would also improve.

And it has. Starting back in the 1970s.

During the 1970s, lead gasoline began to be phased out because of environmental concerns, regarding pollution.

Lead gasoline also contaminated engine oil.

Once removed, engine oil remained cleaner, thereby requiring less frequent changes.

Also, with  tightened tolerances, (the gaps between moving the metal parts), and improved crankcase ventilation, the overall engine wear and tear isn’t what is used to be, allowing for greater intervals of time between oil changes.

Oil has been further developed to contain specific additives. Ideally, these additives extend the oil’s life and keep it working longer and more effectively. Almost like vitamins.

Synthetic oils, which are the oils most commonly used by the majority of cars on the road, have taken these additives even further.

Mobil 1 is an additive-enriched synthetic oil, but even stronger is the Mobil 1 Extended Performance synthetic oil, which stretches the mileage intervals to 15,000 miles.

Car manufacturers realize these upgrades and understand that their vehicles do not need oil changes as often as every 3,000 miles.

They’ve even developed a technology to help gauge the condition of an engine’s oil and alert a driver when it needs to be changed.

Oil Life Monitors, Your Car’s Blood Pressure Cuff

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Oil life monitors are effective tools for checking the condition of a car’s oil, similar to a doctor using a blood pressure cuff to see how your life force is circulating through your body.

Sixteen out of the thirty-four automotive manufacturers, including the three domestic automakers in the U.S., like Chevrolet, have introduced oil life monitors into their latest model inventories.

This means that most cars on the road today feature this evaluative, oil-saving technology.

So, what’s the problem?

Taking Advantage of the Uninformed

Unfortunately, the service industry, specifically the quick change stations, has yet to catch up, as they continue to stick 3,000-mile reminders on windshields across the country.

But the consumers need to get with the times as well because the majority still cite the 3,000-miles mantra with ease and confidence.

Better consumer-education is needed to replace this commonly-held belief with cutting-edge, researched information.

A 2006 California State San Marcos study revealed that 73 percent of California drivers change their oil more often than the manufacturer’s recommendation, which can be easily found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

The survey also showed that one quarter of drivers schedule their oil changes based on the windshield reminder sticker, which is often put there but by a quick change service, like Jiffy Lube.

According to most vehicle’s owner’s manuals, the recommended oil change mileage interval is approximately every 7,000 miles, sometimes even more.

In fact, if you’re lucky enough to own a Jaguar, you’ll only need to schedule an oil change every 15,000 miles. Some BMW models also share this bragging right.

In reality, too-frequent oil changes are unnecessary and a waste of money for you, but they are a money maker for the quick oil change service centers.

Ignore that sticker, do your homework, and schedule your oil changes according to what your car actually needs.

Your wallet will thank you.

And so will the environment.

An Environmental Incentive

Environmental concerns increasingly influence car purchases and performance, but the effects of routine maintenance on the environment tend to get overlooked.

Had those same California drivers in that study changed their oil based on those intervals actually required by their vehicles, rather than changing the oil twice as often, the state of California would have saved an estimated 21.6 million gallons of wasted oil from entering the environment, either via spills on roadways, or illegal dumping into drain storms by backyard mechanics.

On an annual basis, California produces 153.5 million gallons of used oil, with only an estimated 59 percent of that recycled.

Take steps to safeguard the environment by cutting down on how many oil changes you schedule.

So, When Exactly Should You Schedule Your Next Oil Change?

2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

Knowing that you don’t need oil changes every 3,000 miles is only helpful to a point.

The question remains, how often should you schedule oil changes for your vehicle?

Fortunately, there are some easy resources available to help you make this determination.

Check the Manual

Your car comes with a manual for good reason.

The information within has been carefully researched and organized with only one car in mind: yours.

So, check to see what the manual lists for recommended oil change maintenance.

Lost your manual or never had one in the first place for some reason?

Not to worry.

Technology saves the day in the absence of a printed manual.

Most automakers have posted their manuals online for your convenience.

Edmunds.com maintains a database, “Edmunds Maintenance Schedules,” for vehicles manufactured as early as 1980.

For extra ease, just plug your car’s make, model, and year into this ingenious search engine, “Check Your Number,” designed by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

According to “Check Your Number,” a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro should have an oil change scheduled every 7,500 miles.

Hmm…how many Camaro drivers would have already had one done by that 7,500 mile interval?

Know your numbers and avoid doubling up on routine maintenance.

Identify Your Driving Descriptor

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Another nice feature of  “Check Your Number” is that it breaks down and explains the rather vague driving descriptions of “normal” or “severe.”

Most drivers experience “normal” driving, with “severe” driving defined as driving on a regular basis in any of the following conditions:

  • Cold temperatures, less than ten degrees
  • Hot temperatures, more than 90 degrees
  • Intense humidity
  • Regular towing/hauling of heavy loads or materials
  • Repetitive trips under five miles
  • Excessive/sustained idling in stop-and-go traffic

Depending on your geographic location or driving needs, you might need to schedule an extra oil change at certain times of the year or after certain events, like a big move.

But, in general, it’s safe for most drivers to rely on the interval associated with “normal” driving conditions.

Use the Technology

If your car is equipped with an oil life monitor, as most new Chevrolet models are, keep an eye on the gauge and heed its alerts as they pop up.

For added certainty, consult the manufacturer’s manual to find out the listed maximum time frame for an oil change.

That way, you’ll always have a target number in mind and know not to exceed it.

Lab Work

Like a blood draw, an oil analysis assesses the condition of your car’s oil and reveals any current or impending issues with the engine.

For example, traces of coolant or fuel might signal engine problems that are better detected and addressed early on.

Your car’s oil analysis will accurately confirm how far you can drive between oil changes.

Use the Force

The new, Extended-Life synthetic oils are great options for older vehicles no longer under warranty and are able to stretch how far you and your car can go before your vehicle requires an oil change.

Remember there is no rule when it comes to oil changes. Pay attention to what your car specifically requires and schedule your maintenance accordingly.