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3000 mile oil changes

In CarTalk 0902, January 10, 2009, the advice “read your manual” was among the best advice Tom and Ray have given but the advice suggesting “synthetic” is magically always better is not. Synthetic motor oil can be better but where are the standards and certifications that the synthetically manufactured oil is actually superior? There are some European extended drain certifications but not all synthetic motor oils pass.



As for the hybrid often running in electric mode, all the energy the electric motor is consuming originally came from the engine. No matter that the engine isn’t running now, the engine still provided the power to move the car. If the car goes 5,000 miles then the engine moved the car 5,000 miles, hybrid or not. No justification in extending oil drain just because its hybrid.



5,000 miles / 6 months is a very good generic guideline. The 5,000 mile interval is very easy to see on the odometer. But once again, the owner’s manual is the last word.

As for the hybrid often running in electric mode, all the energy the electric motor is consuming originally came from the engine. No matter that the engine isn’t running now, the engine still provided the power to move the car. If the car goes 5,000 miles then the engine moved the car 5,000 miles, hybrid or not.

I am afraid that isn’t true. Some energy is generated from the regenerative brakes and that energy is used to charge the batteries. I believe there is also other technology in a hybrid that allows it to reclaim unused momentum to charge the batteries. Then there is the assumption that we are not talking about a plug-in hybrid. That might be an error as well.

I’m kind of an old school guy…I change every three thousand. I always have and I have had cars last a long time. I attribute this to the oil changes and my driving habits. I think three thousand is appropriate when driving primarily in the city. I also use semi-synthetic; many friends of mine think I’m wasting my money. I say in the long run I’m not.

I change every three thousand. I always have and I have had cars last a long time. I attribute this to the oil changes and my driving habits. I think three thousand is appropriate when driving primarily in the city.

Well I think I would believe most of the longevity of your cars is the result of your driving habits and maintenance habits.  The 3,000 mile oil changes likely had nothing to do with it.

Modern cars and oils are far different than in your grandfather's time and that likely was when 3,000 mile oil changes were the norm.  

Few car owner's even change their oil when due according to the owner's manual, yet you will find very few cars end up in the junk yard (Auto Recycling Center) due to oil related issues today.  In your grandfathers day (my fathers time) a much higher percentage ended up there do to oil issues.  Oil and engines are better today.

I’ve been using a 5000 mile interval since about 1980. Never had a problem with any car I owned from new following that interval. I have had used cars that burned oil or leaked or both, but they were pretty well beat up before I got them. I think regular oil changes are very important, but probably even 5000 miles is a little too conservative. It is easy to remember when looking at the odometer, and 10,000 might be a bit too infrequent.

I’m with you, Ranck. I think 3000 is too often, but I can imagine where 10,000 might be too seldom, so 5000 is my interval. If I had a car with an intelligent use-based oil change reminder, I’d go with it.

Many years ago I worked in a gas station. One day when I checked the oil on a customer’s car, the oil was a thick black sludge. I recommended to the owner to get his oil changed.

He replied with: “I keep all my cars for 100,000 miles. I never change the oil - I only add it when needed. I change the filter every 25,000 miles. It’s worked for all the cars I’ve owned so far, including this one which has 87,000 miles on it. Why should I do it any differently?”

I think that I used to work with that guy. We were just starting a trip from NJ to Florida in his car, and we stopped for gas. The attendant checked the oil, brought the dipstick over to the driver’s window, and asked, “When was the last time that you changed this mud?” My associate replied, “I don’t believe in oil changes”.

As it turned out, he didn’t believe in any kind of maintenance, and we broke down three times before we got to Daytona Beach. After that experience, I vowed to only take long trips in my own car, and not to assume that other people actually maintain their cars. And, for those of you who buy used cars, just remember that these “no-maintenance” types do wind up selling their cars some day.

Caveat Emptor!

Synthetic oil withstands extreme heat better and is generally a better investment for turbocharged engines. In nonboosted engines a properly designed, manufactured, and maintained engine that’s not abused will last the life of the car on dino. Nothing will save an engine that isn’t designed or manufactured properly.

I’ve never liked going beyond 5,000 miles. The goal os to make the engine last longer, not to make the oil last longer. Oil is cheap. Engines are expensive. Oil cannot be too fresh, only too old.

The hybrid question is an interesting one. Aside from the regenerative braking already mentioned, there are times when a gas engine is just plain not efficient where an electric motor is. Even though the electric motor’s energy came from the gas engine, it having been stored in the battery when the gas engine was running anyway and used to power the car via the electric motor under conditions when the gas engine would be very inefficient makes the system overall more efficient.

I’ve never liked going beyond 5,000 miles. The goal os to make the engine last longer, not to make the oil last longer. Oil is cheap. Engines are expensive. Oil cannot be too fresh, only too old.

Sorry but I was a professional bean counter:

How many cars that you or your relatives owned that have lost an engine or required expensive engine repair due to an oil issue that might have been eliminated by more frequent oil changes? What % of cars would you guess end up in the bone yard due to oil problems that might have been avoided with more frequent than recommended changes?

I just don't believe that in the big picture there is a compelling reason to change oil more often than recommended by the manufacturer (with a few notable exceptions).  

That said, I don't believe there will be any damage done by doing 5,000 mile oil changes other than a small cost and if it makes the owner feel better, then that in itself is worth the cost.

In 40 years of car ownership I’ve never worn an engine out (even after humdreds of thousands of miles…338,000 on my pickup) or lost an engine. And I’ve only used dino (never had a turbo).

In days of old I changed it every 3,000 miles. That was prudent then. Now I change it every 5,000 miles.

I consider oil changes a cheap way to protect and expensive investment. And I personally like periodicities of no more than 5,000 miles even in those cars that say you can go farther. As you suggested, I sleep better and that alone makes it worth the cost.

My reasoning has to do with blowby, dilution, and heat and shear stresses, but I know we’ve had the technical discussion before so I’ll skip the dissertation.

I’m more of a time related oil change person myself. I may put 6k miles on my car in a year, so I go every 3 or 4 months since I do a lot of short hop and some stop and go trips.
I read a pdf of a Mazda CX-7 owner’s manual and it gives the severe maintenance schedule as every 4 months for oil changes. But, the CX-7 is a turbo charged vehicle, so they require a bit more finicky maintenance.

Am “afraid” it is true.

All regenerated energy originated with the engine. The problem statement said, “hybrid” not plug-in hybrid, so all motive energy came from gasoline burning in the engine. Momentum converted to electricity came from the engine.

You have completely missed my point. No, synthetic motor oil does not automatically withstand extreme heat better. A synthetic motor oil could withstand heat better and retain its properties longer than an average oil, but this is only if the manufacturer cares about making a superior oil more than marketing wants a premium buzzword on the bottle.

There are no enhanced performance standards one must meet to sell a motor oil as synthetic. One only has to use approved manufacturing methods. There is no requirement for the result to be any better than the basic SAE/API/JASO/etc standards every other oil is subject to.

Let’s not argue about whether the energy is created by the gas engine and reclaimed by the brakes or whether the brakes generate the energy. It is a semantic argument and it all depends on how you regard the energy that is wasted when you stop a normal car.

When you compare hybrids to normal cars, both cars have to create energy to get moving, but only one will reclaim the energy used to stop. While a hybrid reclaims that energy and uses it to recharge the batteries, the traditional car lets that energy go to waste and its engine will have to produce more energy for propelling the car than the hybrid. So although the hybrid’s gas burning engine did create all of the energy in the first place, a normal car, in comparison, doesn’t reclaim any of that energy. So the normal car’s gas engine still has to work harder than the hybrid’s gas engine.

If you want to bicker about semantics, that is fine. However, your point is still flawed because hybrids reclaim energy that is usually wasted in normal cars.

While newer cars may be able to go longer without oil changes, tune-ups, whathave you, I personally believe in being pro-active. I change my oil with Synthetic every 3,000. I use a brand new, genuine Nissan oil filter (Cut one in half, compared to the Fram or Purilator and you’ll see the difference in design). The filter from the dealer’s parts department is a whopping $3 more than the cheapo brands from a discount parts store. Same for all the other genuine dealership parts I use.

Have I stuck to 3,000 exactly? No, last time I went over a little bit, almost 4k.

I do notice thought that the older my oil gets, the worse my fuel economy is. Could be coincidence with my driving routine. But, still, it’s statistical.

I too know many people who use the “I never change anything on my car” logic. And they rarely have vehicles that go past the 100k mark… and if they do, they’re barely holding on to life at that point.