3K oil changes

Why is it that since 1973, after the “oil shortage”, all cars went from 6000 mi. oil changes to 3000 mi.? All cars from the Cadillac Deville to the Morris Minor were 6000 mi.

What are your thoughts on that including politics?

My thought is that the 3,000 mile oil change is almost never what is printed in the owner’s manual. The 3,000 oil change interval is something that we are told by the folks who make money doing oil changes.

My 98 Civic has a “severe conditions” maintenance schedule that suggests a 3,750 mile interval. Yet the service manager where I bought the car recommended 3,000 miles. I guess he thought that extra 750 miles would help him with his boat payments.

That 3k recommendation comes mostly from Jiffy Lube’s advertising. My best guess is that they decided that they weren’t destroying enough engines, transmissions and differentials at the 6k interval, so they cut that in half.

And now, according to some information that I have read, Jiffy Lube manages to destroy something like 3-5 engines per week, nationwide, so I guess that they have accomplished their goal.


There is more to this than meets the eye! When oils improved in the 60s and 70s, manufacturers were stretching the maintenance intervals because it sold cars. The longer interval was always for ideal driving conditions, such as a travelling salesman might encouter. They also gave a shorter (3000 mile) interval for “severe” conditions, which were:

  1. Frequent starts and stops
  2. Driving short distance, less that 10 miles (engine does not warm up)
  3. Cold weather operation
  4. Trailer towing
  5. Very fast driving
  6. Taxi service

As you can see, 90% of US drivers would probably fit the severe category. However, most car owners went for the regular (long) interval with resultant warranty claims due to abuse which could not be proven.

The oils in those days were less than perfect as well, and many oils did not stay in grade, resulting in more engine wear.

Once the manufacturers woke up to what was going on they shortened the interval to a more realisic number.

Toyota at one time had 9000 mile intervals, which they now have shortened to 5000 for all driving conditions. They can’t monitor what driving pattern the owner has.

Oils have become very much better due to higher standards and better quality control. All oils now stay “in grade”.

It’s not a one size fits all in regards to oil changes. Depending on the environmental conditions and driving habits 6k miles is a perfectly attainable figure between changes.
On some vehicles, even 3k miles may not be often enough, and that figure is the upper end of the time frame.

Since when was the recommended oil change interval 3,000 miles? Mine is 10,000 miles.

Look in your owner’s manual, read what it says, including the part about severe conditions. Now consider how honest is the place that is trying to tell you that 3,000 miles oil changes are needed.

Stay away from those fast lube places.

That made me think of another point. In the 1970s, Detriot’s big three started facing competition from Japan. They may have shortened their oil change interval to improve reliability and longevity in the face of competition.

My new Toyota has 5000 mile intervals for oil changes, but very long intervals for everything else. My Nissan has 3750/7500 for severe and regular.

What make and model is your car? European cars now have long intervals for environmental reasons; less oil to dispose of. Volkwagen has its own oil spec. My old Caprice had the 3000/6000 mile interval but that was about 18 years ago. Oils have much improved and we now have long life filters.

Bu it is scary to think of someone living in Minneapolis, parking outside in the winter, no block heater, going to work a short distance, parking outside at work all winter long and changing oil every 10,000 miles. This is a worst case scenario, but any manufacturer who warrants and engine under those conditions must have a large budget. Or the engine must have an 8 quart oil sump.

I own a Ford Ranger with a 4 Liter engine and the owner manual does say 3000 miles oil change. My wifes 1996 Windstar with a 3.0 says the same. But I do remember my '63 chevy with the 283 stated 6000. 327 was the same along with the monstrous 409 and later the Ford 289 and the 350. Not to mention the big MoPar engines from the '60’s right up to 1973.

IMHO owners cannot be bothered to check engine oil level nor tire pressure. 3000-5000 miles safely covers most cars and keeps many cars longer on the road. This is a benefit of that interval.

Yeah you are right about that

Ed, with the quality of oil in the sixties, and the very high perfomance of muscle cars, these intervals were very risky for both the manufacturers and the car owner. That’s the main reason they were scaled back. again the traveling salesman doing easy highway driving found these 6000 mile intervals great, but aunt Minnie in Minot, North Dakota, was murdering her car with them.

With better engines and vastly improved oil, especially Extended Drain Mobil 1, you can now acually go 6000 miles without too many worries.

If someone is only putting 3000 miles a year on a car and this vehicle only sees predominantly short hop, city driving then it should be changed around the 6 month interval.

These extended recommendations are the cause of those oil sludging problems you hear so much about.
As far as I know, every car maker also has a “severe service” disclaimer and this is what should be used in the real world instead of the Alice in Wonderland one.

Agree OK4450; my mother-in-law fits that driving pattern exactly, and it took some time to convince her she was not “babying” the car by driving short trips slowly. She has a spring and fall oil change; 5W30 in fall and 10W30 in spring and gets by very nicely on normal dino oil. Her dfriendly mechanic also checks out everything else during these oil changes.

Yes, the Japanese were meticulous about maintenance; early Hondas and Toyotas even had schedlules for replacing differential fluids, manual transmission fluids and so on. The resulting long life gave pause for reflection by Detroit.

When cars became streamlined and they all looked the same there was no longer any need to change because of styling “obsolescence”. A 15 year old car now does not look too different from a new one.

One of my sisters-in-law has driving circumstances that are probably the worst in the world. Almost all of her life is spent in a 2 mile radius area. She just does not leave town much at all. I would be surprised if even one time a year the thermostat in her Blazer even thinks about opening. Half a mile to work, half a mile to the mall, half a mile to the grocery store, etc. is about it. This vehicle seldom even sees 45 MPH.

I think this is just the quicky-lube places making a buck.

My first car was a 1978 Toyota Corolla. I bought it used with about 14k miles on it, and sold it in 1984 with about 130k miles on it. I changed the oil regularly, just like the book said to, at 7,500 miles. This car was from the bad-old days of carburetors and catalysts, a very bad combination. It never used oil. At 110k miles, I had to change a front seal.

Other cars I’ve owned include a 1984 VW GTI, a 1990 GLI (which used a lot of oil from day 1), a 1996 Maxima and a 2002 Escape (which has an ejected spark plug problem right now). I have never followed the “severe” schedules, in spite of living in Northern California summers (100 degree days are pretty common here in the summer).

Even with this list of cars, I’ve never had a problem with oil consumption, rings, bearings, lifters (Escape excepted here), bearings, seals… The list of things you’d expect to see go wrong.

These cars represent well over 500,000 miles of experience. I think I’m on to something here.

I think most of us, who don’t drive on dusty, gravelly roads, should follow the manufacturer’s schedules for normal service. To heck (or whatever) with what Jeb down at Quicky Lube says.

My '71 Chevy van w/ 250 c.i. L-6: every 4,000 miles. (246,000 K miles). S.O.'s car: '89 Toyota Corolla AllTrac w/ 236 K miles, 4-cyl: every 4,000 miles. 1992 Olds Cutlass Ciera w/ 139K miles, V-6 3.3 L: every 5K miles. '85 Jeep Grand Dragoneer w/ Jeep 360 c.i. V-8 engine, 185K miles: every 4K miles. '92 GMC van, V-6, 4.3 Litre w/ 195K miles: every 5K miles. All oil changes accompanied with a new oil filter, OF COURSE! Is there a common theme here? All old stuff–all high mileage doing “mixed” driving. Remember this. OIL is cheaper than metal. My recommendation to you is change oil and filter every 4K to 5K miles with a new filter. Use the proper grade of oil depending on your ambient temperature. Manufacturer’s recommendations are in your Owner’s Manual. (Hey! I like old stuff. It still works well. Heck! I’m ‘old stuff’ and I still work pretty well!). But also remember what the oil change places sell–oil, filters of all kinds (air, fuel, etc.), light bulbs, etc. What is any business in business for? Well, to make money. Some of those oil change places have a very high employee turnover rate. Thay have been known to forget to replace the oil pan plug or cross-thread it; forget to install the new oil filter, or cross-thread it, and a few other horror stories. Best to use an honest, dependable independent shop. Yeah, they might charge more, less or the same as the chain stores, but are much less likely to “forget” pan plugs or cross-thread something. Is the couple of bucks saved on an oil change worth having to buy a new engine? I think not.

Oil companies call this the “Aunt Minnie Test”. This type of driving is extremely hard on cars, and the crankcase evetually ends up with water, gasoline and some oil. In fact, a lot of this driving will make the oil level RISE! My mother-in-law has this drining pattern.

When a car like this is taken out on the highway, there is often a sudden oil consumption of as much as one quart. After topping it up, the oil consumption is normal. Oil company reps giving courses call this “the mysterious diappearing oil”. Of course it is the water and the gasoline that disappears.

The only solution to this, as has been pointed out in other posts, is to have a friend or realtive take the car out for nice freeway drive and get it throroughly warmed up.

You are confirming the basic truth that oil is cheap and engines expensive! Going back to the 60s, I have changed oil typically every 3000 miles on mixed city and highway driving, and 4000 miles for all highway driving, regardless of what the owner’s manual said. In winter I have always used block heaters in freezing weather.

Although I have kept cars for a very long time, I have never had to overhaul and engine since 1965, and have only spent $185 on transmission repairs since 1965. The body of my cars usually went before the power train needed any serious work.