Oil Changes on a 2009 Chevy Malibu

Recall Click and Clack several years ago revising the oil change schedule from 3K to 5K. On my Malibu, I got nervous when at 8530 miles it told me I had 20% remaining on the oil gauge and changed the oil. Ditto at 15,612. Now it says 60% remaining and the odometer is at 20,425. At this rate, I’ll have 25,000 plus when I get to 20%. When should I really change the !@#$% oil?

How long do you plan to keep driving the car? If the answer is 25 years, then I’d change it more often than your computer tells you. If you don’t plan to keep it longer than 100,000 miles go ahead and follow the computer.

For sure you want to change it often enough that you don’t invalidate your car warranty.

Modern cars and oils have longer life than they did years ago. If you feel better changing it more often, go ahead, it is not going to cost that much and it is not going to damage your car.

GM’s oil change monitor system has been around for more than 10 years. Imagine a committee of engine designers, marketing people, lubrication experts, test technicians and managers discussing their findings regarding their oil change monitor system with results indicating that it works well in the lab and in the field. You can be sure that, by now, there is enough experience with this system to indicate that it is safe for your engine. If it ever came back that GM’s oil change monitor system was faulty, the competition would have an edge.

You can thank GM for pioneering this system while the competition sat on their hands.

The oil change reminders are for the most part, bunk. If you’re going near 10k miles without changing the oil you have shortened the life of the engine.
Ever heard of engine sludge? Well, oil change intervals like this are the reason for that.

You can go 5k miles between oil changes if most of your driving is on the open road. If you do a lot of short hop, stop and go stuff then stick to the 3000-3500/3-4 months interval.
If your driving is REALLY extreme and the enviro conditions are applicable then even 2500 miles/3 months might be called for.

I recently saw some pics of an '09 Cadillac engine that seldom saw an oil change and you should have seen that poor engine inside. Nothing but swamp muck and one couldn’t even make heads or tails out of the timing chains or valve train.

According to the OLM on my 2010 Cobalt, it should go to 9k before an oil change is required. I’m not comfortable with that interval. I normally go 4k between changes, but I’m going to go to a 5k interval for this car with about 45% oil life remaining.

I have to wonder about the contribution of GM marketing department to the development of the OLM algorithm, i.e. to lengthen the interval for marketing purposes. Probably the same people who gave us Dexcool with it’s 5yr/150k interval. The Cobalt doesn’t have a change interval for the auto trans fluid for Normal Service (50k for Severe service). I have a higher regard for OK4550’s opinion over GM or any other auto manufacturer.

Do whatever oil change interval you’re comfortable with, but remember to check the oil level on a weekly basis.

Ed B.

Oil changes are cheap. 3,000 - 5,000 isn’t a bad idea.

The oil change reminders are for the most part, bunk. If you’re going near 10k miles without changing the oil you have shortened the life of the engine.
Ever heard of engine sludge? Well, oil change intervals like this are the reason for that.

Nonsense. You obviously know nothing about the GM OLM. You obviously also no nothing about the various maintenance monitors at all. All the sludge stories can be mostly attributed to negligent common American consumers that treat an automobile like a cheap appliance. VW/AUDI had issues around 2000-2002 when they over sold their cars and had too few service centers with approved oil. They charged a fortune and your average nitwit went to Iffylube and had common conventional oil put in it.

Now the Toyota sludge stories are a little more valid. They had to cut back the numbers, but still “Toyota’s are built to last”, right.

None of this had to do with any oil monitor. It had to do with engineering, marketing, and immature Americans buying Euro-Alloy since it was so chic to be continental when you’re a busy achiever.

The GM OLM is a masterpiece of design. It’s all software. Nothing to wear out. About the only thing it cannot account for is driving in dusty conditions. Idling, towing, short trips, highway, WOT for long distances …it sees it all and factors it accordingly.

Do you think taxi service is “severe”? Not at all. It’s quite easy on an engine. One cold start a day, etc…etc. What makes it fall under the severe schedule is that an odometer is a lousy way to measure usage and so far we don’t have an accurate accumulative fuel usage gauge.

The OLM takes all that into account. Load, speed, time in warm up, trip duration, ambient air temp, total revolutions.

It’s the greatest advancement in car maintenance since the creation of synthetic fluids.

Now, if you happen to be one of the numb nitwit immature American consumers who can’t manage to check their oil, then you’re doomed in any car. Don’t blame the car if the driver doesn’t deserve to have a license.

To the OP: “Contour” your oil changes to the OLM. That is, if you’re nervous, draw your line at 10%, 15%, 20% …whatever. That should still give you the advantage of the system. It’s far superior to static mile/time schedules. Even at your reduced rate, you’re saving a ton of time and money compared to your former 3-5k prison that you were trapped in.

I agree.

The car (or the software) monitors all available parameters of driving and determines how much life the oil has left. Only question is how conservative the manufacturer has been in setting the limit. Like geeaea says, if you are not comfortable with the monitor, change the oil when you have 10, 15, or 20% of life left. But don’t change the oil prematurely according to odometer reading. It may only cost 20-30 dollars, but the impact to the environment is not cheap.

Badmouth me and consider me a numb nitwit immature American consumer who can’t check their oil if you want and you also left something out that the OLM does not factor in; humidity, engine maintenance and performance (or lack thereof), etc.

I’ve been a mechanic for nearly 40 years with a crate full of certifications (not that those mean a lot to me) and even hold an FAA Powerplant license for aircraft. I don’t mean this as arrogant at all but I feel 100% comfortable with my opinion and answer.

So as a followup I ask:
How much time do you have in as a mechanic?
How many engines have you torn apart and repaired or rebuilt?
How many customers have you dealt with regarding premature engine problems?

Do you work at that place that make those “Terminator” things? I hear they are controlled by a masterpiece of software. "masterpiece and software, there are two words that should not be in the same sentence. "they take it all into account except idiling, dusty conditions,towing,short trips, WOT for long distances, I was waiting for the punch line and found it to be “masterpiece of software”.

Oldschool, I Read The Comment You Refer To A Little Differently Than You.

Nothing to wear out. About the only thing it cannot account for is driving in dusty conditions. Idling, towing, short trips, highway, WOT for long distances …it sees it all and factors it accordingly.

I took it to mean that driving in dusty conditions is about the only thing that isn’t accounted for in the author’s opinion. I am inclined to believe that towing, short trips, and WOT for long distances are factored in by the device in his opinion.

Since I’m a 5,000 mile interval guy (normal conditions) I am listening and learning. My next car will very probably have one of these monitors. I am a little set in my ways and have to digest all this stuff long before I can change.

I value the opinions of OK4450, Gary (geeaea), Wha Who, and you Oldschool.

I agree with Wha Who also and believe that these systems must have some merit. I think Gary’s comment about “contouring” the change interval to whatever you feel comfortable with could be a decent compromise for some consumers.


We own a 2008 Dodge Caravan that tells you when to change the oil. The change oil did not come on until Feb. of 2010 at 2700 +/-, that’s all my dad actually drove it. I changed the oil every 6 months anyway,(because of the high humidity in the Wash DC area)so it was actually the 4th change since new. I don’t think 2 oil changes a year are that much either for the wallet or the environment. And as long as he drives so little I will change the oil every 6 months just to avoid any degradation issues. I would rather change the oil too much than too little.

I have a GM OLM and I don’t like it, never liked the idea, and I ignore mine (except for the annoying light that I need to turn off once in a while). I still just do the 3-5K thing.

GM has one interest and that is selling cars that will reasonably last through a warranty period. OLMs are selling points. Warranty periods are not very long and even very poor maintenance will get many cars through it. I keep cars for a long time - well past warranty periods are up so I tend to follow maintenance schedules that will maximize longevity. GM and their engineers really don’t have my goals or interests in mind.

I can’t say for sure that my engines will do better with more frequent oil changes, but it is really cheap and easy insurance. It is also the case that no one can tell me that my engine will do just as well following the OLM.

Here’s an extra issue that applies in my case and I’m sure in the case of many other drivers. For many people the oil change is the time that other things get checked out (other fluids, tire & suspension checks, leaks, hoses, belts, etc.) This is not necessary & its not the only way things can be checked out but it is a norm. By extending the time & mileage between changes I sometimes wonder how many people end up spending a lot more over time by not finding problems as early as they would otherwise.

To the OP: my advice to anyone who has ever asked is exactly what Goldwing said in the first reply.

I can tell you that I’ve seen a number of vehicles come in on the hook with engine problems due to extended oil changes. Some were moderate in nature and others were severe enough that the engine was total scrap metal. A number of these engines did not even have 30k miles on them.
One VW had a sludged engine at 10k miles although at this point it was not as bad as some. The cam lobes were galded so it was still a pricy fix.

A dealer I worked for bought a number (approx. 30-40) Chevrolet fleet cars and every car had approx. 35k miles on them. Every single one of them was sludged up and slightly smoking.
What was the common denominator on all of them? Extended oil change periods.

On a brighter note, things like this lead to more work for the shops and as the old Fram TV commercial used to state, you can pay me now or pay me later.

OK we will work this a different way. My main message is that for these type of devices to become more accepted than Dad,or Grandad, Or Uncle or previous media advertisment the manufacture needs to create a major PR campaign,

We know there is a group of car owners that would gladly increase their service intervals based upon the slimmest amount of technical justification.

We also know there is a group that will not change from what Dad taught them for almost any reason, (and Dad taught then 3 mths or 3000 miles).

But their is a main group that can be persuaded to ignore what they have been taught and go with what the computer says. I believe the effort to grab this group will include a major media campaign on why they should trust the data displayed by these devices.

As it is know the only way the word is getting out is via salesman and service advisor, not a place I would want to be.

I will add an element of doubt. The oil monitor reset does not require a password. Anyone can reset the oil change monitor at any time without changing the oil.

This may be a shortcoming of the oil change monitoring system and deserves attention if that is the reason for engine damage incurred with the oil life monitor.

I’m not one of those who say that oil should be changed every 3k miles or 3 months. Going 5k miles is fine with me if the majority of the driving is highway use.

The oil life monitor in my Lincoln usually starts its irritating beeping about every 3500 miles which just so happens to be the rough change interval that I use. That car also gets about an 80/20 split of highway/city driving.

There is one other huge thing that dashboard widget doesn’t ever state; “open the dxxxxx hood and check the oil level”.
How many posts in just the last few months has there been from people with trashed engines who went 4,5, or 10k miles without ever checking the oil level at all and now they’re on the net frantically looking for a easy way out or a justification to point their finger at someone else.
The Honda lady with the trashed camshaft/engine and her apparent obliviouness to a growing oil spot on the garage floor is a prime example.

GM’s oil life monitor is supposed to be the best around. If you want to do some research on how well it does the trick, poke around at http://bobistheoilguy.com
Many people have this system and have sent in oil samples for analysis.

Myself, I work in a high-tech field and drive a 17 year-old car without an oil life monitor. But if I had one, I don’t know how much I’d trust it. If the monitor says I have 20% life remaining on the oil, what does that mean? Does it mean the oil is protecting a lot less than when new, but is still acceptable for most driving conditions? Does it take into account the quality and grade of the oil you put in the thing to start with—No. Does it account for any make-up oil added? I’m not sure, but adding a quart of make-up oil in between changes when needed significantly increases the life of the oil. Would I want to drive 90 MPH on a hot summer day with oil that had 20% life left? Probably not. If I had 20% of my fuel left, I’d be looking for a gas station right away. If I knew I had 20% of my life left, would I be taking it easy in the hope that I’d last longer? Deep questions…

I think I’d stick to 3,000-4,000 mile intervals with a good dino oil or if you want to push your luck, use a good synthetic and go 5,000 or further. Send in a sample for analysis if you’re curious–it’s under $25 to do so.

I’ll stick with every 5,000 miles, thank you.
My goal is to ensure that the engine lasts as long as possible, NOT to ensure that the oil lasts as long as possible.

I hate machines that think for me. I’m still wrestling with the fact that my car won’t let me use the defrost vents without it taking the liberty of turning the AC on. I used to push hot air onto the windshiend to help remove ice. Now it’s more diffiicult to do that.

Re: “VW/AUDI had issues around 2000-2002 when they over sold their cars and had too few service centers with approved oil.” I think I found the nitwits. They’re working at VW/Audi!

By the way, I’ve been banging around this site long enough to be able to (with the utmost confidence) testify to OK4450’s knowledge of all things engine. He’s massaged more cylinders than most of us have ever seen.