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Customer Discussions > Automotive forum

Are 3K oil changes necessary?

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Initial post: Jan 20, 2011 1:45:02 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2011 10:40:14 AM PST
Seeker says:
edit: Well, now there is some guy that must work for VW making ridiculous claims and trying to sell cars. Please pardon his ignorance.

edit: Note that for the last few weeks a couple of people seem to be selling something on this thread by making several posts unrelated to the subject. These "testimonial" posts involve oil supplements, or brands of synthetic oil. Be careful of posts involving mention of brands. Back to the original post:

Original post: Oil Changes......necessary @ 3K or not? As a parts guy for over 30 years I can probably count the oil related engine failures on my toes and come up with change. The ones I've seen are from LOW oil level, NEVER changing oil, and high volume pumps starving the bottom end @ high RPMs. (big blocks especially) Otherwise I've seen LOTS of high mileage cars that run fine with a minimum of maintenance.

CHECK THIS ridiculous post out:
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 29, 2011 6:16:33 AM PDT
H2INVEGAS says: ok im a master tech and i recomend every3000-3500 and full synthetic 5000-6500 miles. i wouldnt waist my time or money on synthetic blend. but everyone needs to relize that a oil change is the cheapest service that you will ever do in 100k at $25 you will spend $825 wow ive spent more on dinner!! so please people change your oil and filter111

Long Distance Voyager says:
DUDE.........!!!! You are just the perfect example of why people should be questioning their OCI's. A guy that claims to be a master tech and can't spell, or even use spell check, has a problem with his caps lock, drives a Hummer? (based on your name), and makes enough money from selling unnecessary service to spend more than $825 on dinner. (and own a Vett as well as that gas hog)

Yeah, I'm gonna call right now to make an appointment to get my oil change from where YOU work........right!!!!

edit: worthy post.......

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 28, 2011 2:19:36 AM PDT
Richard A. Shipp says:
I own a '90 Honda Accord, with 512k, a '96 Toyota Avalon w/ 270k, and a 96 Toyota Camry w/ 311k. No motor work on either Toyota and only valves ground on Honda. I use the cheapest oil that I can find with the little starburst on it, as per consumer report. I replace the filter each time with a pretty cheap filter (it is name brand), and I don't change oil until 5,000 miles. Spend more if it makes you feel more secure. As for me I'll save my money for this high priced fuel.

edit: worthy post........

Posted on Sep 16, 2011 5:11:59 PM PDT
Charles says:
433,000 on a New Beetle TDI
302,000 on MB 300SDL
275,000 on Ford Bronco II
212,000 on Ford F150
176,000 on Volvo 240
. . . . .

I have never changed my oil at 3K - always on the 5s (5k, 10K, ...) and not had a bit of oil or wear related engine issues. I use the best filter available (Motocraft for Fords and Mann for my European ) and Castrol oil .

Most of the time the engine oil has just begin to change color by the time 5K rolls around, but I go ahead and keep to the schedule (so I won't forget and accidently go to 10K).

edit: this is the most interesting post so far..........

I work in an oil lab that tests oil for Caterpillar machinery and changing oil every 3000 miles is unnecessary. We have machines that test wear in the engine and I have gone over 10000 miles with the oil in my car in the desert heat of Arizona and there was no wear even indicated in the oil. If the oil was breaking down the engine, then it would show in the oil, because that is what oil does... protects the engine from wear... There was no change in the thickness of the oil either. It is the oil dealers selling their product.

edit: I've never seen so many idiotic comments. Of course that is because so many don't read all the posts..........and then think.....Some of the points that become obvious.
1. Those that sell oil........try to sell oil.
2. Those that have little actual experience with longer oil changes, tend to believe Jiffy Lube..........
3. Those that change oil often, don't realize how expensive UNNECESSARY changes are.
4. Those that have tested the recommendations through skepticism, keep the most money in their pockets. Because they DON'T change as often, and they still have engines that go as far, or farther, than those that do.

edit: another interesting one........check out the link to verify.........

Compulsive oil changers are actually causing more engine wear than the people who let their engine's oil get some age on it. Engine wear actually decreases as oil ages.

The fact that wear decreases has been substantiated in testing conducted by Ford Motor Co. and ConocoPhillips, and reported in SAE Technical Paper 2003-01-3119.

edit: a good point from a post.........
The color is NOT a good indication. Because of detergents, the oil can appear black very quickly. For another reason --oil pan gasket leaked-- I drained my oil at just 1000 miles. This is on an engine with 120,000 miles that ran very well. It was BLACK. That does not mean my engine was dying, or even unusually dirty or sludged; the detergents picked up the dirt as was their job. If you grabbed a bar of soap, and noticed the soap lather was pearly white and your hands still dirty, that's not a good soap! But the lather sure looks clean :-)

edit: another good post too long to put here, but if interested check it out.......Posted on Jun 7, 2011 3:04:55 PM PDT michael says:

Posted on Jan 20, 2011 2:21:03 PM PST
J.B. Pender says:
I just now ran across this question,which is a good one,since now a lot of these "oil changing stations" recommend changing every 3000mi. I agree with Fargone.Not necessary,just a gimmick to get you in so they get richer.I am 73 yrs of age,I have owned many cars,NEVER changed my oil under 5000mi.I always change filter,however,when I change oil.I always got hi-milage from the cars I have owned.

Posted on Jan 20, 2011 2:47:12 PM PST
I am a professional technician, we do oil changes, but they are not where I make my living. In my experience, you will get maximum life from your vehicle by using the manufacturer's "severe service" table; if you read what qualifies as "severe" you will realize that it is nearly everyone.

PS -- Yes, I do believe a 3000 mile service is outdated, many newer "severe service" recommendations are running around 5000 miles.

Posted on Jan 20, 2011 2:54:39 PM PST
Mark Twain says:
I drive a Corvette Z06. The vehicle has an oil monitor that tells you the percentage of oil use remaining. If I let it go to 10 percent, I get a little over 4,000 miles on my oil. The car is a daily driver and I don't baby it. At around 40 percent remaining, I have slightly more than 3,000 miles on the my oil. The oil monitor is probably the only thing GM got right, on my Z06---it's based on an algorithim that takes into considertation heat, mileage, speed, idle time, etc. My wife's GM jalopy also has an oil monitor but it doesn't display the percentage of oil use; instead, an idiot light will come up saying that it's time for an oil change. I get her oil changed every 6,000 miles (Mobil 1); the GM light has yet to notify the idiot.

Posted on Jan 21, 2011 10:28:52 AM PST
Seeker says:
ya know, the reason this question came up was a discussion with some friends about the number of casualties in the middle east. I wonder how many gallons of oil get used unnecessarily by over maintainence. It's got to affect our fuel prices somewhat.

Posted on Jan 22, 2011 3:24:23 PM PST
mick says:
Keeping fresh oil running through your engine will most certainly extend the life of the engine. It is a fairly cheap thing to do and the benefits are huge. When oil gets old it simply dosen't do the job you want it to. Nice, clearish/amber that isn't black and liquidy is going to allow your engine to run much longer than an engine that is always running junk oil through it. I always use full synthetic, and always change at 3k (but could probably go to 4 or 5) just to be safe. I had have gotten an old POS saturn to over 200k before it died. And got a 85 Volvo to 430k miles (it was passed from my uncle to my dad to me over the years and always had good oil in it). I curently have a 93 4-runner with 173k on it with no problems. Oil is very important, in my opinion.

Posted on Jan 23, 2011 12:55:38 PM PST
Cruz says:
Automotive student, son of mechanic, and long-distance commuter who demands allot from his vehicle.

I have never seen a car that has been reasonably well serviced fail from not changing the oil frequently enough. Perhaps if your engine is leaking oil, then replacing it more frequently would help deal with the issue, but if it's leaking oil to an appreciable level, you probably have some sort of bigger worry than "will this trip push me over the 3K limit?"

I personally change on the 5K mark, makes it easy to remember, and I never have much of an issue with dark oil, or grimey bits in it. And I can promise you, my multihour, just one way, commutes over mountains put the engine through it's paces.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 23, 2011 1:47:33 PM PST
consumer digest reprorted that 3k mile oil changes are further went on to say that as a "maintenance issue" you can change your oil every 7k and change your air filter at the same time

Posted on Jan 23, 2011 1:52:39 PM PST
Max says:
No, it is not necessary.
If you plan to keep your car for many years, then oil types and the frequency of oil changes should be considered.

Posted on Jan 23, 2011 1:59:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 23, 2011 2:01:51 PM PST
J.C. says:
You can tell when oil degradation or contamination is bad enough to be causing engine wear because the hue of the oil darkens considerably. If you have only 1K miles on your vehicle and the oil is drifting towards dark brown it is time to change it (and look into possible engine problems causing it). If you have 5K miles on your vehicle and the oil looks almost new it is not time to change it yet. This applies more to newer or middle aged cars or those running synthetic oil, if you have an old car running dino oil for many years you may find the oil gets a shade darker right after you let it circulate around the engine at full engine temperate and the detergent gets some sludge in suspension. At that point you could drain the oil again, but frankly you might as well just consider the new darker hue the starting point and go from there judging further darkening.

As for people who say they have blah blah blah car with half a zillion miles on, remember that a really high mileage car that hasn't already been rebuilt at some point, tends to have mostly highway miles which isn't nearly as rough a condition as having a lot more cold starts and stop-n-go city driving. Put enough miles on any car in rough conditions and lots of things will fail in addition to the engine.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 24, 2011 10:07:45 AM PST
Joe Average says:
But what is your measure of high mileage? I've met people who could afford to buy new cars every 36,000 miles. They liked to brag about how reliable their cars were. Well, they OUGHT to reliable. They are still new by my measure. In my family I have relatives that replace cars at 100K miles. I replace my cars at 250,000 miles and have had a couple last beyond 325K miles with no engine problems (Hondas and VWs).

Not giving you a hard time. Just discussing... ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 24, 2011 1:46:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 24, 2011 1:48:34 PM PST
Whitey says:
YESSS!!! Pleez DO change your engine's oil ev'ry 3,000mi! I have a boat payment to make. And 6 girls in college too!
NO. Really, there is no need for that sort of schedule when changing oil. Way back when ( 30s-50s ), we had only NON-detergent motor oil. 2,000mi was the norm for an oil change interval. But NOT now! Some go more than 10K mi ( w/synthetic oil). There is a sensor in the oil pan that measure the condition of the engine oil. It keeps the oil level, temp, and quality monitored. Depending on how the car/truck is driven contributes to the life span of the oil. More stop and go driving leads to a shorter change interval.

Posted on Jan 24, 2011 3:02:15 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 24, 2011 3:04:50 PM PST
Kampbyll says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2011 5:15:04 AM PST
R. A. Ross says:
I disagree that "severe" applies to nearly everyone. I have been to a training school put on by one of the companies that supplies oil-additive packages to the major oil companies. (It's the additive package that gets the oil through the required certification tests.) When the OEM's refer to a "severe duty" driving cycle and spell out 'frequent starts and stops' - that means New York city taxi driving to the additive people. "Dusty-dirty' conditions means off-roading, which if you do it, you know. 'Trailer towing' means just that. IMO, few of us meet the "severe duty" classification; go with the extended oil change interval. In my case, I let the engine computer tell me when to change oil (GM uses a computer algorithm to calculate when oil needs to be changed).

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 6:01:22 AM PST
Bryan Willis says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2011 8:53:29 AM PST
Bobby Dunn says:
Changing oil removes a lot of contaminates that leaking oil kept full will not. Besides if you didn't change your oil I imagine you didn't change the filter, so the filter was full and was bypassing. I remember someone asking this question on Car Talk and they were given a very hard time.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2011 9:12:53 AM PST
DSpellec says:
Are 3K oil changes necessary?? NO! But it's a nice way for the service company to get you to spend LOTS of money...
My rig spends a lot of time on the highway and I change my own oil.
I use high quality synthetic oil and a high quality filter - and change them somewhere between 8K & 10K.
180K miles later and the engine uses NO oil between changes

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 2:41:04 PM PST
Biggest marketing hype since "Rinse and Repeat" was put on shampoo bottles!

60 minutes did a segment years ago. A number of NYC taxis after 100,000 miles, half changed @3K and half manufactures recommendation, engines were torn down and there was no difference in the engines!

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 7:11:58 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 26, 2011 5:23:14 AM PST
Joe Average says:
Wouldn't you agree though that a taxi runs most of a 24 hour period? My commuter car starts up cold, carries me to work or to the store and then parks again where in the winter it cools off again. A while later on errands or that afternoon if I drove to work, I repeat the process. At home I park my car where the oil has time to drain into the oil pan and the oil drips off of the engine internals. Next morning - the cold start routine all over. On a work day my engines endure the cold start routine at least twice - morning and evening.

The taxis operate in what kind of duty cycle? Starts up at the beginning of the shift and runs most of the day or night. Prob doesn't cool down completely if it gets parked while waiting for a fare.

Isn't it true that the warm up cycle is the hardest part of an engine's lifecycle? Isn't that the part most likely to contaminate the oil? Excessively rich fuel mixture leading some of that fuel mixture getting past the pistons. Cold parts that are loose (relatively speaking, in a worn engine) and don't seal well and don't work together smoothly until the metals heat up and expand. I'm thinking of a tapered cylinder in a higher mileage engine leading to some piston slap in a cold engine. I'm think of connecting rods rattling around just a little. Dry or nearly dry cams rubbing against lifters or rocker arms when the engine is cold. All these parts generating some metal fillings. Change the oil on a car with a magnetic drain plug and you get to see this sludge. Different from overheated oil sludge or moisture contaminated oil from an engine that never warms up for long enough. Been there seen that too.

That's why I watch my oil. When it is no longer clean, I change it. Costs me oil and a filter. I don't pay anyone to do this task. I'm not going to ask a mechanic whether he would like more of my money aka does my oil need to be changed... ;)

Watching my oil has shown me repeatedly on my modern EFI Honda - 5K with synthetic oil and agood Wix filter. When I did the timing belt last year I could see that the cam has almost all of the factory machining marks still after 212K miles. The tips of the cam lobes are the point of highest wear and that is where it shows the most wear. On my EFI VW, the same holds true. On my older carb'd vehicles I wouldn't dare go over 3K miles unless I was on the highway most of the time. Those engines suffer from early oil contamination b/c a carb never does as well as fuel injection at limiting the excess fuel getting dumped into the cylinders. Just to get the mixture right in the cylinders a carb usually runs a richer than a fuel injection system does with oxygen sensors. Just ride behind a carb'd car or truck sometime for a reminder of life before fuel injection or visit an antique car show and breathe a little. Some of that excess fuel goes into the air and some of that excess fuel leaks into the oil past the cylinder rings.

Fortunately b/c these are antiques now I rarely drive mine over 3K miles in a year anyhow. I change it then if it's dirty and I don't want to put it away for the winter with dirty oil. If I lived in the frozen northern states I'd adjust my service intervals to reflect that situation.

As for shampooing twice - just depends on how oily your hair is. My hair is a bit oily. It takes two washes with the cheap shampoo I use to get my hair how I like it.

Your mileage may vary.

I'd still AT LEAST change my oil and filter twice a year even if I had a car I was only driving 5K miles a year. I wouldn't use synthetic oil b/c I'd never get the benefits of that higher priced oil. I'd change it twice a year especially if I drove my car 5K miles a year and most of the use was very short trips such as to the grocery store from a vacation house. Now if this car's value was plummeting b/c it was just an average car or if the car was going to rust away before 150K miles had passed by I'd just change the oil once a year b/c the car was going to waste away before the engine wore out.

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 8:05:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2011 8:08:20 PM PST
J. Lee says:
Oil changes every 3K miles is something of antiquated recommendation. Cars and trucks these days are recommended to have their oil changed every 5-10K miles by the manufacturers themselves.
That said, take things with a grain of salt. Your components will last as long as the weakest link. If you use oil that's recommended to change every 5K but your car manufacturer says you have to change your oil every 10K, the oil may not last the entire 10K. Synthetic oils are much more durable, so it's something to consider switching to if you haven't already.

One good way to find out how often you should change your oil is to get an oil analysis. You can get a kit to send your oil sample in, and in turn, they'll analyze it to see the "health" of the engine, much like taking doing a blood test to see how your heart is doing.

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 8:05:38 PM PST
Joe, no argument with your logic. I'm generally a twice a year guy myself (oil change, not shampoo). I generally like to change oil in spring and fall. My RV (V10 Ford) recommends 5K miles or once a year (8K miles is average for an RV). My Yukon said 7.5K.

But the rest of the hype is every three months! 3K or 3 months. I think that most of us do not drive that extreme. My vehicle may sit for days and then go 300-500 miles a day for a few days. If I drive cross country and back within a couple of weeks, and it makes it to 7K before I change, I don't sweat it (for a lot of the reasons you mentioned). Are there drivers that should change the oil very 3K/3mo., no doubt, but that number would be a small percentage.

I'll take GM's or Ford's recommendations over Jiffy Lube any day! I think they are the ones that started the 3K/3Mo hype! You can't even trust JL to check the other fluid levels, at least I can't. Their big push is to up the items/ticket. I DIY mine also!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2011 5:34:21 AM PST
Joe Average says:
I've considered doing these oil tests - they certainly tell alot - but the tests cost as much as another oil change. Unless I had a vehicle or machine doing the very same routine daily I don't think the test would tell me much info that I could use.

Yesterday my commuter car carried us to my wife's eye specialist 150 miles each way. 75 mph there, 75 mph back. This morn it's snowing and I'm going to hitch up my Brenderup 1205S to carry home a water heater from the hardware store. 7 miles to work, 6 miles to the store, 3 miles home and then back to work, and at quitting time I have to pick up our children on the way home - likely on slick streets. Tomorrow it will just do the commuter routine. Next 150 miles each way several times for eye surgery and followup. Lots of variety lately!

To me a stationary or over the road engine would benefit the most from oil testing. Do testing a regular intervals to see where the oil quits doing it's jobs. Say every 5K miles after 5K miles on an oil change. Otherwise to me on a car engine it's just a shot in the dark to get one set of numbers that don't establish a baseline of a trend. Do I test at 5K? Does it matter which season? Do I test again at 7500? For me the extra 2500 miles is going to represent a different season and we travel more in warm weather so the car's uses will be different. In the warmer months you can find us driving on dirt roads to go hiking or mtn biking. More trailer towing with the bikes or home projects.

Just discussion here. Not throwing sand. Good discussion. Thanks folks!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2011 5:37:37 AM PST
Joe Average says:
HD in AZ - yeah, I'm not going to go every 3 months with no mileage. I agree on Ford or GM's recommendations any day. That said I have a '78 VW Westfalia that recommends I believe 7500 miles. No way would I let it go that long. Of course back then they would have liked to sell me another engine or vehicle...

I could imagine letting my modern cars go 7500 miles if I was on the highway more. My current Honda and VW say 7500 miles.

I've never let Jiffy-Lube get within 100 ft of my vehicles (as in no closer than driving by the store).

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2011 5:39:04 AM PST
R. A. Ross says:
I was just relating how the oil-additive people define a severe duty cycle. Yes, taxis are probably running for a whole shift without shutting off. Nowadays, I see taxis parked at peoples homes, so drivers must take them home and park them (like us) and not hand them to a 2nd or 3rd shift driver, so they maybe get 1/2 the starts/stops as an average driver. The worst thing for oil is probably short trips which allows moisture to build in the oil and form acids; schedule a few longer drives weekly to get the oil up to temp and drive the moisture out is my suggestion. The warm-up cycle isn't as bad nowadays as in the past. The old carburetors tened to run mixtures rich and contaminate the oil more. Modern fuel injection does a very good job of controlling mixtures. And, the additive packages/chemistries do a better job than they did 20 or 30 years ago. As far as 'dry' parts from shutdown, oils films remain on parts for quite a while, so 'dry' startups only really happen after very extended periods. (I know of someone that yearly blew up an RV engine because they let it sit for months without running - that was a dry engine!)

Posted on Jan 26, 2011 6:49:45 AM PST
Yeah, I don't understand the test thing. If I have driven enough, normal or extreme, that I think it needs to be tested, I'll just change the oil and filter and be done with it! May have to test if/when oil goes to $200/BBL, but I'll just change it for now!

My biggest problem is forgetting the transmission fluid! Drove an 89 S15 Jimmy for 200K and never thought about the transmission. The body was falling apart, but the power train just kept on going! Got a '00 Yukon then, man, that was a nice ride!

And, this dose seem to be a place for a discussion without the holy war attitudes! I like that!
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