Does your car need an oil change every 3,000 miles?

Check your owner's manual to make sure you're changing your vehicle's oil at the correct mileage frequency. (Photo by Fred Patton)

Check your owner's manual to make sure you're changing your vehicle's oil at the correct mileage frequency. (Photo by Fred Patton)

Many of us received the instruction the same day we took ownership of our first set of wheels, right alongside a litany of other worthy pieces of advice from Dad. "Park in a lighted area if you can," he told us. "Never pick up hitch-hikers," he warned. And with regards to the regular maintenance of your car, "Change the oil every three months or 3,000 miles."

Well, times have changed. This ain't your Daddy's combustion engine.

In defense of Dad, there was a time when the "3-month or 3,000-mile oil change" was sound advice, not to mention it was easy to remember. Through much of the 20th Century, engines were harder-running and less-efficient than they are today. Auto manufacturers urged drivers to have their car's oil changed every 3,000 miles to extend the life of the vehicle, and as the decades passed the oil-change business followed suit by reminding customers of three-month and/or 3,000-mile recommended oil-change intervals.

But times have changed, oil has changed and engines have changed. Somehow, it seems, what has been a bit slower to change is the public's understanding of recommended oil-change frequency. Despite owner's manual recommendations that a vehicle's oil be changed every 5,000, 7,500 or 10,000 miles, many drivers hold on to the outdated 3,000-mile norm. In fact, according to a study by California State University San Marcos, 73 percent of drivers in that state change their oil more frequently than the manufacturer recommends.

So where's the harm in being over-protective? There is none. Does your vehicle suffer if you visit the quick lube shop every few months? No.

About the only thing that suffers as a result of getting an oil change every 3,000 miles is your pocketbook. And when you consider the math, the damage can be fairly extensive. Assume an oil change costs you $30. If you rack up 3,000 miles every two months, as many people do, you're incurring $180 in oil-change expenses every year. Now browse through your owner's manual. If the recommended oil-change interval for your vehicle is every 5,000 miles, your yearly cost would total just under $100. If the life of your oil extends to 7,500 miles, your cost would plummet to just over $60.

In addition to the financial benefit, weigh also the lessened impact on the environment. Consider the typical oil change produces five quarts of spent oil. A person who has his oil changed every two months sends 30 quarts of oil to the recycling barrel every year. By extending the life of your oil to its recommended change intervals, you can reduce your oil usage by half, perhaps even two-thirds.

What has changed? Why does oil in today's vehicles have better endurance than the oil we poured into our Studebakers, Bel Airs and GTOs? Two reasons rise to the top. First, today's vehicles are built with more efficient engines. They employ advanced technology such as oil monitoring systems and on-board computer diagnostics that help oil maintain its viscosity, while regulating the engine components that lead to oil breakdown. In addition, today's synthetic oil and lubricant technology can simply endure the pounding delivered by car engines better than engine oil of decades past.


I have a nissan Presage ,with big engine ,2.4cc ,with 8 seats and when i load it ,it does not develop .Sometimes en with 3 people it does not develop . I accelerate too much but it still not develop,what is the problem ? Does it need change the oil of transmission ?

Well, well, well. The old comparing apples to oranges continues. Longer oil change intervals are only recommended for full synthetic oils and only in some cars not all cars, not the cheapest oil change special oils that are who knows what kind of oil. High performance engines will hold eight to twelve quarts of a 5W40 PAO synthetic motor oil. A whole lot of money for a whole lot of expensive oil. They have oil coolers on the engines and can run higher RPM's like nothing else. And they cost anywhere from $30K to $100K, engine only, car not included.. A typical domestic car engine holds maybe five quarts of some cheaper conventional 0W20 or 5W20 oil. They are designed only to give you more miles per gallon because of Federal guidelines. This thin oil will never be able to perform the same tricks as the high performance motor oils for high performance engines. Just look at the SAE numbers: 0W20 vs.5W40. Which one do you think will be safe to leave in your engine for 7K - 10K miles? MANY owners manuals dictate to NEVER leave any oil in the engine past six months or five thousand miles, period. Some still require 3K oil changes to uphold the 200K engine warranty (Hyundai). And all of the reputable oil manufacturers will tell you that you cannot leave the oil in the engine any longer than the owners manual dictates regardless of synthetic or conventional oil choice. GM just released a memo in April 2013 that several hundred thousands of cars need to be brought into the dealerships to have the ECM reprogrammed for lower mileage oil change reminder lights since the timing chains were not holding up in certain models since this was costing GM in warranty repairs. The new "GM Dexos" motor oil just wasn't holding up to the extended oil change recommendations programmed into the engines computer.

It's important to remember a couple things- Your driving style has an impact on when you should change oil. If, for example, you do nothing but short trip driving (under 3 miles at a time) you should change oil sooner than recommended. the other thing to remember is that the OE change intervals are based on using high quality oil and filters rated for the change interval. FRAM makes oil filters for 5k, 10k and 15k change intervals. Another thing to keep in mind is all cars can use a little oil between changes so if you are going 5-15k miles between changes, it is a very good idea to check your oil at least every two months and add as needed. Learn more at

It has been my belief that the first one to two thousand miles of both stop and go and highway speed driving provides a "wearing-in" or "seating" of internal engine and transmission parts. The engine oil filter and transmission fluid filters should catch most of this "sloughed off" material. I tend to play it safe and assume that whatever miles are on the odometer may very well have been some "hard on any engine" miles and the filters may not catch everything. I change after around 1500 to 2000 miles the first time and then go with a compromise of time and distance as suggested in the manual. I agree that changing too often is a waste of time and money and does not produce any significant results in engine life. Also, don't forget to follow the manual as far as the transmission fluid change and filter cleaning or replacement.

I understand about the oil. What is your recommendation on the transmission fluid being changed at 50K. We used to be told to not change the fluid once the mileage was high cause we'd sure enough lose the transmission. My 2003 Chevy Trailblazer had 146K and I had not changed it. Of course I worried about it everytime I drove it with that many miles on it.

Oil change and service are key to a well maintained and safe vehicle. With proper care and service todays vehicles can last for several years and several hundred thousand miles longer we are accustomed to. Keep in mind the manufacture does not want you to keep your car that long. Getting to know your local service porvider. Who knows your driving habits and usage would be the best way to protect your investement.

The problem is that the local lube shops want that repeat revenue and still put that lil sticker in the top lefthand corner of your windshield - with the date and $3K miles later! So, you go back w/o questioning their motives. READ YOUR MANUAL! The manufacturer knows your car better than the local lube shop!

Rule of thumb with oil, if its dirty, change it or you will pay for extensive repairs.

being retired and driving less...had oil change in Sept is now almost March 2013 (6months on oil change--and only 3000 miles during that time) should i change now? how does winter driving..some short some longer trips effect the oil change theory? Thanks..Frank

Add comment


What is Angie's List?

Angie’s List is the trusted site where more than 3 million households go to get ratings and reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Stop guessing when it comes to hiring! Check Angie’s List to find out who does the best work in town.

Local Discounts

Daily deals up to 70% off popular home improvement projects from top-rated contractors on Angie’s List!