How often do you really need to change motor oil?
Changing the oil in your car every 3,000 miles was necessary in the 1970s, when most cars used 10W-40 oil, which tended to wear out within about 3,000 miles. Thanks to improvements in high-quality lubricants and tighter tolerances in the assembly of automotive engines, the 3,000-mile baseline simply does not apply to many cars on the road today; in fact, automakers now recommend you change oil at 5,000, 7,000, 10,000 or even as high as 15,000 miles for newer models under ideal driving conditions. For example, Toyota recommends you change oil at 5,000 miles for a 2005 Tacoma pickup, Honda recommends 7,500 miles for its 2002 Odyssey, General Motors suggests 7,500 miles for its 2007 Chevrolet Malibu, and Ford recommends 10,000 miles for its 2011 Fiesta. A 2008 Porsche Boxster can go 12,000 miles between changes, and a 2010 BMW 3 Series can go up to 15,000 miles before you change oil under ideal conditions; with this kind of complexity, it’s easy for consumers to be confused.
Almost 10 million Californians change their motor oil every 3,000 miles or more often, using more than 114 million gallons of motor oil each year – enough oil to fill 173 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to a recent study by CalRecycle. CalRecycle spokesperson Jeff Danzinger says their studies indicate the state could reduce total motor oil consumption by as much as 10 million gallons per year if motorists were to change oil according to manufacturer recommendations. "If you're changing your oil too soon, you're needlessly creating waste oil and putting a strain on the system and supply," Danzinger explains.
And that’s just California — wonder how much oil is being wasted across the entire United States by people who have fallen victim to advertising and don’t follow the intervals recommended in their owner’s manual? Across the country, reprocessors treat about 1.1 billion gallons of used oil yearly according to the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Unless you’re driving a car that's more than ten years old, or under super extreme conditions, there’s really no reason to change your oil at 3000 miles anymore. Let’s put that amount into dollars: Changing motor oil according to manufacturer specifications would reduce motor oil demand in California by approximately 10 million gallons per year, and could halve the amount of money those drivers spend on oil changes, which average about $25 at quick-change facilities and can cost significantly more if your vehicle uses long-life synthetic oil. Under normal driving conditions, following the automaker’s recommended intervals will not affect your car’s engine, its performance, or your warranty.