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Are 3000-Mile Oil Changes Still a Good Idea?

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On: Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 12:35PM | By: Bill Wilson

Are 3000-Mile Oil Changes Still a Good Idea?

There’s some advice that’s repeated so often it’s almost universally accepted as true, whether or not actual evidence exists to back it up. You’ve almost certainly heard most of these snippets of popular wisdom. Here are some of the more popular ones:
•  Swimming within a hour of eating causes muscle cramps.
•  Always brush your teeth after every meal.
•  Brown bread is healthier than white bread.
•  Margarine is better for you than butter.
•  Change your oil every 3000 miles to maintain your engine longer.

The last claim has been shared by countless mechanics, parents, and people in general for well over 30 years. On its surface, it seems to make good sense. After all, motor oil lubricates and protects engines. But its benefits stop working after a while. So changing it frequently is a no-brainer, right?

“Wrong,” say a number of engineers, environmentalists, and budget planners who are out to debunk the so-called “3000-mile oil change hoax.”Their arguments against this long-accepted practice are as follows:
• Today’s cars are built much better than older models, so they require maintenance less often.
• Modern lubricants are far superior to those used in the past. They keep their viscosity (friction and heat-reducing qualities) much longer. Thus, they need replacing only occasionally.
• The advice to change oil every 3000 miles is a marketing ploy invented by auto shops to increase their business.
• Automakers advise owners to have the oil changed every 7500-15,000 miles, depending on the model. And, since the manufacturers know their own vehicles quite well, their guidelines are trustworthy.
• Frequent oil changes harm the environment by increasing use of petroleum products.

“Not so fast,” say those who champion the established wisdom. They maintain that the 3000-mile oil change is sound advice that drivers should continue to follow. They respond to the claims of the “hoax” crowd with statements like these:
• Cars have not improved that much since the 70s and 80s. In fact, in many ways they have gotten worse. So the idea that they require less maintenance is nonsense.
• Oil is oil, despite what the big petroleum companies say. All types have detergents and other additives to boost performance. But these have changed little over the last 20 years.
• It’s not the shops that are using marketing tricks but the carmakers. They give bad advice that will ensure their products need replacing sooner. This boosts car sales and their bottom line.

Frequent oil changes don’t hurt the environment. Rather, they help it by giving recyclers a strong supply of used lubricants, products that can be rejuvenated and reused by adding small amounts of cheap additives. This reduces the need for new petroleum supplies.

The debate over whether 3000-mile oil changes make sense rages on the Internet and among experts, making it unlikely that it will end anytime soon. In the meantime, here are some guidelines to help you decide for yourself how often you should replace your vehicle’s oil.
• What are your driving habits? Are you easy on the pedal, or do you speed constantly? Are you content to take a little longer to get where you’re going, or do you fight for every open lane? The more aggressively you drive, the sooner your oil will need changing.
• Do you drive primarily on the highway or on packed city streets? Urban driving is far harsher on an engine than the steady pace of interstate travel, making
viscosity break down in less time.
• How is the air quality where you drive? Is it clean and fresh or filled with dirt, smog, etc.? Polluted air will harm a car unless protective steps are taken, including more frequent oil changes.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you to tell truth from fiction when it comes to oil changes, giving you the knowledge you need to make the right decisions for your vehicle. Good luck and safe driving!


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