For decades, mechanics have told us to change our oil every 3,000 miles. Interestingly, no automaker has agreed to this maintenance schedule, in any way in the last 20 years. So why are they telling us to change the oil every 3,000 miles if it’s unnecessary?

First, let’s look at the auto industry argument. Makes 5 main points.

1) Oil breaks down after 3000 miles

2) Oil changes are great preventative maintenance.

3) 3,000 miles is an easy number for the auto repair customer to remember

4) Traditionally, mechanics consider the 3000 mile interval to be the best.

5) It is necessary due to the elements, driving patterns and weather conditions.

It’s important to note that those who tell us to change our oil every 3,000 miles (the auto industry) are the very people who will benefit the most. This is not to say that oil changes are not important, they are. They are simply not needed as often as we are led to believe.

Here are the 5 truths about the 3,000-mile oil change

1) Your vehicle’s manufacturer-recommended quality motor oil will not break down after 3,000 miles

2) Yes, changing the oil is great preventative maintenance, but it should be done according to the manufacturer’s service intervals.

3) The easy-to-remember 3,000-mile interval actually creates more confusion as to the actual maintenance needs of your vehicle. Therefore, it is easier to follow factory guidelines, more economical, and more appropriate.

4) The traditional view that 3,000 miles is best for your car is outdated, wasteful, and unappreciative of current mechanical and oil technologies.

5) Unless you are in a constant high speed police shift in the dead of winter, your oil will be fine

How often do you really need to change your oil? While it depends on the year, make and model of your vehicle, it is clear that for current vehicles it is not every 3,000 miles. 20 years ago, this was true for many vehicles. However, this is virtually obsolete as most vehicles have oil service intervals of 5,000, 7,500, 10,000, and even 15,000 miles.

So what is motivating the auto industry to push 3,000 mile oil changes? Let’s see it in real life. If you change your oil every 3,000 miles, and like most you average 15,000 miles per year, then you will be in the repair shop 5 times in just 12 months. Do you really need to maintain your car 5 times a year? It seems excessive, doesn’t it?

The average price of the oil change is $ 30.00. $ 30.00 X 5 = $ 150.00. If you changed the oil every 5,000 miles, you would only need 3 oil changes per year = $ 90. That’s a savings of $ 60.

For the most part, oil changes are cheap as it is a very competitive market. They’re also not very profitable for repair shops (see Why an oil change is never just an oil change on or However, the more times your vehicle is in the shop, the more opportunities that shop has to sell you something else: an alignment, tires, windshield wipers, brakes, shocks, fuel cleaning services, transmission services … etc. they are money makers. This is not to say that these services are not necessary, but should only be performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines.

A detailed maintenance schedule from the manufacturer (this is separate from your manual) is the best and most accurate guide. You may stumble upon one of all the unnecessary paperwork you find in your glove box, but ask your repair shop or dealer for a detailed printout of their entire maintenance schedule. If the service center cannot produce one quickly, you are in the wrong place for your car’s needs.

Finally, have a little fun: The next time your local mechanic tells you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, ask what the manufacturer recommends. It’s fun to watch him stumble over the answer or tell you, with a straight face, the wrong answer.

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