When To Change Oil In My Car

Reader email

Hello Austin,

I cannot believe you tell folks to change their oil every 3,000 miles. The 3,000 mile myth was started by big oil the late 1970s. It was started for no other reason than to make money.
If you have the kind of money Exxon and Texaco have, you can buy enough advertising to convince people of anything.

Most automobile owners manuals say to change the oil every 7,500 miles under normal driving. Synthetic oil can go 15-20,000 miles before any oil breakdown takes place.

My dad used synthetic oil in his new 18 wheelers and changed the oil at 100,000 miles. He never had major engine failure.

Car and Driver tested New York taxi cabs under a test that changed oil at 6,000 mile intervals and found the oil to be near perfect after 6,000 miles of taxi service.

In a free market economy like ours, money rules. Don’t fall for these promotion gimmicks.

Ted D.

Why hello there Ted,

You are absolutely right. The 3,000 mile campaign was the brain child of Jiffy Lube.  I like the idea of having the customer visit my shop every 3,000 miles.

Sure, an obvious reason is a small sale for the oil change, but the real important factor is to have drivers routinely visiting a mechanic every 3,000 miles or three months to do a check up on their cars.

Most drivers don’t even open the hood. And 3,000 miles for most drivers really means 4,000 miles when they actually come in to do it…they just thought about it at 3,000 miles.

I see the consequences every single day–a tire that is showing steel, a water hose swollen and about to bust, a leaking radiator, expired state inspection stickers, etc., etc., etc.

My point is:
The average American driver drives 12,000 miles a year, so that is four oil changes a year. At $25 an oil change, that’s about $100 a year to have your cars looked over and make sure things are A-OK.

That is just a little bit more than a tow bill…the alternate price you’d pay if that radiator hose bursts on you in the summer, leaving you on the side of the road with a car load of kids and groceries.

So, with that said…it is a small price to pay for a well-maintained vehicle, a clean engine, and a little added insurance.

You can learn a LOT about engine oils from the ebook the Motor Oil Bible you might find it very interesting.

Blessings, and thanks for your email.

Austin Davis

Posted in: Oil Leaks

About the Author:

Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."
  • John

    Your point is misleading. Oil changes should be done according to what is printed in the vehicle’s manual or by the manufacturer’s recommendation, unless you have a very old vehicle. Spending $25 to change the oil is wasteful if it’s done way before a scheduled maintenance and that the oil is still clean. If your point is to have your vehicle checked regularly for other potential problems, like belts, hoses, tires, etc., then yes, I would agree. Just don’t go do an unscheduled oil change and waste your money and oil just to have your car looked over.

  • Austin Davis

    I would first check all tire pressures, then rotate the front tires to the rear to rule out a tire pull problem. While you got the wheels off look at the brake pads on the front, are the worn about the same, they should be. Sometimes a brake pull like this can be due to a bad brake hose (the right side/pass side would be the bad hose) or a sticking brake caliper on the left/drivers side.

    After driving a while, carefully feel both front wheels. If the left is much hotter than the right side, then a brake caliper problem can be happening or the passenger side brake hose is bad and not working the right brake, so the left side is doing on the work.

    You can also raise the car up, step on the brake lightly and try and turn both front tires, they should be very hard to turn if at all.

  • E Mulenga

    My car – a toyota camry pulls to the left when I brake.

    What is the cause?

  • Austin Davis

    Thanks Steve, glad it was helpful for you.

  • Steve

    This was really good information, thank you so much for your time and website. Love it.

  • Austin Davis

    Bob, great but tough question and I really dont have an answer for you except a few examples.

    Some of our large fleet customers change their oil and filter every 5,000 miles and use mainly synthetic oils or something like Castrol like you are using.

    Then I have some large fleet customers who just top off with synthetic oil (usually like Royal Purple) and replace the oil filter every 10,000 miles but just top off with oil during that time period.

    Its more of a personal preference and what you are comfortable with and how well you maintain the rest of the vehicle. Personally as long as the oil was clean looking and full, I would go at least 6,000 between changes if using a good oil or synthetic.

    Hope that helps some

  • bob

    how often should i change my engine oil if i am a taxi an using castrol magnetic 20w/50 oil