Wikinvest Wire

Stop wasting oil

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It always seemed to me that those little stickers the oil change shops put on the inside of your windshield - the ones that tell you to return in another 3,000 miles for another oil change - were an exceptionally good sales tool.

It says right in the back of the owners manual that unless you operate your vehicle under "extreme" conditions or unless you prefer "premium" care, anything under 5,000 miles between oil changes is just a waste of money and oil.

This report from via Yahoo! Finance confirms that view and provides evidence of just how successful those little stickers are in generating more business for Jiffy Lube and their competitors.

According to a recent study by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, 73 percent of California drivers change their oil more frequently than required. This same scenario no doubt repeats itself across the country. Besides wasting money, this translates into unnecessary consumption of $100-a-barrel oil, much of it imported.

Using 2005 data, the Board estimates that Californians alone generate about 153.5 million gallons of waste oil annually, of which only about 60 percent is recycled. Used motor oil poses the greatest environmental risk of all automotive fluids because it is insoluble, persistent, and contains heavy metal and toxic chemicals. One gallon of used oil can foul the taste of one million gallons of water.

It’s been a misconception for years that engine oil should be changed every 3000 miles, even though most auto manufacturers now recommend oil changes at 5,000, 7,000, or even 10,000 mile intervals under normal driving conditions.
Now you don't have to feel guilty anymore about exceeding the mileage on that little sticker before your next oil change. What's more, you can still make good use of the information it provides - just add 3,000 miles to it.

BTW - have the cost of oil changes gone up much lately as a result of higher oil prices? It's been quite some time (at least 5,000 miles) since we've had any oil changes.

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Dan said...

I don't know about other cars but I drive a bmw and they recommend every 14,000 miles or 2 years, whichever comes first - its got an onboard computer that monitors your driving conditions and adjusts the mileage accordingly. As I typically ride my bike everywhere, I've been meeting the 2 year interval before I've been able to pass the mileage milestone. Maybe this is why bmw used to claim the lowest cost of ownership? I know that for some odd reason, they are actually cheaper to purchase in the US than in Germany.

Nick said...

The 3000 miles advertising line (from the oil change companies) is one of the very successful mass advertising pitches of our generation (along with, for example, the three-months salary line from the jewelry companies, or "buy now or be priced out forever" in the RE market). Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, sometimes it's too early to tell (for example, the total scam that is HD radio looks like it might work). Brilliant marketing if you can pull it off.

I do every 5k personally, and only because I drive primarily in stop/go city driving, and it's what the owner's manual recommends. Turns out it's really easy to figure out what mileage numbers are divisible by 5k... :)

Anonymous said...

In Japan they pull cars off the road at 50,000km and from what I have seen of these cars I think most never change their oil, just buy it smoke in it and then sell it.

Anonymous said...

BMW puts the oil filter in a place where you can change it without changing the oil. Using synthetic, one charge is good for about 3 filters at 5k intervals.

John S said...

Anything less than 10,000 miles is a criminal waste foisted on us by the oil companies and the government should stop the 3,000 mile BS immediately.

Anonymous said...

wouldn't we also want traffic lights timed to allow traffic to flow at 35 mph and reduce the amount of idle time? There seems to be traffic signals every 30 yards - I think they cause more traffic than they control which creates tremendous waste in the guise of safety.

Chaos said...

Consumer Reports did a study a few years ago and concluded that 7500 miles was the correct number...I'd guess that using complete synthetic would extend that somewhat.

Nick said...

Totally OT, but my personal observation from LA is that the traffic lights seem to be often timed to about 10mph over the posted speed limit. This makes sense to me logically, since it's about at the amount over where cops will write you a ticket if you're going fast enough to not stop at every light. I'm sure that makes for good quota numbers, although it also makes for a lot of stop and go traffic and wasted fuel.

I usually go about 10mph over and cruise through most of the lights just as they are turning... but I also commute during off-peak hours, when there are less cops filling quotas on the road. So it works out well for me so far too. :)

Anonymous said...

Henk de Groot, former director of Castrol Oil, The Nederlands, wrote an interesting article in "De Telegraaf" about changing oil:
olie verversen onnodig
changing oil: unnecessary ....

Mr. de Groot himself is already driving with the same oil in his car for +/- 20.000 miles. He just checked the amount and added some.
Antwerp, Belgium,1

Anonymous said...


+/- 200.000 miles ....

Anonymous said...

It IS important however, to check the oil LEVEL. Low oil is really the most important thing. When exxon first marketed syntec in 1976, they claimed: "25k miles or 12 Months."

They quickly backed off that and said, "follow the manufacturers recommendations." I guess they feared lawsuits. But as far as I can tell, from everything i've read, sythetic oil should last 20k miles, so long as you keep the oil filter fresh, and top off when needed.

changing you break, radiator, transmission, and power stearing fluid is more important. I am a firm believer in doing fluids every 2 years.

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