Why are oil change intervals getting longer?

Why are car companies claiming longer intervals between recommended oil changes? I always assumed 2,000 – 3,000 miles.

Scott J, Chicago

We’ve been beaten over the head with the three-month, 3,000-mile oil-change interval for years, but that’s not necessarily the case on newer cars and trucks. Manufacturers cite oil-life monitors and modern oil and engine technology as reasons to extend services up to 7,500 miles on standard oil.

An oil-life monitor looks at mileage, speed and idling time to calculate when you should change the oil. A General Motors representative recommends relying on an oil-life monitor rather than a set mileage (like 3,000 miles) on GM cars equipped with one in order to prevent unnecessary oil changes.

If the monitor senses you’re allowing the engine oil to warm up, and you take it easy until it’s at operating temperature, an interval of 5,000 or 7,500 miles is not uncommon. If you start your car cold and immediately tear onto the highway at 80 mph, however, expect your next service date to arrive sooner and include more than an oil change if you continue to thrash on a cold engine.

Some cars have an information display on the center dashboard that will count down oil life from a percentage, while others may have the information display combined with other controls on the dashboard. Navigation-equipped cars usually have oil-change-interval information accessible through the screen’s menu options. It’s going to be different on every car, and occasionally hard — as well as annoying — to reset the “Change Oil Now” light when it starts flickering in your face.

Higher-end cars like BMWs, Porches and Mercedes-Benzes can recommend oil-change intervals from 10,000 to 20,000 miles. Yikes! When you see these extreme intervals, it’s usually because the cars recommend synthetic oil, which in the right conditions doesn’t break down as easily as traditional, dinosaur-based oil. On any car, especially high-end ones, always follow the manufacturer recommendations for maintenance services like oil changes.

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Answered by Joe Bruzek on May 10, 2007 in I'm Just Wondering | Permalink

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