If you’re like most car owners, there’s a little sticker inside your windshield that tells you when your car needs its next oil change. Every time you take your car in to get the oil changed, the sticker is replaced with a new one, reminding you that you need to bring your car back in 3 months or after another 3,000 miles.
And you, like most people, just believe this to be the norm.
Cars have come a long way in recent years, and if you own a car that was manufactured in the last decade, you definitely need to discard the 3,000-mile rule. Not only are you wasting your time by driving to a Jiffy Lube or a Valvoline, but you’re also wasting money. Sure, spending 30 or 40 bucks on an oil change doesn’t seem like a fortune, but it’s 30 or 40 bucks you’re practically throwing away. And throwing away money is dumb.
So you’re wasting time and money when you change your oil every 3,000 miles, but you’re also wasting oil. For instance, in California, only 59 percent of the waste oil is recycled. This means that if you bring your car in for an oil change too early (and 3,000 miles is too early), a lot of that oil just goes to waste. And that’s no bueno for the environment.
So you’ve been religiously getting oil changes every 3K miles for, like, your whole adult life. Have you been damaging your car? No. But have you been helping it? The answer is also no. You’re just throwing out perfectly good oil. TIME likens it to throwing away a half-full gallon of milk well before the expiration date. So basically, you're throwing away money. And you definitely wouldn’t do that.
Definitely longer than 3,000 miles, unless your vehicle's owner manual says differently. Today, most modern cars can go around 5,000 miles before needing an oil change. Some can even go up to 10,000 miles. And if you use high-quality synthetic oil, your car could even go 20,000 miles before needing an oil change.
Instead of listening to the guys at Jiffy Lube or your neighbor who considers himself somewhat of a mechanic (or some internet article that uses lots of photos of dogs driving cars!), you should always listen to the manufacturer when it comes to caring for your car. If you have a newer Ford, for instance, the manufacturer recommends oil changes at 10,000 miles.
Richard Truett, a Ford spokesman, explains, "Our new generation of engines have tighter internal tolerances, which reduces the amount of carbon and other products from combustion that gets into the oil.”
7. Your Car May Even Tell You When It's Time For An Oil Change
Newer Honda and Acura vehicles don’t even have a set interval for oil changes. Instead, they are equipped with a minder system that notifies the driver when an oil change is needed. If you drive a Honda or an Acura, you probably notice that the oil change indicator comes every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.
8. So Why Are We Still Taking Our Cars In At 3k Miles?
The answer is fairly simple: That’s what we've always been told. In the U.S., 51 percent of car owners believe that the 3,000-mile or three-month rule should be followed. That means more than half of American car owners are wasting time, money and oil.
9. It's Time To Rethink Your Oil Change Routine...
Unless you drive in "severe" conditions, that is. People who drive in severe conditions should change their oil more frequently than every 5,000 miles. So what qualifies as severe conditions? Here's a short list:
- Heavy use of brakes
- Lots of short distance driving
- Driving frequently in heavy traffic
- Regularly driving in dusty, sandy areas
- Driving in extreme heat or extreme cold
10. What Are Some Other Car Myths You Should Stop Believing?
Now that you know the 3,000-mile rule is really just a big fat lie, you might be wondering what other car maintenance rules are actually myths. As it turns out, there are actually quite a few that may surprise you.
Nope, nope, and more nope. If you have a non-premium car, you don’t need premium fuel. It’s as simple as that. Powerful engines need the more expensive gas, but if you're driving around in an average car, buying premium fuel is just a waste of money.
Staying away from buying a pretty red car because you believe the age-old myth that red cars get pulled over for speeding more often? You’re not alone, but the good news is that this myth is just that – a myth. Color doesn’t make a difference in whether you get pulled over or not. Regardless of what color car you drive, if you’re speeding like a maniac, you’re probably going to be pulled over.
13. MYTH: You Need To Flush The Coolant At The Same Time As Oil Change
If your oil change guy tells you this, get in your car and drive away, because he's trying to rob you blind. Most manufacturers recommend you change the coolant every five years or 60,000 miles. However, if your coolant reservoir is low despite regularly topping it off, you should check for a leak.
14. MYTH: Your Air Filters Need To Be Replaced Frequently
Chances are, whenever you go in for an oil change, the techs try to sell you on more services, like tire rotations or new air filters. A tech may have even told you that your dirty air filter is hurting your car’s mileage. But be wary... they're likely just trying to push more services on you so they can squeeze more moolah out of you.
Here's the truth: Many cars can go up to 30,000 miles before replacing the air filter. But again, check your owner's manual for the best guidance.