According to a recent article written by an engineer of Castrol Motor Oil you should not change oil after driving every 3,000 miles. This marketing strategy is repeated over and over by engine oil manufacturers (Castrol, Pennzoil, Quaker, etc.), by the oil change industry (Grease Monkey, Jiffy Lube, etc.), by your next-door neighbor and perhaps even your dad.
This 3,000 mile frequency of oil change for our motor vehicles has become so pervasive that we completely ignore the technical advances in engines and in oil. It is treated like we once considered the sound barrier, which, until Chuck Yeager shattered the myth and the barrier in 1947, was considered humanly impossible to exceed.
The same goes for engine oil longevity. While 3,000 miles of use was once a valid limit, that was thirty years ago. Consider that within 25 years of breaking the sound barrier, we landed two men on the moon, plus one in orbit around it, exceeding that barrier by a factor of 35x, and returned them safely home to earth. Engines and engine oil have likewise achieved improvements.
However, one might admit that continuing to change oil every 3,000 miles, come what may, will not harm the engine. The harm it will do to the pocketbook over a lifetime of excessive precaution is something else.
Today, automobile manufacturers are united in the advice, offered in their owners’ manuals, that oil change exercises need to be accomplished every 7,500 to 10,000 miles. Some recommend 15,000 under certain conditions.
What has changed, other than the frequency of change? Have car manufacturers finally reached the point of forced obsolescence of their products by extending oil change recommendations in order to reduce engine life and increase car replacement? Conspiracy theorists aside, no. Technology is the guilty party in this improvement; both for car materials and design as well as lubricating oil. Have you noticed that vehicle tire life has extended due to refinement of materials and technology? How about your shoes? Do their soles last longer than in the past?
Products that develop natural wear over their lifetimes benefit from improved technology. Engines and oil have not been in a technology vacuum. One should expect resulting improvement, but in this case, in spite of the improvements to these commodities, we continue to believe the line offered by engine oil and engine oil change providers that you should ignore the technology and continue to change your engine oil as you were doing before.
Consider, however, who is feeding the line: those whose profits depend upon your continued belief that technology is stable, innovation is dead and product life will never see increase. As if we had never broken the sound barrier and landed on the moon, or not only reduced the size of our portable communications devices, but have increased the battery life in them.
All of these technologies have enhanced our lives, but, by all that is sacred, change your oil in 3,000 miles, or else. Never has a broken record earned so much undeserved success in its heeding.