Changing engine oil every 3,000 miles/3 months was the standard recommended service interval for a long time. While many people still follow this historic standard, it is often because they are just unaware of the innovations that have been made in modern engine technology and the engineering advancements achieved in specialty lubricants that allow higher quality oils to last longer. Depending on the age of your vehicle, the type of oil used and the driving conditions to which your car is subjected, oil change intervals will vary.
It is important to understand the various conditions that impact your engine to determine the correct oil change interval for your car. Things such as the type of fuel that you use in your vehicle, the driving conditions to which the car is typically exposed and the environment within which the vehicle normally operates will all contribute to determining the correct oil change interval for your vehicle.
Most of today’s auto manufacturers recommend oil changes at some pre-determined mileage or time interval based upon “normal driving conditions” – whatever that is. However, most vehicles today are operating in something other than normal operating conditions due to stop-and-go driving, short trip durations, inclement weather, heavy tow loads and dusty/dirty environmental exposure.
A brief consultation with your service professional can help you to determine the most appropriate oil change service interval for your car based upon the type of driving that you do and the environment that your engine is exposed to.
New High-Performance Lubricants
Many auto manufacturers today recommend that vehicle owners use synthetic oil because of its advantages over conventional motor oil. Synthetic oil withstands high temperatures, remains fluid in colder temperatures and does not break down as quickly as conventional oil. Today’s higher quality oils are engineered to work better with the lower machine tolerances achieved by modern engines. An independent study by AAA showed that synthetic oil significantly outperformed conventional oil and provides substantially better engine protection. “Oil protects critical engine components from damage and AAA found that synthetic engine oils performed an average of 47 percent better than conventional oils in a variety of industry-standard tests,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “With its superior resistance to deterioration, AAA’s findings indicate that synthetic oil is particularly beneficial to newer vehicles with turbocharged engines and for vehicles that frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic, tow heavy loads or operate in extreme hot or cold conditions.” The proper oil for your make and model of vehicle must conform with the manufacturer’s requirements found in your vehicle owner’s manual.
When selecting the lubricant to be used for your oil change service, keep in mind the simple concept of “match the filter to the oil”. What this means is that if you are using a synthetic lubricant you should be using a synthetic-media filter along with it to take maximum advantage of the protection that is afforded by the synthetic lubricant. Your service professional can assist you with this selection to ensure that you get the right filter for your oil change service.
Oil Life Monitoring Systems
Many new vehicles feature oil life monitoring systems that alert you to when it’s time to change the oil. Earlier monitoring systems simply measured time and counted miles, but the current systems are much more sophisticated. The newer systems harness modern day computing power to analyze the vehicle’s operating conditions and calculate the remaining oil life with relative accuracy. They evaluate a variety of factors like the number of miles traveled, trip durations, temperature variations and engine performance.
If your vehicle has a monitoring system, you may be able to see the percentage of engine oil life that is remaining on the dashboard display menu. Some systems only provide an alert when it is time for service and its possible for your oil life monitor to signal an oil change prior to the normal service interval recommendation. Keep in mind that the time between oil changes will be shorter under severe conditions such as when towing a trailer, taking short trips with lots of starts and stops, and when navigating dusty environments. Monitoring systems can also sense if your engine has not had time to warm up completely, which could play a factor in how long engine oil lasts. If your system indicates that it’s time to change the oil, it is best to do so regardless of mileage.
The Most Important Filter in Your Car!
Advancements in oil chemistry and engine technology have made the 3,000-mile/3-month oil change service interval less relevant today. Your service professional can recommend the correct lubricant, filter and service interval for your engine based on your unique vehicle, driving habits and environment. Considering the environment to which your vehicle is exposed, please note that the most important filter in your car is the engine air filter. The function of the engine air filter is to filter dirt and debris out of the air that enters the engine’s air intake system. Unfiltered or poorly filtered air can allow dirt and debris into the combustion chamber of the engine and ultimately to contaminate the engine lubricant and thereby reduce the oil change service interval.
If you’re an installer who’s concerned about extended oil change intervals and what it means for your business, click here.