I've always heard that you should change your oil every 3,000 miles (5,000 km). That little sticker you get on your windshield after an oil change agrees. Growing up, my parents told me the same thing.

I doubt that you need to change your oil that often to maintain a healthy engine. I suspect it's a ploy by the companies to increase profits.

Is it really necessary to change your oil that frequently to get the most life out of your vehicle?

  • a rule of thumb doesnt apply in every situation. What if u need 10 years for this 3000 miles with ur hobby motor bike, what if one year...but 3000 sounds very low to me Jun 3, 2011 at 18:54
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    @Hairy: Absolutely. I've never heard of any standard production engines that need more frequent oil changes than 3000 miles, but it's certainly a false economy to do it less often than the manufacturer recommends. I think this talk of 'marketing tactics' is just tosh. The manufacturers don't get rich selling oil changes - they get rich by selling cars. And all other things being equal you'd buy the car with longer servicing intervals, so if anything they'd like to quote higher mileages between changes. Jun 4, 2011 at 0:33
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    @FumbleFingers: I would not assume that an independent repair shop's interests were aligned with the manufacturers' or dealers' interests. Their interest is definitely in having customers come in more often.
    – user1770
    Jun 4, 2011 at 1:29
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    @FumbleFingers: I have never been to an oil change place that did not put 3000 miles on the sticker.
    – stoj
    Jun 4, 2011 at 6:13
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    Let's see, my Honda's manuals mention it needs servicing every 20.000 kilometers. My previous car, a Ford, mentioned 15.000 kilometers. My father's old BMWs mentioned 25.000 kilometers.<br/> Every of those services includes an oil change, all of them are way longer than 4500 kilometers (3000 miles). <br/><br/> Can't find those service manuals online of course. Manufacturers include them with the car. If you visit a dealership they'll be able to order one for you.
    – jwenting
    Jun 5, 2011 at 4:30

2 Answers 2



  • Wiki on this myth.
  • California's efforts to debunk this myth HERE

Synopsis: follow the manual's recommended oil change schedule, not the 3,000 mile recommendation that has become commonplace advice.

To translate that into some figures, I looked around for publicly available service manuals (just a few as I don't want to take all my time with this...):

  • 2002 Mazda Protege (LINK): 6mos or 7,500 miles, whichever comes first, Sec. 8-4
  • 2006 Volvo, all models (LINK): 7,500 miles
  • 2011 Ford Explorer (LINK): when light comes on (up to 10,000 miles or 1 year), pgs. 417, 420
  • 2008 Cadillac CTS (LINK): up to a year, Sec. 6-4
  • 2000 Oldsmobile Alero (LINK): whenever the light comes on, typically between 3,000-7,500 miles, but never longer than 7,500 miles or 1 year, Sec. 7-6

Edit: I thought it might be helpful to know typical driving distances per year, since that came up in the comments. They are listed HERE by the US Dept. of Transportation (current as of 4/2011). The average for all age groups across both genders is ~13,500/year. This would equate to 4-5 oil changes based on the 3,000 recommendation vs. 1-2 for the typical manufacturer's recommendations above.

As one last add-in, some in the comments brought up idle time. I don't know where that figures in. I'm assuming this question has to do with general use, however, not extreme cases of little/no usage.

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    Type of Oil plays a huge role. With all-synthetic engine oil you could get away with much more than with regular oil.
    – crasic
    Jun 3, 2011 at 21:34
  • @crasic: Good point, though in my skimming did not see any mention of alternative schedules for oil maintenance when using synthetic. Thus, I'd still stick with the manufacturer's recommendations, regardless of the type, unless more information was provided about this particular issue.
    – Hendy
    Jun 3, 2011 at 22:01
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    @Werner: My earlier cars typically suggested 6000 miles for light use and 3000 miles for heavy use (and at least two-thirds of the driving around here counts as heavy), and mechanics may have gotten used to saying 3000 miles to people who insisted on the 6000. My current car tells me when it wants maintenance, but I don't know exactly how it figures it out. Jun 5, 2011 at 17:21
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    @Chad: I'm open to this, but your experience from even an above-average number of vehicles is not yet representative of the statistical distribution. Ideally we'd need records from thousands of different makes/models in different climates and to know their service histories. In other words, substantiate that following the manufacturer's recommendations constitutes "not caring about the life of your car post 100k miles." Lastly, I don't know of any connection between the air conditioner longevity and oil changes -- the two are independent.
    – Hendy
    Jun 6, 2011 at 15:38
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    IIRC, my car's manual (VW diesel engine) suggest changing oil every every checkup, checkups are every 15,000km (about 10,000 miles). However, VW only accepts synthetic oils as conforming to it's standards.
    – vartec
    Nov 12, 2012 at 12:48

I checked the owner's manual for some cars I or my family have owned (Suziku Alto, Mitsubishi Colt, Toyota Carena, two Ford Fiestas) and they all say to change the oil as part of the yearly service or after 10k miles. Most people in the UK with "normal" (non performance, non specialist) cars get theirs changed yearly during the service, unless they do very high mileage. The little "service" indicator in cars I have owned seems to be programmed with this behaviour as well - in the Colt it actually told you how many months left before the next service, counting down from 12.

FWIW I now have an all-electric Leaf, and that too requires yearly servicing. Yearly seems to be the standard in most of Europe, as harmonized rules require yearly inspections for safety and emissions that are normally done at the same time.

I tried to find some PDF owner's manuals to view online as reference, but failed. You will have to take my word for it. Of course this is only European spec cars, US spec models may be different.

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