Today, automakers are more likely to recommend that owners of new cars need to change the oil in their vehicles every 5,000, or even 10,000 miles. So why do some quickie lube service station keep pushing the one-size-fits-all mantra of “three months or 3,000 miles”?
The short answer is because it’s an easy money maker. The more often a customer brings in a vehicle for service, the more money the garage makes. For a consumer, this is the equivalent of needlessly pouring milk down the drain a before the expiration date passes, just to play it extra-extra safe.
Especially nowadays, when people are looking for ways to cut back on wasteful spending, word has gotten out about the 3,000-mile oil change myth. An Edmunds.com story from last summer, for instance, had the blunt headline Stop Changing Your Oil: Breaking the 3,000-Mile Habit. The post explained:
Although the average car’s oil change interval is around 7,800 miles — and as high as 20,000 miles in some cars — this wasteful cycle continues largely because the automotive service industry, while fully aware of the technological advances, continues to preach the 3,000-mile gospel as a way to keep the service bays busy. As a result, even the most cautious owners are dumping their engine oil twice as often as their service manuals recommend.
A few weeks later, The NY Times rehashed the truth about many of the service station-perpetuated myths regarding oil changes, and also reported that Jiffy Lube, the biggest quickie oil change specialist in the country, was planning on tweaking its automatic 3,000-mile recommendations.
Now, USA Today reports the changed recommendations are in place. Has the company come clean and admitted that it has been doing oil changes for no good reason for years? Not exactly. Has it stated it’ll no longer recommend changing the oil every 3,000 miles? Not exactly. But the once universal one-size-fits-all rule is now more of a guideline.
Instead of flatly recommending that all cars get oil changes every three months or 3,000 miles, Jiffy Lube now presents a little list of driving conditions that’ll help determine how often a driver should get the oil changed. The conditions include many ordinary-seeming scenarios like “I take short trips averaging 5-10 minutes in length,” “I drive in stop-and-go traffic,” and “I drive at prolonged higher engine speeds.”
No matter how common these conditions seem—dropping kids off at school, commuting to work—they’re all deemed as “severe,” according to Jiffy Lube. Indeed, 92% of motorists drive in so-called “severe conditions,” per data cited by the company. And Jiffy Lube states that for the majority of vehicles …
the vehicle manufacturer recommends changing the motor oil and filter every 3,000 miles. To help ensure continuous protection for your vehicle’s engine, Jiffy Lube also recommends changing your motor oil and filter every 3,000 miles.
So, according to Jiffy Lube, regardless of what the studies and experts at places like “Car Talk” and Edmunds suggest, the vast majority of drivers should keep getting the oil changed every 3,000 miles.
My personal recommendation is to take Jiffy Lube’s recommendations with a grain (or heaping dose) of salt. It’s way better to find out exactly what your owner’s manual suggests, and to get the advice of a mechanic you can trust.