This article was written by Sean Plemmons, a Contributing Author for The Concordian.
The trees pass by, the lights pass by. It is all a blur, but from the back seat of the car, it is so familiar. Every bump in the road is made crystal clear by the car’s suspension. The buildings seem to blend together as the speed increases. The car accelerates quickly, without a hitch. As the numbers on the odometer climb higher, it creeps further away from the recommended oil change mileage printed on a sticker in the corner of the car’s window.
The car: A 1998 Honda Civic. The owner: Concordia College sophomore Jeremie Bur.
Bur, along with many other car owners, is joining in the increasingly common practice of not changing his oil every 3,000 miles, even though it has been a written rule for many years that car owners should do so. However, this rule no longer needs to be followed with today’s oil and today’s technology.
According to a recent study conducted by The NPD Group, a leading market research group, the number of Americans who change their oil after 3,000 miles has increased since 2007. When the study was first conducted in 2007, 59 percent of Americans believed they should change their oil every 3,000 miles, while 33 percent believed they should wait until after 3,000 miles. In 2011, the number of people who change their oil every 3,000 miles dropped to 51 percent, while the number of people who change their oil after 3,000 miles jumped to 49 percent, a 16 percent increase.
Ray Bernard, owner and mechanic at Ray’s Auto Repair in Moorhead, said that the 3,000-mile guideline dates back to when oil was not as advanced as it is now. He said that if the oil were left in the engine too long, it would start to degrade and cause a buildup of sludge. The motor oil of today does not break down as quickly and some oil can go as long as 25,000 miles without getting changed.
Bur read that he no longer needed to listen to the advice of mechanics; his car manual said that he could wait every 7,500 miles before he needed to change the oil, so that is what he is doing now.
“The car shop said I must abide by their guidelines,” Bur said. “That was 7,000 miles ago and I have not had a problem. I still have 500 miles to go, and I will milk it for all it is worth.”
Concordia sophomore Michael Schuldt follows suit, despite what he has been taught.
“One of the first things my father taught me about cars was to check the oil and the dipstick,” Schuldt said. “My dad said to change it every 3,000 miles. I just can’t do that, not from what I have learned.”
According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, there is a “3,000-mile myth.” In a recent study, they urged drivers to wait longer in between oil changes, explaining that motor oil is one of the largest hazardous waste streams in the United States. The study said that drivers can reduce their consumption by waiting longer between oil changes. Bur, who lives in Michigan when not at Concordia, was one of the drivers who decided to reduce his waste.
“Driving back and forth between Minnesota and Michigan really racks up the miles,” he said. “I would have to change my oil at least twice a semester if I was adhering to the 3,000-mile rule.”
Dan Duggan of Duggan’s Auto Service in Moorhead recommends that drivers follow the rules that the owner’s manual has set out.
“Many cars have many different guidelines,” Duggan said in an e-mail interview. “I have seen cars with recommendations as far as 10,000 miles. It all depends on the type of driving you do.”
According to Duggan, there are many different types of driving, including severe and mild driving. Since oil is designed to work best when it is fully warm, mild driving (or long distance driving) is best. Driving conditions are severe when a driver only goes short distances or less than 10 miles so. If the oil is still cool, it can’t work properly to absorb all the contaminants from the combustion of the engine. When there is severe driving, the oil needs to be changed more frequently.
Bernard, who has been a mechanic for over 25 years, has long participated in the tradition of a 3,000-mile oil change.
“We recommend that you change it every 3,000 miles,” Bernard said. “But it really depends on how new the car is and what type of oil you are using.”
The 3,000-mile rule was abandoned long ago by many carmakers. Drivers, however, have only recently started to pick up on the trend that says the rule they were taught may not hold up anymore.
Duggan has noticed the trend at his shop where he changes oil for over 30 cars a day.
“I have seen a lot of drivers come in more recently, and they have not had their oil changed in at least 5,000 miles,” Duggan said. “People are following more and more what their manual says and listening less and less to what I have to say.”
Many of those people include Schuldt. He does mostly city driving, and he changes his car oil every 5,000 miles.
“My Buick’s manual says 5,000. I am not dropping a mile below that,” Schuldt said. “It is not worth it to change the oil every 3,000 miles if the car runs just as well at 5,000.”
Bernard said he is surprised by the amount of people that do not know much about car engines and oil changes.
“People don’t realize that oil does not run out in an engine,” Bernard said. “The oil gets dirtier the longer it stays in an engine. Only if it is in there for a drastic amount of time does it start to affect the car’s performance.”
Bur still has time left on the clock of his oil change. The longer he waits, the closer he gets to his next oil change.
“I hate getting the oil changed. It costs too much money,” Bur said. “Little did I know, you really don’t need to change your oil that much. Laziness finally prevailed.”