Is it still necessary to change your oil every 3,000 miles?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have two Volvos, whose manuals call for oil changes every 7,500 miles. I also have a Toyota RAV4, whose manual calls for oil changes every 5,000 miles. The problem is that all of the dealers and car places say I should change my oil every 3,000 miles. Is this just a flagrant attempt to get $25 from me more often, or is it really a recommended practice? -- Dave

RAY: Of course it's a flagrant attempt to get more money from you. We do it all the time!

TOM: Well, we used to recommend 3,000-mile oil changes. But then, when the checks stopped coming from the oil companies, we upped our recommendation to 5,000 miles. And if they don't start coming again soon, we're going up to 7,500!

RAY: Actually, there's no exact, right answer on this one. All of these recommendations are estimates -- also known as "guesses." Eventually, oil does break down and get dirty. And if you live where it's 110 degrees out every day, if you commute exclusively on dirt roads and if you drive a shuttle bus for the local Attention Deficit Disorder Clinic, then 3,000 miles might be the right interval for you.

TOM: On the other hand, if you drive gently and don't do exclusively short-distance driving, your oil could be perfectly good for 10,000 miles.

RAY: We used to recommend 3,000-mile oil changes because we thought that was a good compromise for most people. But with the dramatic improvement in oil technology over the years and the growing problem of used-oil disposal, we upped our recommendation to 5,000 miles some years ago. And it might even be time to go to 7,500 soon, for the same reasons.

TOM: So if you drive like a normal human being, under more or less normal conditions, changing your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles should be quite adequate, Dave.

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