Do I Need to Change Oil Every 3,000 Miles?

Changing your oil every 3,000 miles is a practice passed down for generations. The origin stems from the noble effort to provide consumers with a simple vehicle-maintenance rule that left plenty of room for error. However, times – and oil quality – have changed. In this post, we’ll look at whether you still need to change oil every 3,000 miles.

3000 mile oil change myth - change oil in your car

Marketed by fast lubes

Fast-lube chains, which first entered the market in the 1970s, adopted and amplified the 3,000-mile-oil-change message through sustained marketing campaigns. Owned by major oil manufacturers, fast-lube chains had a financial interest in seeing customers frequently and selling more oil, the vast majority of which was conventional.

3000 mile oil change myth

Endorsed by your dad and mechanic

While this timeline helps provide context, it does little to address the emotional connection to changing oil every 3,000 miles.

The reason so many motorists dutifully change oil every 3,000 miles is because their fathers and their mechanics – two of the most influential groups in automotive circles – told them they should.

For many people, the 3,000-mile oil change is a tradition that ties them to the person who taught them many important life lessons, like how to keep your car running properly.

Tradition updated with new technology

Many families pass down traditions, and while the spirit of the tradition is upheld, many elements are updated to reflect current technology and lifestyles.

Your call to a distant relative during the holidays may now require Skype instead of a rotary phone. Likewise, your annual family vacation may start at the airport instead of in the family station wagon.

In the case of the 3,000-mile oil change myth, we can preserve the noble spirit of taking good care of our vehicles by establishing a habit of changing oil periodically, but not necessarily every 3,000 miles.

Since the advent of the 3,000-mile oil change, advances in lubrication and automotive technology have rendered it outdated, like adding water to automotive batteries, replacing ignition points and adjusting the carburetor. Now, many vehicle manufacturers recommend changing oil every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) or longer, with some calling for up to 15,000 miles (24,000 km) between oil changes.

Synthetic motor oil technology

Synthetic lubrication technology plays a significant role in busting the 3,000-mile oil change myth. Synthetic motor oil offers better wear protection, improved resistance to temperature extremes and increased cleanliness properties compared to conventional oil. For that reason, it’s safe to use it longer than 3,000 miles (4,800 km).

AMSOIL products provide confidence with additional protection that goes beyond the standard. It’s what your dad or grandfather may have called the “belt-and-suspenders” approach. For example, AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil

  • Provides 75% more engine protection against horsepower loss and wear.¹
  • Protects turbochargers 72% better than required² by the GM dexos1 Gen 2 specification.
  • Offers guaranteed protection for up to 25,000 miles or 1 year

So, while it’s vital to change your oil and take care of your vehicle, it’s also important to advance your methods in lockstep with the latest technology. And modern synthetic oils have made the 3,000-mile oil change as dated as the rotary phone.

¹Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 0W-20, in ASTM D6891 as required by the API SN specification.TM D6891 test using 0W-20 as worst-case representation. ²Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the GM turbo coking test.

Comments

  1. As per Rick’s inquiry, I have a seasonal vehicle that gets low miles/kms each year. In the past I would change oil and filter just before winter storage, as I assumed the oil would reach a time limit. Is it OK to leave the used oil (say 2000 kms) in the vehicle over winter and change after a year or so? What intervals should I use? Currently using the Signature Series 0W-40 oil.

    1. Hi Jon,

      In seasonal vehicles, it’s a good idea to change oil prior to storage to remove contaminants from the oil so they’re not sitting all winter. In your case with only 2,000 km (1,200 miles) on the oil, it should be fine to let the oil sit over the winter. It’s unlikely you’ll generate excessive contaminants after that few miles unless you’re talking about a racing engine.

      Signature Series is guaranteed for up to 12 months or 25,000 miles (15,000 miles in severe service), so you can leave it in the engine for a full year.

      Thanks,

      John

  2. And I’m looking for an opinion if you don’t go over 1500 miles in a year in a modern vehicle, how often should it be changed and would your answer include modern motorcycles? Thank You

    1. Hi Rick,

      We recommend changing oil yearly regardless of mileage accrued. This applies to your motorcycle, too.

      Even when you’re not driving, chemical changes take place in motor oil that lead to degradation and the need for an oil change. Oxidation is a prime culprit. The interaction between oxygen molecules and motor oil molecules naturally leads to chemical breakdown. Just as oxygen causes a cut apple to brown or exposed metal to rust, it breaks down base oils and reduces motor oil’s effectiveness. Oxidation can lead to increased oil viscosity, which negatively affects energy efficiency. It also causes the formation of harmful deposits and sludge.

      Your vehicle is also subjected to temperature swings, even when it is parked in the garage. Those temperature swings cause condensation to form inside your engine, leading to water contamination. Not driving for extended periods – or taking short trips that don’t allow the engine to fully warm up – allows water to remain in the oil rather than evaporating and exiting through the tailpipe.

      These are all reasons to change oil every year. You can also try used-oil analysis to get a precise idea when the oil must be changed.

      Thanks,

      John

    2. Hello Rick,
      Well you do understand that your example is the most damaging issue in modern (especially older classic autos) that can exit. Starting the engine to warm it up, and shutting it down, creates excessive condensation, and requires getting that excessive water out of the engine regularly. You are setting up rust issues, especially in the lower engine parts. And, exactly the reason you must use a product like AMSOIL Signature Series, as they are not petroleum derivatives, and can handle as much as 1 quart of water, and still protect the critical parts that need it. In any event, that lube should be replaced by one year, but I recommend sampling the warm lube for exact requirements. AMSOIL does that, too. Just check and see. Save the engine and a bunch of money. Thank you, PAL. Big Al B.

  3. Some people has a lot of confusion regarding the synthetic oil and conventional oil. Motor oil plays very important role in the performance of the engine. However, different types of fluids used in the vehicle including the motor oil needs to be inspected at a regular interval and if necessary should be replaced with suitable alternatives. Synthetic oil has a lot of advantages over the conventional oil. One of such advantage is that synthetic oil could provide lubrication to the engine components for a comparatively longer period than the conventional oil. So, it is highly recommended to use synthetic oil in the place of conventional oil for better results.

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