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Old 01-19-07, 10:32 AM   #1
wagathon
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Are You Changing Oil Too Often ?

Not even every 11-12K miles is necessary--just a new filter is needed.

http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=2945


Peek Oil?
By Paul Niedermeyer
January 13th, 2007 7,908 Views

dsc_0024s2222.jpgItís easier to convince an Evangelical that Christ was a grifter than to persuade pistonheads to give up their regular oil change. Yea, verily, the maniacal motorists believe in the healing power of regular visits to the Church of St. Pennzoil. And they certainly have the Gospel of Jiffy Lube on their sides: Thou shalt change thy oil every 3k miles or your engine will blow up in an explosion of fire and brimstone. Well I hereby give pistonheads permission to skip their next regularly scheduled motor oil change. And the one after that one. In fact, if youíre not planning to keep your car for all eternity, consider forgetting oil changes altogether.

Many decades ago, when metallurgy, tolerances, manufacturing precision and various aspects of engine controls (as well as the oil itself) were profoundly more primitive, the 3k mile oil change interval had a logical basis. Crude carburetor chokes caused overly rich mixtures, dumping raw gas onto cylinder walls that worked its way down into the crankcase. Poorly fitted rings caused blow-by, which had the same effect with nasty combustion byproducts. And poor tolerances created rapid wear, which released and circulated metal particles throughout the engine. People drove shorter distances, and cars often didnít warm up enough to burn off contaminants. To travel 100k miles without an engine rebuild was a genuine accomplishment.

By the sixties, improvements in all of these mission critical areas led manufacturers to adopt an industry standard 6k mile oil change interval. Since then, recommended oil change intervals have risen as high as 10k miles. At the same time, many high end cars ECUís (e.g. BMW, Porsche) now monitor engine and environmental operating conditions and calculate the ideal interval for an oil changeĖ sometimes well into the teens.

When is the last time you heard of someone experiencing an engine failure (in normal use) that could be verifiably traced to damage from insufficient lubrication due to infrequent oil changes? Oil never wears out. It can become contaminated and certain additive characteristics can change. But in normal operational use in modern engines, this usually happens quite slowly.

And yet the 3k mile mantra can be heard everywhere: newspaper and magazine articles, on-line forums, radio talk shows and, of course, all the obvious and more subtle forms of advertising by the oil manufacturers and the oil change industry. When Jiffy Lube puts a sticker on my windshield warning me that my next oil change is due in 3k miles, itís clear who benefits most from these regular visits, and it ainít me or my car.

These days, itís common to hear of documented engine life of 500k miles and more. A fleet of Chevy gasoline V8 pickups pulling trailers delivering car parts overnight all over the Midwest has run a number of bow tie bombers to over 600K without failure. A 1987 Saab 900 just hit the million mile mark without an engine rebuild. Yes, the Saab owner used expensive synthetic oil and changed it regularly in his million mile quest. But how long are you planning to keep your car?

Still not convinced? Da Vinci Code time. In the mid-80ís, Germanyís leading car magazine Auto, Motor und Sport ran a VW Golf with a 1.6 liter gasoline engine for 100,000 kilometers (62,000 miles) without changing the motor oil or filter. They then tore down the engine completely and examined every single moving part [microscopically] for signs of wear and tear. What little wear they could find was not engine life threatening and fit within normal operating parameters for the given mileage.

Obviously, I donít expect pistonheads to forgo engine oil changes completelyĖ if only because following manufacturerís recommendations safeguards your potential warranty claims. Still, if warranty isnít an issue and youíre not planning on keeping your car past 150k or so, and you run it under favorable conditionsĖ a long commute, lots of highway miles, milder climate, etc. ó consider extended intervals. If you have a three year lease, well, thatís between you and your conscience.

Meanwhile, the situation with gasoline and octane levels is roughly analogous. A couple of years ago, AM&S did another extensive test, running cars whose manufacturers called for premium fuel on regular gas. The result: performance and fuel economy losses ranged from zero to mid-single digit percentages. I donít need to tell you that it can be a LOT cheaper to fill your carís tank with a lower grade of fuel. And donít worry about damaging your engine; modern detonation sensors constantly adjust ignition timing to be optimal for the fuel being burned and prevent pre-ignition.

Pistonheads who lavish low interval oil changes and high octane go-juice on the cherishd machines do so more for their own peace of mind than their carís mechanical needs. Itís sweet, but unnecessary.
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Old 01-19-07, 10:37 AM   #2
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I never change my oil. I just take it out, wash it off, and put it back in.
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Old 01-19-07, 10:38 AM   #3
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Then there's that other class of driver.......

Going down the road resembling a mosquito fogger from the blue cloud trailing them, changing the oil completely every 500 miles because that's how long it takes them to burn the 5 Qts of ultra cheap nondetergent SAE 30 motor oil (which never causes start up issues on cold days because their engines are so worn there is no friction!).
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Old 01-19-07, 10:49 AM   #4
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Hmmm... this from a guy (Niedermeyer, not the OP) advocating never changing the oil because you're going to pawn a car off on the used market in a few years. All that's going to do in the long run is wind up costing more oil because the damage will add up.

Don't get me wrong, I think the 3000 mile oil change is a marketing masterpiece that we can't seem to debunk. My vehicle manual - written by the guys who designed the thing - calls for either 7500 mi or 15000 mile intervals, depending on the type of use. I've settled on 10000 based on my driving.

The best advice out there is to follow your vehicle manual's advice. Not some outspoken evangelist with an agenda; either to sell you more oil or to "save the planet".

Once your warranty expires, that's still good advice, but the synthetic market does offer some alternative/extended change intervals, as long as you're doing sampling at regular intervals.

Oh yeah, and 500K mile cars aren't all that common. They're out there, but we hear about them precisely because it's uncommon.
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Old 01-19-07, 10:56 AM   #5
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5000 miles with semi synthetic
80% highway mileage
20% very short city driving
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Old 01-19-07, 11:02 AM   #6
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I change my oil every 3,000 with platinum synthetic. Every other change I use oil additive. Granted I'm gonna swap the engine or rebuild it and turn it into a Cobra motor after I graduate, but I still hate the idea of anything but the best stuff in my engine.

I don't know about just changing the filter and adding a quart, but I do know that I'm not about to do it. A comparison of 2 ford escorts seems good. First we have my friends Escort which his mom gave him. She changed the oil every 5,000 miles or so, and would add a quart as needed. That car has a buck forty on it, and it gets the same milage as my crown victoria. 15 or so city, 22 freeway.

Then there is the Escort that belongs to a guy I met at school. He changes his oil just like I do. His Escort gets 40 MPG, and it has 214,000 miles on it with no rebuilds ever done.
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Old 01-19-07, 12:31 PM   #7
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The manufacturer of my car recommends 7500 miles between oil-changes. The manufacturer of the synthetic oil I use claims theirs can go up to 15000 miles. I split the difference at 10000 miles.

On of my friends in high-school didn't even know you had to change the oil in cars. He went 25000 miles in the first couple years of owning his car. Then we took auto-shop and he realized how long it's been. We drained the oil and it was dark like tar. He ended up getting over 300000 miles out of that 280XZ-turbo.

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Old 01-19-07, 12:32 PM   #8
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I typically wait till my car starts overheating, then I like to add some oil.

Last time I changed oil: can't remember.
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Old 01-19-07, 12:46 PM   #9
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My truck always seemed to run better after an oil change. 454 V8. The cost of an oil change if you do it yourself is so low that it just doesn't seem like a big deal to do it more often or not.
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Old 01-19-07, 01:08 PM   #10
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my car says to change the oil about every 4500 miles. I try to do that - sometimes a bit sooner, sometimes a bit later. but it's a 2000 with 250,000 miles on it & it doesn't seem like the engine will give up anytime soon.
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Old 01-19-07, 01:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pheard
I typically wait till my car starts overheating, then I like to add some oil.

Last time I changed oil: can't remember.
Umm, Jon

You should at least add a quart every time it needs it. If there isn't enough oil, your rings will go bad. If your rings go bad, power will be reduced, and perhaps more importantly the gas milage will go way down. I wouldn't want anything to screw up gas my milage with Bay Area gas prices
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Old 01-19-07, 01:55 PM   #12
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Rofl. No one takes care of shlt around here. Let's just say, of the 3 cars we owned. I've been driving while all of them have had their turn at overheating on me. Of course all of these times the problem was a whole lot worse than lack of oil. I do understand what you're saying, I probably should go outside and check the oil right now.

Last problem I had with the red car we thought was just the air filter, or something simple. 2 of the 6 cylinders weren't firing while driving, and all kinds of crap needed to be replaced. 1000+ dollars later, and the engine still has these random shakes. They ran a diagnostic machine, and it showed up a code or something that only the ford place would know what it meant. Something like that. So that car get's 30-40 less miles per tank than it used too.
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Old 01-19-07, 01:59 PM   #13
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Yep, that will happen. Its a lot cheaper to buy spark plugs, wires, oil, air filters, radiator fluid and do any other regular maintainance than buy a new engine or some other major component. The good news is that you could probably get a much nicer condition engine from a junk yard for that car for a couple hundred bucks or less.

My Grandpa used to have an 80's Taurus on which he installed 2 Holley Double Pumper carbs. Rigging something like that might be fun if you wanted to fix it and put some extra pep in its step
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Old 01-19-07, 02:00 PM   #14
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Before I sold my car I'd change it every 24k miles or 12 months. I used Amsoil and at 12.5k or 6 mos you just change the filter and add oil as needed. It saved me a ton of $$.

Prior to that I'd change it every 3k miles with Mobil 1 Synthetic. It's a preference thing and an "I feel better about it" thing. After my wife sucked water into my engine and blew 3 holes in the block a mechanic took apart the engine and said it was immaculate, almost new looking. So to me, changing the oil as often as I did made a difference to me, imo.

I change the oil on my BMW about every 15k miles, per BMW. I'm on the "all maintenance is free for the first 4 years or 50k miles program" so I just let the dealer mess with it. After that period I'll do the work myself. Plus until recently my wife and I would barely put 10k miles a year on it.

But no matter if you change it at 3k miles, 4.5k miles or whatever, as long as you change it on a regular basis your engine should be fine.
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Old 01-19-07, 02:22 PM   #15
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Run synthetic. Your motor will last longer make more power and get better gas mileage. Plus the temperature would have to be cold enough to freeze you on the spot for synthetic to thicken like a conventional oil.
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Old 01-19-07, 02:25 PM   #16
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Chuck Norris doesn't change his oil. He just stares it down and all the impurities run away crying to their mommies.
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Old 01-19-07, 02:44 PM   #17
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I actually enjoy changing the oil...except for this time of year.
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Old 01-19-07, 02:44 PM   #18
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never a problem on my 1999 dodge 4x4 every 6,000 miles still runs strong with 158,000
2006 ford focus 31,000 miles, all fwy driving every 6,000 miles.

I use to change oil religiously every 2,000-3,000 miles don't really see any change in performance or lasting durability when changing the oil @ 6,000 miles
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Old 01-19-07, 02:53 PM   #19
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I don't think 3,000 is necessary, but to avoid dealer warranty hassles, I do it anyway. The thing about oil changes that's always overlooked - there's more than 1 reason to change your oil. Just about every article like the one at the start of this thread discusses the lubricating properties of the oil still being 'good enough' for long after 3000 miles.

The other main reason for changing your oil is to get rid of all the dirt and gunk that builds up in it. This is especially if you travel down a lot of dirt/gravel roads or drive through construction sites. That air filter doesn't keep everything out of your engine, and when particles do get in your engine, they end up in your oil, and oil filter. So, you change that stuff out and keep a nice clean running machine.

Keeping the oil for far too long because its still lubricating is like re-using the same bathwater for a month, just because it's still wet.
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Old 01-19-07, 02:55 PM   #20
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When I get a car, I will change it every 3k anyway. I am looking into finding a old Ltd, or accord, and it will need all the help it can get.
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Old 01-19-07, 02:55 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michigander
Yep, that will happen. Its a lot cheaper to buy spark plugs, wires, oil, air filters, radiator fluid and do any other regular maintainance than buy a new engine or some other major component. The good news is that you could probably get a much nicer condition engine from a junk yard for that car for a couple hundred bucks or less.
I know, with a little bit of knowledge tons of money can be saved installing things yourself, which also prevents more major problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michigander
My Grandpa used to have an 80's Taurus on which he installed 2 Holley Double Pumper carbs. Rigging something like that might be fun if you wanted to fix it and put some extra pep in its step
I have no idea what you just said. I actually wish I knew more about cars.

we had an 86' cutlass, that needed serious help. I was told I could fix it up if I wanted, but I never got around to it. By the time I got around to wanting to do it, the cooling sysem was completely screwed, and the body had rust forming. It was almost the same color as this one.



I always wanted to pimp it out.
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Old 01-19-07, 02:56 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hyunelan2
I don't think 3,000 is necessary, but to avoid dealer warranty hassles, I do it anyway. The thing about oil changes that's always overlooked - there's more than 1 reason to change your oil. Just about every article like the one at the start of this thread discusses the lubricating properties of the oil still being 'good enough' for long after 3000 miles.

The other main reason for changing your oil is to get rid of all the dirt and gunk that builds up in it. This is especially if you travel down a lot of dirt/gravel roads or drive through construction sites. That air filter doesn't keep everything out of your engine, and when particles do get in your engine, they end up in your oil, and oil filter. So, you change that stuff out and keep a nice clean running machine.

Keeping the oil for far too long because its still lubricating is like re-using the same bathwater for a month, just because it's still wet.

I don't think your argument is valid. Measuring the wear and tolerances on the surfaces those studies checked out will show the results of oil with poor lubricating properties AND the results of contaminants in the oil.
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Old 01-19-07, 03:08 PM   #23
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I usually go around 5k on my oil, but agree that we change oil too often in the US. Years ago, Consumre reports verified this.

Here is their article.
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Old 01-19-07, 03:12 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaabFan
I don't think your argument is valid. Measuring the wear and tolerances on the surfaces those studies checked out will show the results of oil with poor lubricating properties AND the results of contaminants in the oil.
Yeah, you want to quantify exactly how much outside particulate matter and other contaminants is in the oil. Without numbers attached, it's like saying "food is bad for you because it makes you fat". Yes, that's a valid assertion for not eating, but the reality comes down to actual numbers. With each oil-change, I send a sample of the oil to Blackstone Labs and they'll do an thorough analysis of the oil. They can tell you how much outside dust is coming in and how much the engine is wearing. I can tell you from this report that K&N air-filters, while more free-flowing than paper-filters, DO NOT filter the air as well.

The report can determine how much of the wear is from the rings and how much from the bearings. Even pinpoint the amount of wear in the bearings and when they're getting close to the wear-limit. The progression of wear from report-to-report can tell when the engine's close to needing a rebuild. At which point, I'd pull the engine and swap in one I've previously built up.

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Old 01-19-07, 03:15 PM   #25
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You're totally missing my point. If the tests were measuring engine wear as a factor of oil change interval, it doesn't matter if the wear was caused by lack of lubrication or contaminants - it's measuring wear, regardless of the source. Hence, if the test proved that a certain (long) drain interval is OK, it's OK despite which source the wear was coming from.
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