Every 3,000 miles / 3 months, or what?

30 12 2010

Here is part 1 (albeit abbreviated in light of the influx of customers taking advantage of our “winterization” promotion that ends today) of the Oil Change Interval blog entry that many of you have asked for these past few months.  More detailed information forthcoming in part 2.

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There is some question as to whether 3,000 mile oil change intervals are too short or really necessary.  There may in fact be some truth to this, especially as it pertains to our responsibility to the environment, however try not to rush to any premature conclusions here.  We’ll cover this age old debate for conventional oil below, but stay tuned for more on synthetic options as well.

Extending the amount of time or miles that you drive between having an oil change service does have an impact on engine life.  That said, many things need to be taken into consideration when making a decision on when the right time may be for you.  For starters, the climate that we live in (for us Michiganders) is considered by the NHTSA to be “severe driving conditions.”  This is primarily due to the significant temperature fluctuations one can experience this far north, not to mention the residual natural effects, some of which include salt, gravel, dust, humidity, strong winds, hail, etc.  If you’ve been in Michigan long you’ve likely experienced how possible it is for all four seasons to show themselves in the same day.

Distance of trips and frequent stop and go driving play a significant factor as well.  Under severe conditions the oil should be changed more frequently.  When an engine does not get up to full operating temperature, condensation can build up and cause the oil to become acidic, which can lower the effectiveness of the oil itself.  Also, with short trip driving the unburned fuel or hydrocarbons can collect and contaminate the engine oil, which causes it to turn dark and appear dirty.

To illustrate an extreme case of what NOT to do, we rewind to a time when we had to replace the engine on a Toyota 4 Runner due to serious neglect from the owner.  The engine failed due to lack of oil changes and proper maintenance for a duration of 25,000 miles!  Yes, you heard us correctly.  The engine oil was so old and polluted that it turned into sludge.  When we removed the oil drain plug nothing came out – NOT one drop.  In fact, we had to penetrate the sludge with a screw driver to create a hole before we would even see any sign of liquid, and this was a few drops at best.  Bottom line, there was no saving this engine.

Changing your engine oil and filter with a routine vehicle inspection every 3 months/3,000 miles (whichever comes first) for severe conditions is recommended.  In cases where you typically drive longer distances on a regular basis, going 5,000 miles and in rare cases 7,500 between oil change service isn’t inadvisable.  Weather conditions, terrain, and driving distance are the three elements of this equation that we believe command your attention.  Whichever you decide is right for you, it is always a good idea to check your engine oil level about every 3-4 times you refuel.

In part 2 we’ll cover the option of using synthetic engine oil.  As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.  Also, feel free to give us a call if you have any specific questions that haven’t been answered here, or ones completely unrelated to this particular blog entry.

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