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Thread: Oil change intervals changing?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Oil change intervals changing?


    It may not be necessary to change your vehicle's oil and filter as often as you once did. Recommended service intervals have been increasing over the past few years from as often as once every 3-4 months and 3,000 miles to as infrequently as once every 5,000 (or even 10,000 miles), depending on the car -- and its manufacturer.

    The reasons for the longer change-out intervals have to do with both improved engine designs (more efficient engines don't produce as many combustion byproducts, such as unburned gasoline, that can contaminate the oil) and improved oil formulations and additive packages -- which extend the useful life of the oil itself.

    But there are several important caveats to be aware of.

    * First, remember that service recommendations vary from manufacturer to manufacture -- Don't go by any "general rule of thumb" you've read about in the paper or heard someone say is ok, but rather abide by the specific recommendations for your particular vehicle. (See your owner's manual -- or ask the dealer.)

    * Second, keep in mind that service intervals generally fall into two categories -- "normal" and "severe" use. Don't automatically assume your vehicle falls into the "normal" category (with longer service intervals) because you don't drive fast or aggressively, etc. In fact, stop-and-go commuting is often considered "severe" driving. So is driving that involves very light use -- such as short trips or very infrequent use of the vehicle. If the type of driving you do falls into the "severe" category, then you should abide by the service interval recommendations listed under "severe" use. (Again, see your owner's manual -- or ask the dealer if you are unsure about which category your vehicle falls into.)

    * Third, be aware that all oils are not created equal. High-performance synthetics, for example, can provide longer service (and superior engine protection, especially under severe conditions and loads) than conventional oil. And high-quality conventional oil will provide better (and longer-lasting) protection than lower-quality oil. The key thing is to always use oil -- whether synthetic or conventional -- that meets the minimum service recommendations specified by the vehicle manufacturer, including viscosity (such as 5W-30, etc.) and the specific American Petroleum Institute (API) classification for your vehicle. The API classification will be in the form of alpha-numeric ratings such as SJ, SL, SH, CH and so on. Your owner's manual (or a sticker in the engine compartment) will spell out exactly which API service classification (and viscosity) oil you must use in your engine. It's ok to use an oil that exceeds the specs (as with synthetics) but never use an oil that doesn't at least meet the specs.

    Important: Use of oil that doesn't meet the manufacturer's minimum requirements can cause engine damage -- and will void your warranty. The same goes for the filter. If you do your own service, be sure you keep receipts, noting the date and mileage at all changes. You may need to provide proof you serviced the vehicle properly in the event an oil-related engine problem crops up that involves a warranty claim.

    Also: Don't forget to periodically (at least every two weeks) check the oil level -- or have it checked by your mechanic or someone you trust. All engines use some oil in the process of operation -- and it's important to make sure the oil level never gets too low. You don't have to use the exact same brand/type of oil to top off -- so long as it's got the same API service rating (or better) than the oil you've been using. It's also ok to use a different viscosity oil in a pinch to top off the level -- for example, a quart of 10w-30 when you can't find any 5W-15. But if you have to add more than a quart of thicker (higher viscosity number) oil to the engine, it's a good idea to have a complete oil/filter change done soon thereafter. Modern engines with very close internal tolerances can be very sensitive to thicker oils and while you probably won't do any damage by running thicker oil, it could lead to lower fuel economy and possibly problems with the emissions controls.

    (A version of this article was written for Bottom Line Personal Finance, in which it originally appeared).






  2. #2
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    For my new GTI, VW recommends a first oil change at 5000, a second oil change at 10,000, and subsequent oil changes at 10,000 mile intervals.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    For my new GTI, VW recommends a first oil change at 5000, a second oil change at 10,000, and subsequent oil changes at 10,000 mile intervals.
    I've read that also - but personally would never go 10,000 miles between oil changes if it were my vehicle. I believe these advertised extra-long changeout intervals are "pushing the envelope" - but done so as to allow VW (and other automakers) to be able to claim "low maintenance costs" to their customers, etc.

    5,000 miles? Ok. Twice that? No way!

  4. #4
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    You know the BMWs and Benzes that come with the Bosch oil sensor thingy that measures something in the oil to tell you when you really need an oil change? I dunno if it's measuring viscosity index, metal particulates, or what, but it almost never goes off before 11,000 miles.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You know the BMWs and Benzes that come with the Bosch oil sensor thingy that measures something in the oil to tell you when you really need an oil change? I dunno if it's measuring viscosity index, metal particulates, or what, but it almost never goes off before 11,000 miles.
    Yes.. but even so... I am a "long haul" kind of guy when it comes to vehicles; I'd rather err on the side of caution (and pay a nominal extra $30-50 annually) doing more frequent oil changes than risk decreased engine life in order to "save" a similar amount!

  6. #6
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You know the BMWs and Benzes that come with the Bosch oil sensor thingy that measures something in the oil to tell you when you really need an oil change? I dunno if it's measuring viscosity index, metal particulates, or what, but it almost never goes off before 11,000 miles.
    When I had the ML-320 with the Bosch oil-life sensor, I changed the filter about mid-interval. The engine design was such that the filter was on top of the motor, so when you unscrewed the cap, there it was. You just had to let the oil drain a little bit before pulling it out. Very convenient.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  7. #7
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    I wish I could find the link now, because a couple of months ago I saw a web site with the results of some rather extensive oil testing. The result that sticks in my mind was that they tested a late Z28 with Mobil 1 (and I don't remember what filter) and by whatever metric they were using determined that the filter was good for 13K and the oil for close to 15K. Even their dino-oil test showed some impressive numbers.

    It would appear that the 10K intervals used by manufacturers now may already err on the conservative side.

  8. #8
    mrblanche
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I've read that also - but personally would never go 10,000 miles between oil changes if it were my vehicle. I believe these advertised extra-long changeout intervals are "pushing the envelope" - but done so as to allow VW (and other automakers) to be able to claim "low maintenance costs" to their customers, etc.

    5,000 miles? Ok. Twice that? No way!
    The "oil life monitor" on the Cobalt gets to about the point (25%-33%) at about 5,000 miles, and that's when I usually change it.

    However, I changed it the first time at 500 miles. Old habits die hard! You might be surprised at the aluminum shavings I found in the filter at that point.

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    "The "oil life monitor" on the Cobalt gets to about the point (25%-33%) at about 5,000 miles, and that's when I usually change it.

    However, I changed it the first time at 500 miles. Old habits die hard! You might be surprised at the aluminum shavings I found in the filter at that point."

    I wouldn't be...

    I figure it's a cheap bet to err on the side of caution.

  10. #10
    mrblanche
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Now let's see how long it takes for someone to trot out the old canard about "break-in oil."

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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Just avoid regular Castrol at all costs. It is perhaps the worst motor oil I have ever put in a car, except for maybe Advance Auto brand. I burned a quart of it in 1000 miles in my 1996 Mustang GT (which I sold in 1999). When I switched to Kendall 10/30, no such problem happened again. Kendall is the best crude stock oil IMO. Mobil 1 is the best synthetic for my vehicles. I even prefer it to Amsoil. I don't think that Amsoil is that great. It costs way too much as well. As for intervals, I rely on GM's idiot sensor on the Saturn. Since I run synthetic, I believe that I am safe. Haven't had any engine problems in 134, 000 miles with an average of 7000 miles between changes.

  12. #12
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    Just avoid regular Castrol at all costs. It is perhaps the worst motor oil I have ever put in a car, except for maybe Advance Auto brand. I burned a quart of it in 1000 miles in my 1996 Mustang GT (which I sold in 1999). When I switched to Kendall 10/30, no such problem happened again. Kendall is the best crude stock oil IMO. Mobil 1 is the best synthetic for my vehicles. I even prefer it to Amsoil. I don't think that Amsoil is that great. It costs way too much as well. As for intervals, I rely on GM's idiot sensor on the Saturn. Since I run synthetic, I believe that I am safe. Haven't had any engine problems in 134, 000 miles with an average of 7000 miles between changes.
    Surely Quaker State is worse?

    Castrol Syntec seems to have a good reputation.

    I wonder what kind of synthetic is in my VW? I get the first seven oil changes "free", with "VW-approved synthetic oil".

  13. #13
    mrblanche
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Castrol Syntec seems to have a good reputation.

    I wonder what kind of synthetic is in my VW? I get the first seven oil changes "free", with "VW-approved synthetic oil".
    Oddly enough, some years ago (long enough ago that it's irrelevant today, I'm sure) Consumer Reports found that Castrol consistently stayed in the correct viscosity longer than any other oil they tested.

    In fact, I can't think of anything that would cause an engine to burn one brand of oil any faster than another brand, unless it clung much more tenaciously to the cylinder walls.

  14. #14
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Castrol Syntec seems to have a good reputation.

    I wonder what kind of synthetic is in my VW? I get the first seven oil changes "free", with "VW-approved synthetic oil".
    Oddly enough, some years ago (long enough ago that it's irrelevant today, I'm sure) Consumer Reports found that Castrol consistently stayed in the correct viscosity longer than any other oil they tested.

    In fact, I can't think of anything that would cause an engine to burn one brand of oil any faster than another brand, unless it clung much more tenaciously to the cylinder walls.
    Seems to me if a given oil (regardless of the brand name) has passed the SAE/API tests, etc. it ought to be of at least acceptable quality, etc.

    Does anyone have actual evidence that Castrol oil (or any other major brand oil) is "bad"?

  15. #15
    DonTom
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    "Just avoid regular Castrol at all costs. It is perhaps the worst motor oil I have ever put in a car, except for maybe Advance Auto brand. I burned a quart of it in 1000 miles in my 1996 Mustang GT (which I sold in 1999). When I switched to Kendall 10/30, no such problem happened again. Kendall is the best crude stock oil IMO. Mobil 1 is the best synthetic for my vehicles. I even prefer it to Amsoil. I don't think that Amsoil is that great. It costs way too much as well. As for intervals, I rely on GM's idiot sensor on the Saturn. Since I run synthetic, I believe that I am safe. Haven't had any engine problems in 134, 000 miles with an average of 7000 miles between changes."

    I don't buy it. You must have an intermittent oil leak or something like that. I don't believe there's a lot of difference between different motor oils from the same year. Motor oil keeps on getting better and better and the quality is in the two letters that start with "S" such as "SF", "SG". The higher that second letter, the later and better the oil is, no matter who made it. So if you're taking old bottles of oil out of your garage that's been there for many years, check those letters to see if it's a fair comparison to today's motor oils.

    But even if older, it shouldn't make a difference with your oil consumption. But it's possible that the additives in some oils can clean up an area in your engine that wasn't leaking only because of the old crud on a gasket that the new additives cleaned out.

    -Don-

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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric

    Seems to me if a given oil (regardless of the brand name) has passed the SAE/API tests, etc. it ought to be of at least acceptable quality, etc.

    Does anyone have actual evidence that Castrol oil (or any other major brand oil) is "bad"?
    A long time ago ?1970, the car I had did very poorly with Exxon oil, the oil level was fine for about a thousand miles and then went down fairly rapidly. The car did well woth other brands burning nothing between 3k changes. It turned out that the 'thickeners' used to make the oil multi grade wore out rapidly in the Exxon product of the time.

  17. #17
    mrblanche
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Some years ago (maybe 10), Consumer Reports found that of all the brands, Castrol stayed in-grade longer than any of the others they tested.

  18. #18
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Some years ago (maybe 10), Consumer Reports found that of all the brands, Castrol stayed in-grade longer than any of the others they tested.
    I'm betting that so long as the oil you use meets the SAE/API spec. for your engine you won't have any problems. There may have been sub-par name-brand oils 20 or 30 years ago.. but I doubt that's the case today.

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    Re: Oil change intervals changing?

    Posted this article on the main page:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...2&Itemid=10813

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