Ask the Best and Brightest: How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
I know: we’ve been down this road before. But hey, GM provides us with these neat-o-keen videos for bupkis, and TTAC’s added thousands of new readers since the Best and Brightest last weighed-in on the topic. [NB: That’s one Hell of a condescending, snarky intro there GM.] There’s still a lot debate on the ideal frequency of oil changes given make, model, driving style, height, weight and blood group. And there’s still info out there predicting catastrophic consequences should you fail to change your oil religiously (votive candles optional). Personally, I change my oil whenever those damn idiot lights go off– even though I’m sure I don’t need to change my oil that often. My OCD won’t let me drive with warning lamps lit, and I’m not about to do the reset deal, ’cause then I’ll forget and… peace of mind. You?
Anyone who changes their car's oil before 7500 is totally playing into the hands of big oil and simply wasting money. I have used mineral and synthetic, and even if I go 9000, which I have more than once (even on the mineral oil), my 2001 Honda Accord has NEVER complained. It has 192,500 miles and is still factory-quiet. There. Proof. GM cars won't go that long if you install an IV with fresh oil flowing 24/7!! I totally agree with brettc. The engineers (even at GM) designed the car. They DO know best.
On my M3, the oil change (maintenance) interval readout is a function of average fuel economy, not a function of chemical or thermal analysis being performed by the onboard computer. I'm not saying that this isn't a valid approach, merely that this is a second-order indicator and people should be aware of it before they take is as gospel. My German heartthrob swigs the good stuff (Castrol TWS 10W60 synthetic @ $11/L, yes liter), but I've decided to go back to BMW's old interval (7500 miles) rather than follow the interval (15000 miles) they came up with after they started including four years of maintenance in the price of the new cars. Even that may change after I read through that SAE paper though. The bulletproof Japanese engines in my life get fresh dino juice every six months currently because I believe that while the oil itself can continue to lubricate and trap contaminants well beyond that time period, time is not as kind to the detergents and additives that have prolonged engine life so much during the past two decades. Given how little we hear about engine failure due to contamination these days even with the spectrum of motorists ranging from fanatical short intervalers/oil analysis enthusiasts to completely neglectful/perpetual leasees/extended intervalers however, I suspect that we are getting our collective panties in a collective bunch over something not worth a wedgie.
The Malibu Maxx has an oil life indicator, so we go by that. My better half drives that car about 15K miles/year, so it typically sees 2-3 changes a year. So far, so good. My 97 Cavalier was originally owned by my wife's brother (I know this sounds like a bad joke), while not being even remotely mechanical, religiously took the little beast to the dealer for all routine maintenance. As a result, the insides of the mighty pushrod 2.2 are the cleanest that I've ever seen in a 200,000 mile engine of any manufacturer. I found this out when I finally got around to replacing the verdammt leaking valve cover gasket. Alas, the Pontiac with the Quad4 has lived a hard life in the service of the teenage boy who previously owned her... I don't think there's enough oil in Saudi Arabia to save her...
On my '04 xB it gets changed at about 5K as that is when the "maintenance required" idiot light comes on. Though the last time it came on just before some friends borrowed it for two weeks to move so it was probably more like 7-8K. On my '62 Comet (with '71 Maverick 200 engine) it gets changed once in the spring and once in the fall. I only put about 2-3K on the car in a year. On my roommate's Caravan (and previously on her Civic) she gets it changed about once a year *at best*. Her change intervals have been as much as 30K+. This is how she's always done it and has never had any oil-related failures.