Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The oil change scam

“There was a time when [changing your car's engine oil every] 3,000 miles was a good guideline,” said Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor for the car site Edmunds.com. “But it’s no longer true for any car bought in the last seven or eight years.”

Oil chemistry and engine technology have improved to the point that most cars can go several thousand more miles before changing the oil, Mr. Reed said. A better average, he said, would be 7,500 between oil changes, and sometimes up to 10,000 miles or more.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board ran public service announcements for several years about “the 3,000-mile myth,” urging drivers to wait longer between oil changes. Although the information is a few years old, the board has a list of cars on its Web site and how often they need oil changes. The concern is not only the cost to drivers, but the environmental impact of throwing away good oil, said Mark Oldfield, a recycling specialist for the agency. ...

Still, some people stick to the 3,000-mile changes, because “the Jiffy Lubes of the world have done a good job convincing people,” Mr. Martin said. ...

But Jiffy Lube, the largest quick oil change company in North America, is now under pressure to change its automatic 3,000-mile recommendation.

For about a year, the company has run a pilot program with some franchises across the country suggesting that instead of a blanket recommendation, mechanics tell customers what the manufacturer recommends under mild or severe driving conditions.
--Alina Tugend, NYT, on why you should change your engine oil less often

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