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3,000-mile oil change myth

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By Jennifer Warnick - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Most of us want our vehicles to last as long as possible and regular oil changes can help reach that goal. 

"Within the engine it dissipates heat, lubricates, does all sorts of things in the engine to extend the life of the components," said Midas owner Mark Smith. 

Not something you want to let go by the wayside. The old adage has you changing your oil every 3,000 miles. 

"It's been marketed that way for generations. When I was a kid that was a good number because oil broke down," he said. 

Today's oil has additives; it's less heat and wear sensitive. Those factors extend the life of the oil. 

"Oil changes today -- you think more 5,000 miles. Any place you go wants to see you five times a year," said Mark. "Is there some marketing behind the 3,000 mile message? Oh yeah." 

When you buy a car a dealer might tell you every 3,000, but the real number is in the owner's manual. 

"It could just as readily say 7,500 miles," Mark said. 

Mark doesn't recommend pushing past 5000 miles, that's when he changes the oil in his truck. But there are models that can go farther -- like a 2000 Honda Civic or a 2011 Subaru Forester. Both manuals say 7500. 

"There are manufacturers that say you can go 10,000 miles," he added. 

My Hyundai's manual is clear, every 3000 miles, but I always push it way past due. I'm now 2500 overdue for an oil change. Lindsay goes to work draining the system and Mark watches to see if there's anything suspicious. 

"The flow was good, the viscosity was good. 5000 mile on a Hyundai is not a bad oil change," Mark said. 

So why do many stick to the 3,000 mile rule? 

"It seems to make them feel more comfortable extending the life of their car," Mark said. "Could they get a 3,000 mile oil change at 5000 and accomplish the same thing? Yes in my opinion they could." 

If you drive under severe conditions, Mark says not to push it past dealer recommendations. That includes towing or hauling heavy loads. Both will accelerate the breakdown all of the fluids in your car. 

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