Thurston Car Talk: Oil Change Interval

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Brons Automotive is located in the heart of West Olympia. Photo credit: Bron's Automotive.

Submitted by Bron at Bron’s Automotive

There is a lot of controversy today about how often we should perform a vehicle service.  This used to be called an oil change, however a true vehicle service also includes a full inspection of fluids, lights, tire pressure, and other systems to ensure trouble free operation.

The traditional interval is 3,000 miles for regular oil, which I am a believer in for most drivers.  Starting a motor when the cylinders and rings are cold produces some harmful byproducts.  If the vehicle is normally run for at least 20-30 minutes after it is started every time, these byproducts are burned off by the fully warmed engine, and the oil is purified, and so it is acceptable to go 5,000 miles between services.  (This is typically folks that commute 20 to 30 miles to work or further.)  Conversely, if the vehicle is driven infrequently or only on very short trips, it is good to change the oil twice a year at a minimum.  This is because even though the oil may look clean, the acids and byproducts produced by cold starts need to be removed.

Synthetic blend oil contains only 20% synthetic oil and 80% regular oil in each quart.  I do not personally use this type of oil, but if you do, use the same intervals as regular oil.

Full synthetic oil is made differently and lasts longer and I recommend an interval of 7,500 miles for this type of oil.  Some of the manufacturers of vehicles engineered to use full Synthetic oil have gone to a 10,000 mile interval which I think would be fine if your commute included a minimum of 20-30 minutes on the Autobahn each day.  I’ll stick with the 7,500 mile interval in most cases.

There are two other reasons not to push your vehicle services out too long.  Firstly, no air filters or oil filters are perfect.  They all let some microscopic amount of dirt past them.  This means that one of an oils function is to hold this microscopic dirt in suspension until it is drained the next time.  This will be slightly abrasive to critical parts inside your engine.

The second and most important reason to not wait too long for your vehicles service, is that when performing the Service and Courtesy Inspection, we sometimes find a nail in a tire, a bulb burned out, or fluid leak that needs attention.  If your radiator or water pump had begun to leak, would you like to know about in in a couple of months?  6 months?  A year??  This is the main reason I don’t like to wait too long.  Regular service results in a more reliable vehicle and fewer repairs, and therefore a lower operating cost over the life of the vehicle.

You may ask what I do personally and that is fair.  I own two vehicles, each of which has been serviced every 3,000 miles.  My 1995 Ford F150  has 176,000 miles on it and runs perfectly.  My wife’s 2005 Ford Taurus has just hit 180,000 miles and it still get 26 miles per gallon on the freeway and uses only a half quart of oil in 3,000 miles.  That’s all the proof I need.

No matter which interval or type of oil you choose, please consider letting Bron’s Automotive perform your service.  We have been performing all types of services in Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey, and Thurston County for years and are an AAA Approver repair shop.

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