Is Overmaintenance Costing You?

Whenever I write a post and mention oil changes, I always encourage people to check the manual of their automobile to find out how often they should change their oil? Why? The frequency of oil changes varies greatly depending on the type of engine you have in your car, varying anywhere from every 3,000 miles to every 10,000 miles, with many different levels in between.

Quite often, when I mention this, a reader or two will say to ignore the manual and change the oil every 3,000 miles in order to truly protect the engine. Sure, some of these folks might be running a Jiffy Lube, but some of them simply are very cautious. They’d prefer to pay a little more now in extra maintenance costs to avoid a major crisis later.

To an extent, that’s how we all feel. If we didn’t feel that way, we wouldn’t bother changing our oil at all. Regular maintenance of the things in our lives saves us a lot of money over the long haul.

Yet, all I have to do is look at the Prius in our garage to realize that over-maintenance can be a real money sink.

Usually, my wife takes the car to the dealership for scheduled maintenance (they provide such maintenance at a very low cost if one buys from them). Unfortunately, we were recently on a road trip and realized that a “minor” maintenance milestone had been reached – just an oil change – so she just took it to a recommended local shop and had it changed while we were out and about on foot on our trip.

After that oil change, she observed that the shop had put a sticker on her windshield encouraging her to change her oil after another 3,000 miles, not the 5,000 miles recommended in the manual – and by the dealer.

The reason for this is obvious – many automobiles over the past few decades were made assuming oil changes every 3,000 miles and the number has seeped into general acceptance, plus the oil change shops make more if people bring in their car every 3,000 miles instead of every 5,000 (or more) miles.

Yet, just by following the maintenance schedule actually provided with the car, over the 150,000 miles we plan to have the car, we’ll save ourselves twenty (!) oil changes. That’s a lot less time and less money.

Sure, we could be extra cautious and get our oil changed more frequently. But to what benefit? The engine is designed for less frequent oil changes. Getting them done more frequently doesn’t particularly help the engine, but it does cost us time and money and produces more wasted oil. Over-maintenance has a real financial and time cost when it doesn’t reduce risk by any appreciable amount.

How can you avoid such over-maintenance costs? Here are the tactics I’ve found that have worked well for me.

First, get unbiased maintenance schedules for the equipment you have. Do not trust the word of people who will profit from more frequent maintenance, like auto repair shops or furnace filter manufacturers. Instead, look for sources of unbiased information – people who will be hurt only if they give you incorrect information. Consumer Reports can be one place to look, as can the manual for the product itself (and not the replacement or maintenance parts – look at your furnace manual, not the documentation that comes with a replacement filter).

Second, perform maintenance that has the lowest money and time costs per year, even if it costs more right now. For example, long-life furnace filters are often better choices, even though they cost significantly more, simply because you’re not replacing them as often. This also reduces the time and money costs of maintenance without adding risk to your equipment.

Finally, understand how the equipment actually works. This means going beyond just following step-by-step maintenance tasks. If you understand how the equipment works in more detail, you’re more likely to understand how to fix simple problems with the equipment yourself (like changing your own oil and spark plugs), as well as knowing some additional maintenance methods that can save you extra money (like how to quickly defrost an older freezer, which can be a huge money saver). The more you know, the less you have to spend on maintenance and repair.

Spending money and time to maintain your equipment (cars, appliances, etc.) is always a great idea, but it can sometimes include more time and money than necessary, particularly if you’re overcautious. Don’t be. Follow the instructions, find unbiased information, use long-term solutions, and take time to understand what you’re actually doing and you’ll find that maintenance isn’t as expensive or time consuming as you might think – but it does massively extend the life of your appliances and automobiles and home.

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  1. A.J. says:

    Between 3,000 and 10,000 miles? The manual on my 2007 Saturn ION recommends I only change the oil whenever the ‘CHG OIL’ monitor goes off

    However, because of my lengthy commute to/from work, so far it’s gone off at roughly 13k, 10k, and 13k miles. Even going down to 10,000-mile changes would require me to ignore my owner’s manual. Is it still work sticking to the manual here?

    A 3,000-mile oil change would mean taking it in every six weeks! Talk about a money sink!

  2. Adrienne says:

    The real overpayment is taking your car to the DEALER for service. This is where they make all the money. (They make tons more on service than on the sale of the car) Find a local mechanic you trust and you’ll save thousands….

  3. JerryB says:

    My local Toyota/Scion dealer charges no more for an oil change than the local Jiffy Lube. They’re cheaper in fact if you consider that they wash the car and actually clean the windows instead of wiping them down with an oily rag. They have 2 dedicated oil change bays with no appointment needed. Even on Saturday you’re in and out in half an hour or so.

  4. Eden says:

    The real questions are:

    1) How long (time & use) does it take for the oil to start to break down.

    2) How long does it take for the oil to accumulate contaminants.

    You can easily imagine this is a spectrum, where the oil could start to break down and get dirty after 100 miles. But it might not start to affect anything until 2000, 3000, 5000, or 10000 miles. Most of us have no way of really knowing. I suppose you could drain the oil and examine it or have it analyzed after different mile points.

    I suspect older cars will have more contaminants in the system and/or allow more in more easily. So it might be good to change your 200,000 mile car’s oil every 3000 miles instead of the manual recommended 5000 miles.

    My point is that rules of thumb are only a starting point.

  5. t says:

    I change my oil every 4k and I find it forces me to look over my car.

    You can get 5qt of synthetic oil with a premium filter for $10-25 (special deals, coupons, rebates).

  6. Terri W says:

    I once had a roommate who had engine trouble. His insurance company asked to see his records showing that he did, indeed, change his oil every 3k miles.

    Now, this may not be the norm — though I don’t remember exactly which company he had insurance with, I do recall it was a major one — but that memory has always stuck with me.

    Do people really save all of their oil change receipts? I never did. I suppose the insurance company was just hoping my old roommate didn’t, either — if so, they got an unpleasant surprise. Heh.

  7. Anastasia says:

    It would take me 2-3 years to put 3000 miles on my car. And no, I don’t wait 3 years between oil changes! :)

  8. Craig says:

    It depends a lot on your usage of the car. Maybe you could wait an extra month, but is it worth it? Maybe maybe not. That’s like waiting till the car is practically rolling to the station before getting gas. Maybe you could wait an extra day, but is it worth the risk and stress?

  9. sm4k says:

    There’s always a balance between ‘peace of mind’ and ‘saving money’ with this kind of stuff.

    Just last week my wife’s car died in an intersection after having to be jump started. We had to do an emergency battery/cable swap right there on the side of the road to get it running again, and the battery had just passed a test a week prior. The sticker on the battery indicated that it was a good deal older than the recommended change date.

    There’s A TON of things especially on a car that can overwhelm you if you take them on all at once, but if you do them little bit at a time you start to see the savings back not only in lack of repair bills, but also in your gas mileage, and in my wife’s case, time. She was forced to take a day off work because of the extended problems we ran into.

    The most important thing is to be vigilant with the free stuff (tire rotations really aren’t that hard to do yourself, even with minimal tools), and keep an eye on the important stuff, like fluid level/color.

    My car burns just a little bit of oil, and if I don’t change it every 5,000 (I believe my manual says every 7,000) I start to get low. Sometimes even what the manual says isn’t a good fit for your situation.

    You don’t have to be ASE certified to keep an eye on the health of your car.

  10. deb says:

    My manual says every 5,000 miles. But I only put about 8,000 on my car a year. So I split the difference and have it changed twice a year (when the dealer has the twice yearly oil change special).

  11. I’ve heard both sides of the oil change argument over the years. Various people have sworn they’ve gotten well over 100,000 miles on their vehicles by changing the oil every 3000 miles faithfully. Some have even recommended more frequent changes, like every 1000 miles, which sounds a bit ridiculous.

    A respected mechanic said that while it’s worth changing the oil every 3000 miles the first few years of ownership, that after the car gets older, it’s actually better to do it LESS frequently! He said that old oil helps to seal the rings in the engine and you’re better off in the 10,000 mile range with changes.

    One of the issues with the every-3000-miles crowd is that people who change their oil that frequently are probably on top of all other types of maintenance, so it’s hard to know if the oil changes are the main reason their cars last so long. We have our changed every 3000 miles and both cars are over 100k, but I wouldn’t swear that it’s primarily because of the oil changes…

  12. Jeff says:

    I have a 10-yr old Honda CRV which has 160,000 miles on it and I have changed the oil every 4,000 miles. My mechanic anticipates that I can get another 100,000 miles if I continue to care for it well.

    The problem is that I now live in the desert which has extreme temperatures. I am not sure how this will affect the oil change schedule. Obviously, it should be changed more frequently than if I lived in a more moderate and less dusty area.

  13. Bill in NC says:

    Those who use synthetic note that when they send the used oil out for analysis there is no degradation.

    Ideally, we’d all buy synthetic and change the oil ourselves every 10,000 miles.

    Most people will use regular dino oil and should change it every 5,000 miles.

    But changing the oil is no guarantee the warranty will be honored.

    Years ago Toyota tried to refuse warranty claims on sludging problems in their minivan engines, even for those who did every oil change at the dealer.

  14. marie says:

    One could take this for many other examples such as going to the dentist once a year as opposed to every 6 months (for people who never experience any dental troubles) and going to the eye doctor every two years as opposed to every year.

  15. Rae says:

    One thing I caution anyone is to know how your driving affects the oil life, and if you’re only driving 3k a year, you should still be getting an oil change at least once a year, if not twice (ie if you live in especially dusty+windy areas/on gravel roads), regardless of the mileage quotes.

    In my new(ish) cars, I change as often as the manual says. When I was driving a Cobalt, the car computer told me(every 6k or so), and my Jetta says every 5k in the manual. This is the first full synthetic car I’ve had. Since the dino-Cobalt got 6k I can only imagine the Jetta with full-synth could go closer to 10k before actually needing it.

    For the beaters I drove when I was younger, one leaked like crazy because my mother didn’t take care of it when she owned it, so it needed a qt a week and really did need it changed every 3k (DIY made that cheap). My other beater (’93 Tempo) had >150k on it and I changed it when it hit the fine line between translucent-dirty and almost-opaque (as suggested by gearheads), which was closer to 5k. Never had engine problems with it though.

    My biggest dilemma is whether to have it done professionally or DIY. I know how to do it, and trust myself, but I’m hesitant to do so when I have a warranty. Any thoughts, anyone (if you’ve read the whole of this long comment)?

  16. George says:

    > I know how to do it, and trust myself, but
    > I’m hesitant to do so when I have a warranty.

    There’s a federal law on the books that requires warranties to be honored provided the recommended maintenance was done, regardless of who has performed the maintenance. Can’t think of the name, but the consumer-oriented auto supply stores have a huge stake in the market, so they back it to the hilt.

  17. George says:

    Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975.

  18. Of late, we’ve been having “high mileage” oil put in our cars.

    Does anyone know if this is actually beneficial or if it’s a scam???

  19. lurker carl says:

    I suspect under-maintenance, otherwise known as neglect, is far more prevelant than over-maintenance. Negelect is quite a bit more expensive; in repairs, reliability, lifespan, operating expense and resale.

    In defense of the over-maintainers, their obsession with keeping stuff in like new condition is a bonus for resale. Not only is the item in excellent condition, often every scrap of paperwork ever associated with that item is present. Purchasing their pristine cast offs is practically guaranteed to be a wise and frugal decision.

  20. lurker carl says:

    As far as the 3000 mile oil change is concerned, it is the maximium interval for severe operating conditions. Most people actually operate their vehicles under conditions that the manufacturers consider to be severe. For instance; frequent trips under 10 miles in duration, stop-and-go driving, extended idling, very hot and/or cold climates – these quickly add more contaminants to the various fluids in an automobile and require more frequent engine oil, transmission/transfer cases, drive axle lubricant changes. Coolant, belts, hoses and brake fluid tend to deteriate quicker under these severe operating conditions.

    Back in the days of the VW Beetle with the air cooled engine, oil changes were every 1500 miles. No oil filter, just a screen to sift out the bigger chunks. A quick check of the ignition points, timing and a four wheel brake adjustment got you back on the road again. Oh yeah, you had to put air in the spare tire – it supplied the pressure for squirting wiper fluid into the windshield.

  21. Andy says:

    My 2006 Honda Civic tells me when to change my oil. Most of our miles are highway, and so its told us to change it about every 7k.

  22. Cookie says:

    While an interesting concept, I can’t think of anyone I know that overmaintains their car or other equipment/appliances.

  23. dave says:

    I can see how gratuitous over maintenance can be a cost drain, but the article overall seems kind of opposed to Trent’s Money Rule #8: Take Care of Your Stuff. Saving 20 oil changes (let’s say $25 each for $500) over 150k miles (that’s probably TEN YEARS) is $50 a year. But if it puts off you needing a new car by 1 year (hypothetical but maybe possible), how much could it save? 1 year of interest on a 20k car loan at 5% is a little under $1000, plus insurance on your old car would be cheaper for that year. All made up numbers of course, but in the end I personally think that going to a higher maintenance level can often be a bigger savings than cost.

  24. Dave (23)–I think you’re raising a valid point. Used American cars often end up on the roads of foreign countries where people can’t afford to by brand new vehicles.

    They take our cars with 100,000+ miles, rework them, and drive them another 100k miles. 20-30 year old cars. That means it is possible to maintain a car to last a lot longer than we think. Of course, in our country there’s no cultural preference to drive cars for 20 years, but it can be done. I think the cost of maintaining a car for 20 years would be a good bit cheaper than buying a new one every five years.

  25. steve says:

    It’s not so much that the engine in Trent’s car (the prius)is designed for longer oil changes, but that advances in engine oil technology have allowed longer oil change intervals *across the board*.

    As to the Ion that is telling its owner to change oil at around 10,000 miles, I’m betting the car’s computer can figure out how much of the run time is at below-ideal temperature and hence below-ideal oil flow rates, etc etc, and is running that against an algorithm for the current technology of oil that is out there, thus allowing the 10K interval.

    In general, 5000 miles or 6 months is a good guideline these days for conventional oil. For a number of reasons. Oil not only has to lubricate and transfer heat from engine parts, but it has to buffer acidity from created in the combustion process. Once that buffering capacity is gone (a function of time and the kind of engine operating conditions it is going through) then the acid oil can start corroding your engine internals which is not good.

  26. steve says:

    “My biggest dilemma is whether to have it done professionally or DIY. I know how to do it, and trust myself, but I’m hesitant to do so when I have a warranty. Any thoughts, anyone (if you’ve read the whole of this long comment)?”

    I would keep a log with dated digital photos and my oil and filter purchase receipts on the dates that I did the oil changes myself if I were concerned about a warranty.

    Or I would have the dealer or another mechanic do the oil 9and coolant) changes and do everything else myself if I were hyper about the engine failing.

    Cost of engine replacement in general is around 2-3k if you have it done for you. A lot less of course if you do it yourself.

    How many engines do you know that have failed, though?

  27. steve says:

    @ deb “My manual says every 5,000 miles. But I only put about 8,000 on my car a year. So I split the difference and have it changed twice a year (when the dealer has the twice yearly oil change special).”

    Yeah you’re doing the right thing, changing at 6 months ensures that the engine is buffered against any acids created (typically during short trips).

  28. steve says:

    BTW, in my opinion 300,000 miles is the new 100,000 miles. Almost any car engine these days will last 100,000 miles, even with indifferent maintenance. Properly maintained the engines will go between 300,000 and 500,000 miles.

  29. rae says:

    @george Thanks!

    @steve I’m not hugely concerned with the engine completely failing, but somewhat concerned with small problems being denied based on my not getting proper maintenance done (like the lower control arm bushings that went bad @36000 mi in my last car, or other various issues).

    That said, I actually know of a lot of engines failing. My idiotic family has a bad habit of buying high-mileage, over-priced used cars that last a year or two and then seriously conk out. In my mom’s case, that’s largely to do with under-maintenance, but all the same, my parents went through at least a dozen crappy cars while I was growing up, blowing the engines in almost all of them. Which is a. why I learned to do basic maintenance on my own, and b. why I buy late-model used cars and do the scheduled maintenance.

  30. Matt says:

    Is anybody else in the “I think to change every 3000 miles but end up changing every 5000 miles camp”? In the end the 3000 mile limit helps with my lack of discipline. I start thinking about it at 3000 miles and usually have it done by 5000 miles. I guess what I’m saying is that because of this mentality I don’t mind the scammers trying to get me to change it more often.

  31. I’m lucky — My Miata reminds me every time she wants her oil changed. The HLA chatter, completely harmless, on start up lets me know she’d like some new oil. :) This happens roughly every 5k miles, ringing true with the owner’s manual.

    Now, do make sure to check your oil frequently if you wait a while… And don’t trust dealers to do a good job all the time. I’ve heard horrible things about oil filters falling off —> seizing engines. If you don’t make sure there’s enough oil, that’s so much worse than changing it too often and lamenting the cost.

    I also keep records showing the date of each oil change, the filter I used and the brand & weight of oil used. Usually doesn’t change much — Mazda OEM filters and Mobil 1 10w30. I didn’t know if I’d change or not, but I’m happy with my oil. (Use RedLine for everything else, but their engine oil’s a bit expensive for regular use to me…)

    And while I bring up other oils — We’re just talking about engine oil here and over-maintaining that. How often do people even bother with transmission and differential oil?! Now there’s something I never hear a lot about… (Never mind taking it to dealers for service. Don’t go there with me.)

  32. almost there says:

    Trent, in keeping with your desire to learn new skills I think you should learn to change the oil on your car yourself. Figure out how much you will save vs dealer oil changes. At 150K your car will just be broken in. I have 233K on my honda del Sol purchased at 139K. I change the oil per manual at 7.5K. My 03 Element I change the oil at 10k per manual. With just over 110k it is just broken in. Buy oil on sale when a parts dealer has a sale on cases of oil. Buy filters and gaskets on ebay in bulk. I think you will save more than you do on homemade laundry soap. Crunch the numbers. It will also give you a chance to look the car over and keep on top of things. I try never to pay a dealer what I can do myself.

  33. Dom says:

    I have a 2008 Honda Civic and it has a maintanence minder – when the meter gets down to 10-15%, that’s when I go in for an oil change. It even says so in the manual. If the minder doesn’t go off in a year, then change the oil yearly, it says.

    I brought my car to the dealer is April 09 at 10500 miles for an oil change/filter change etc (as recommended by the manual). They put a little sticker on indicating 15500 or Sept 09 for an oil change. But my minder still says 30%, so I have a little longer to go.

    The other added benefit that I didn’t see anyone mention in the comments (and Trent, you didn’t mention this either) is that changing the oil less frequently means less dirty oil goes down the drain. Admittedly, used oil is supposed to be recycled, but I’ll bet most DIYers just dump it down the sewer (not trying to be mean, just realistic). So yay for a cleaner environment!

  34. Borealis says:

    How often a car owner changes the oil has become the hallmark of taking care of a car.

    But think about it — the effect of bad oil won’t show up until 150,000 to 200,000 miles. Most earlier problems are transmission, suspension and other non-engine valve problems.

  35. Michele says:

    I take my Nissan Titan 4×4 in every 3000 miles. I only drive it about 12000 a year- but I also drive 1800 mile trips several times a year and we have at least 4 months of snow here, so I always err on the side of caution. My husband bought his GMC Sierra 4×4 truck at Cascade Chevrolet, which gives you a free oil change whenever you want it for the life of the car (one owner). Next time, I’ll take that into consideration- since the nearest Nissan dealer is 75 miles away:)

  36. Shevy says:

    We’ve always been very good about taking our 2002 PT Cruiser in for scheduled maintenance in the form of oil changes, engine & transmission servicing. Brakes, not so much (2 sets of rotors later…). But the oil changes were a real no-brainer because they were FREE at the dealership for the first several years (included with the 100,000km warranty). In 7 years we’ve put 130,000kms on the car (a little over 80,000 miles) and we keep a file folder in the car that every car receipt goes into.

    I think that, once the warranty is over, you should do as much as possible yourself or find someone really good, but that can be hard to find. There have been so many exposes (sorry, can’t get the accent on there) on auto mechanics that it leaves one feeling kind of jaded and suspicious.

    I see no reason why this car shouldn’t last 20 years though, with continued maintenance. In fact, it had better do so!

  37. Lenore says:

    I’m too worried about the “yuck” factor, my lack of mechanical know-how and my manicure (which I do for myself) to try changing my own oil. Instead I look for coupons and bring air filters, windshield wipers, etc. from discount stores for the oil change people to install. I know they’d rather sell me theirs at 3-5 times the price, but I use my feminine prerogative to act helpless, clueless and gushingly grateful in this one situation.

    About refrigerators: if you still have a freezer that needs to be defrosted, it’s time to get a new one. Not only is it a messy, time-intensive job (esp. if whoever rented an apt. before you had dogs, and their fur is entangled in the ice), an old fridge costs way too much to operate. Refrigerators burn more energy than any household appliance besides heating and cooling, so it’s worthwhile to invest in an Energy Star model. My power company is offering $35 and free removal for customers ready to ditch older fridges. Cash for Coolers?

  38. I owned a limousine service for a number of years and every 5000 miles is just fine for all cars. I got 300-400K miles out of every Lincoln TC on this schedule. Synthetic oil needs to be changed about every 10-12K miles and if you are running a car on regular oil, you should switch to synthetic oil at about 100K miles. The actual cost of synthetic is $60 but it goes just as lon as two 29-39 oil changes so there’s no added cost and it’s better for the car. I run my sports car on synthetic as that’s what it came with–but once you put in synthethic you can’t switch back to regular oil.

  39. Little House says:

    I’m all for maintaining items to extend their life. The less items purchased, the less trash created!

    However, I’d like to add one more thing to the “don’t overdue the maintenance list”. Don’t purchase “extended warranties” on electronic items. For example, extended warranties on printers are usually worthless, same goes for cell phones.

    From my personal experience, by the time the extended warranty is coming up for expiration, the item is already replaced or far beyond repair.

    -Little House

  40. craig says:

    part of the equation is how long you plan to keep the car. if you plan on keeping the car less than 100k miles, the need to change the oil more often is less important (to you). chances are with any maintenance at all, nothing bad will happen while you own the car.
    however, if you plan on keeping the car for 100k+, I would change it more often – as it will pay off for you in the long run.

  41. David says:

    Spesking in a broad sense, I would comment with two words–Consumer Reports.

    I think its a must have for just about anybody, and they obviously provide you with unbiased advice on the subject of maintenance and just about everything else.

  42. Scotty says:

    The hardest thing with the ‘oil change debate’, is it’s nearly impossible to prove either way whether more frequent oil changes actually do any good. I think this would be a great thing for someone like Consumer Reports to test. Albeit, due to the very nature of the test, it would take a very long time to start to reach any conclusions. You could have a test engine/car where the oil never gets changes, and it would still probably last a 150K+ miles. You gotta wonder.

    But ultimately, oil has 3 basic functions in an engine – clean, cool, and lubricate. Even after only a couple thousand miles, the oil gets fairly dirty, so you’d think that changing it early and often is a good thing. But no the flip side, the engine itself is rarely the breaking point nowadays. Tranny’s and everything else are far more likely to die before the engine. All else aside, a fairly well maintained modern engine can probably go a million miles without major issue.

  43. Georgia says:

    I changed my oil on my 79 Buick Electra Ltd. about every 3 months, which equated to @ 10k miles. I drove that car for 250k miles. It was used when I bought it and it actually had 363k miles on it at its’ death.

    My 91 Chev Lumina manual said to change oil @7500 miles if they were highway miles or 3000 if local miles. I did it 7500 all the time and put 250k on that one also. When it died it had 316k miles on it.

    On my present Ford Taurus Wagon, I change it @ every 3k miles because I am retired and take a major road trip twice a year. The rest of the time I do only local driving and even just fill up my gas tank once a month.

    I actually heard much better advice from an old timer mechanic. He said we waste by far too much oil. He said to check your oil monthly and put some from the dipstick on your fingers and see if it is still viscous (thick). If it is thin, it is time to change it. It has gotten too hot. He said what we should be changing every 3k miles is the oil filter. That keeps the oil cleaner longer and keeps waste away.

  44. Noel says:

    Change your filter (air, oil and gas) NOT the lubricant for even more savings.

    Lubricants and Engines are sold on minimum specifications. Check for the API/SAE on the Lube you use matches your Engine recommendations. That said, these are minimum performance requirements and purchasing a “top” tier lubricant can extend the life of the engine and the drain interval. Ultimately the only way to know when the Lube needs changed is to test it (there are many available testing labs for under $5). Personally, I change my oil based on the lube tests and have gone as far as 20,000 miles between lube changes with 3 filter changes (all highway) to as little as 2,000 miles (wheat harvest dirt road driving) and no filter change.
    I have worked in the lubricant and engine market for over 20 year

  45. Chris says:

    I think this day and age, you pretty much have to poor sugar into the engine to make it die. Now on the other hand, transmissions, which really have the most breakable parts seem to be what break down long before an engine. I would love to hear a mechanics take on this as whenever an “engine dies” more often then not, its the transmission, not the engine itself.

  46. KC says:

    I have a 9 yr old Acura (100k miles) that says change the oil every 7500 miles and an 07 Camry (15k miles) that says change it every 5000 miles.

    When I first bought my Acura I could go 7500 and the oil would look good (or slightly brown when ready for a change) and I wouldn’t be losing any oil. But as the car has aged, 5000 miles is a more accurate time to change the oil. The oil gets a dirty brown and is about a half quart low. I have no oil leaks, but if you do you’ll loose more oil.

    The Camry – my husband’s car – still has golden oil at the 5000 mile mark. But I encourage him to change it anyway since its usually been 9 mos. since he changed it last.

    My experience has been that you should generally follow the suggested guidelines for maintenance on a car. But as it ages you will have to adjust. My independent mechanic has confirmed this. I also experienced similar results on my previous car (a 16 year old Nissan) – it, too, required more frequent oil changes as it aged. But I have never changed the oil at 3000 miles on any car I’ve owned, no matter how old.

    But if you are in doubt…let you car cool off and check the dipstick. You want a nice golden color (not dirty or black) and you want it to be between the indicator lines on the dipstick which measure the level. I’m sure if you do a google search for checking your oil you’ll see what I mean.

  47. If you extend your oil change intervals to 5,000 miles or if you use your vehicle for towing or plowing, using a synthetic oil will help protect the engine from excessive wear. This is because synthetic motor oil doesn’t break down as fast as conventional oil and is more tolerant of heat.

  48. Sharon L says:

    Be sure to check your thermostat and temperature gauge. Both were broken in our 2000 Elantra, and the engine overheated, but we had no way of knowing that. We had to get a new one (engine).

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