How to Outsmart the Oil Change Reminder Sticker
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. It has to do with the sticker those helpful gents down at the auto lube place put on your car. The secret is, you can just ignore that!
Every vehicle comes with an owner’s manual which tells you explicitly when to change your oil and which kind of oil to use. Most even include a variance for whether your engage in normal driving or hard-use driving. Synthetic oils add a considerable length of time to that recommendation.
When the maintenance shop slaps that sticker on your windshield, in all likelihood, it doesn’t take your vehicle or type of driving into the picture. It’s up to you to know when to return. Older cars usually require more frequent changes, but newer models can go for tremendously long periods of time, as high as 15,000 miles.
If you don’t know what your auto maker recommends, stop everything right now and go look in your owner’s manual or check this website. Not only will you be doing your wallet a favor, but you’ll also be doing the environment a favor.
One of the things you’ll want to be able to define is ‘hard-use driving’:
Off Roading or driving in very dusty conditions.
Summer in Arizona (temperatures over 90 degrees)
Towing a trailer or carrying heavy loads
Long periods of idling, stop-and-go, or very short trips
Driving below 10 degrees (For those of you who plan to visit Alaska this winter!)
Since many people don’t indulge in these activities (except summer), changing your oil more often than recommended by the owner’s manual is wasteful and environmentally unfriendly. Since we’ve all been told that 3,000 or 4,000 mile oil changes are best, it’s hard to alter our thinking. No one wants to be a derelict or irresponsible car owner, and it’s especially difficult for people who don’t have much automotive experience to ignore that sticker. But, unless it lines up with your owner’s manual, and unless you indulge in hard-use travels, you are better off to ignore it.
Our summers here in the Valley mean that, unless your car is kept in a garage, you will want to change your oil more often in summer. (See item #2 above.) However, during the cooler months, it’s better to adhere to the ‘ideal’ standards.
Finally, we’re still advocating that you check your oil regularly, because regularly checking your oil is the fastest way to tip you off if there is a leak. But, the number of miles to wait between oil changes is up to your owner’s manual and your vehicle usage, not some crazy little sticker on your windshield.
Happy driving, people!