Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It’s a message that has been steered at drivers for years: Change your engine oil every 3,000 miles. Mechanics used to say you could be damaging your engine if you don’t. But Edmunds.com recently said it’s a waste of money if your car is 2002 or newer.
The recommended interval for oil changes nowadays? Roughly 7,500 miles. That’s a bit more than the traditional 3,000. But consult your owner’s manual — you’ll see most will tell you it’s acceptable to go somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500 miles (and some even up to 10,000 miles) between oil changes under normal conditions. Again, this advice only applies to cars 2002 or newer.
You should still stick to the 3,000-mile interval if you drive under severe conditions, or if you have an older vehicle. What exactly are severe conditions? Typically they’re jack-rabbit stops and starts — the kind people do when racing from traffic light to traffic light, or the kind a delivery vehicle might make during the course of the day. But if you’re just driving back and forth to work during the week and hitting an occasional soccer field or baseball game with the kids during the weekend, then there’s really no sense in changing your oil every 3,000 miles.
Ultimately, this one has to be a personal decision. I have now gone from 3,000-mile oil changes to the 5,000-mile interval. But I simply can’t bring myself to step it up to 7,500.
The real problem remains those people who forget to do oil changes ever, which can cause premature engine wear. So here’s the compromise: Try following the maintenance schedule to the letter in your owner’s manual — whether it’s 5,000 or 7,500 — and leave it at that. In this era, when people are keeping cars longer than they used to, this is of key importance.
-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs
Find more answers to your consumer questions at ClarkHoward.com. You can also listen to his radio show live 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday on AM 750 and NOW 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB.