Senate Tackles Motor Oil Myth

Legislation promotes honest business practices and protects the environment


CONTACT: Teresa Bui (916) 443-5422

SACRAMENTO – The 3,000-mile oil change may be a thing of the past. Today, the California State Senate passed SB 778, authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), a bill that would require that motor oil change shops follow the oil change interval specified in the customer vehicle owner’s manual when recommending the date or mileage for the next oil change, rather than the decades old 3,000 mile rule-of-thumb. The bill will also require oil change shops to reflect the manufacturer’s recommendations in a window sticker or other means.

     Oil technology has changed enormously over the last 30 years making the 3,000-mile oil change unnecessary in nearly all vehicles. The majority of automakers today call for oil changes at either 7,500 or 10,000 miles, and the interval can go as high as 15,000 miles in some cars.  And yet, a 2012 survey by CalRecycle indicated that almost 10 million Californians change their motor oil every 3,000 miles or less.

    In response to this survey, CalRecycle launched a consumer information campaign called “Check Your Number” that encouraged drivers to rethink their current driving habits and only change the motor oil as needed. Despite the improvements in technology, many maintenance facilities, including those specializing in oil changes, continue to promote the old standards, perpetuating the 3,000-mile oil change rule. As a result, millions of consumers spend one to three times more money than they need to on costly oil changes.

    The unnecessary oil changes result in large disposals of used motor oil that inevitably end up damaging our environment. Used motor oil, which is insoluble and contains heavy metals and toxic chemicals, is often improperly disposed of and enters our oceans and freshwater sources through the storm water system and endangers residents, pets, wildlife, and fish. Also, one gallon of used motor oil can foul the taste of 1 million gallons of water.  This hazardous waste is also often burned as fuel, creating dangerous air pollution. While California has a motor oil collection and recycling program, reducing the amount of oil used makes the best environmental and economic sense.

    “Reducing waste is a key California strategy to fight climate change and reduce environmental clean-up costs,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste, the sponsor of SB 778. “A comprehensive plan to save our environment and reduce the effects and financial costs of climate change involves more than just recycling. It involves waste reduction too. This bill is a win for the environment and a win for consumers.”

   SB 778 has the support of consumer groups, environmental groups, and the automaker Honda and will now move to the Assembly.