The 3,000-Mile Oil Change Con

How some oil change shops drain you of money and pollute the environment.

Your car probably doesn’t need an oil change every 3,000 miles. Or 4,000 miles. Or 5,000 miles. In fact, the majority of car makers now suggest oil changes at 7,500 or 10,000 miles. 

Then why does that little sticker in your window tell you to return in 3,000 miles?

To make oil change shops money. While some oil change shops have kept up with technology and follow the car maker's recommendations, others fall back to the old 3,000-mile rule.

According to an report on the issue, oil change shops advocate for 3,000-mile oil changes to drum up extra business because more frequent oil changes lead customers to buy more products and services from oil change shops.

But this dirty business practice isn’t just bad for your wallet; it’s also bad for the environment. Changing your oil every 3,000 miles instead of every 7,500 miles not only wastes you a lot of money, but you also pour perfectly good oil down the drain, a lot of which ends up polluting the environment. The damage both financially and environmentally is pretty stark. Here are the numbers over a 5-year period:

Oil change every 3,000 miles

22 oil changes/5 years

$1540 worth of oil changes

132 quarts of oil used and thrown out

Oil change every 7,500 miles

9 oil changes in 5 years

$630 spent on oil changes

54 quarts of oil used and thrown out

According to CalRecycle, used motor oil is one of the largest hazardous waste problems in the state. Motor oil improperly disposed of presents a huge environmental problem because it is insoluble and contains heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Illegally dumped used motor oil makes its way into lakes, streams, and oceans via storm water systems. To further hit the point home and explain just how toxic used motor oil is, consider this: one gallon of used motor oil can foul the taste of 1 million gallons of water. Reducing the consumption of new motor oil, and cutting in half the amount of used motor oil dumped down our drains will have a major benefit to our state’s environment. 

We're sponsoring SB 778, which will require oil change shops to use car maker recommendations when they tell you when to get your oil changed next, not just a low number so they can drum up more business. Please write a short two or three sentence email to your Assemblymember telling them you support SB 778 (you can find out who your assemblymember is and their contact info here).

Check out this story from ABC 7 in San Francisco about the bill.