You are probably like many Americans who regularly have their oil changed at one of the thousands of auto centers that represent part of the $7 billion oil-change industry. If so, you have undoubtedly seen the little sticker these centers will put on your windshield, telling you to make sure you have your oil changed again within 3 months, or after 3,000 miles of driving. In most cases, if you follow this guidance, you are potentially throwing away hundreds of dollars on unnecessary maintenance.
Balancing Care with Modern Realities
There is a long history of auto owners expecting to change their oil at the frequency still recommended by many of the oil change service companies. However, the changes in oil technology and auto engines in the past 30 years make this an expensive and unnecessary habit for most vehicles.
Our grandparents and parents were correctly taught that keeping the engine oil changed frequently was an essential step to get maximum life out of your auto. The oil serves to lubricate the engine's moving parts and carry away heat. In older cars, the oil used would break down and get contaminated with debris in only a few thousand miles of driving. In fact, the engines of just a generation ago rarely made it to 100,000 useful driving miles without significant maintenance, even with numerous oil changes.
However, today's autos can easily expect to hit 200,000 miles, and as many as 300,000 miles or more. In addition, these cars require less frequent maintenance, including oil changes. In fact, depending on the manufacturer's recommendation, some cars can easily go 7,500 to 15,000 miles without damage from not changing its premium oil.
One of the major reasons for this increased time between oil changes is the use of synthetic oils that eliminate natural contaminants. While they are more expensive, these lubricants pay for themselves by providing better protection for the engines and helping extend their life. In fact, your BMW auto repair like Autowerkes will recommend one of several different synthetic oils to match your specific model and driving habits.
Understanding the Math
These realities add up to big potential savings in oil changes. Depending on your car, where you live, and the type of oil you use, an oil change will run from an average of about $44 to a high of $80. If you drive an average of 15,000 miles in average conditions, you would pay for 5 oil changes by the traditional standard of 3,000 miles between changes. That's an annual total of about $220 to $400. (This doesn't include the time and effort involved.)
On the other hand, if you go by the 7,500 to 15,000 guidance of many auto manufacturers, you will only pay for one or two such changes. That can save a nifty $140 or so to as much as $320.
While it is important to keep your oil topped off and changed on schedule, it is worth following the guidance of your manufacturer over the local oil change service.