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Changing your oil -how often?

Updated on November 19, 2009

What is the right timing for oil changes

I spent 25 years marketing oils and lubrication. I would like to think I learned a few things from working in the industry. The most interesting experience came when I set up a test for fleet operations of the Kansas City Police Department.

Their oil change intervals had been set up without regards to the different patterns of driving that existed from one patrol division to another. Inner city driving is naturally more demanding than outlying divisions. A study with hour meters in an earlier test had determined that most police cars spent 46% of the time with the engine on idle. This fact meant oil changes based on miles as the lone criteria in the past was not backed up by good data.

We began the test by selecting 10 cars from each division to perform oil analysis sampling at each change. The first test was at 3,000 miles which the quick lubes are fond of promoting. Our first tests showed that the oil had plenty of life left. We gradually up the oil change time by 1,000 mile increments.

We finally started showing some elevations of wear metals at 6,000 miles. Wear metals are detected by laboratory oil analysis and can identify the engine parts that are being affected. This was more pronounced on the inner city patrol cars. The outlying division that had more interstate driving miles could be pushed even further. It was finally decided to establish the oil changes at 5,000 miles to tie in with other maintenance issues.

So how long can your car go between oil changes? We used a premium brand of oil on the Police Department test. I will name the brand in my next blog and how it was determined to out perform the non-premium brand in this same test period. During your car’s warranty period you should follow the owner’s manual recommendations and be sure to keep good records. After warranty is up my conclusion is you can easily go 5,000 to 6000 miles plus, depending on your driving habits. For the average driver this will save about $100 per year along with some time spent waiting for the oil change service.

To save money on parts washers please visit KC Quality Systems.



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    • pricehunter profile image

      pricehunter 7 years ago from Colorado

      Shouldn't we only have to change the oil if it is dirty? I hope there will be a consensus for us laymen on this subject. For now we all think 3k miles is it but I tend to agree with you here. htt://


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