The Great Controversy: Oil-Change Intervals

oil change intervals

I’m writing this from a waiting room inside the service department of an auto dealership. I can’t say I like it here.

All the chairs are placed in a semi-circle and face a wall-mounted television, which is currently tuned to a show starring three angry judges who like to yell at people. The volume is too high. I don’t even have a television at home, so this is a bit of a shock to me.

The gentleman in the chair directly next to me has a giant sack of dealership butter popcorn, which he’s slurping and spilling all over his chest with every dive into the bag.

I don’t like it here.

I’m getting a simple oil change on a 2013 Subaru Legacy, and I really would love to come less often.

I use full synthetic oil and have it changed every 5,000 miles. Should I cut back to every 7,500 miles or more and save myself from the despair of the waiting room?

Virtually no car needs oil changed at the traditional 3,000-mile interval, and many automakers now recommend intervals between 5,000 and 10,000 miles or more. Synthetic oil lasts far longer than conventional oil, and I’m pretty sure the Legacy would do just fine with another few months between each visit to the dealer.

The service department, of course, wants me back every 5,000 miles. After consulting my owner’s manual, I learned that Subaru recommends an oil change every 7,500 miles, while some Toyota cars have 10,000-mile service intervals.

So what do the pros say?

It all depends, of course, on which pro you ask. Service shops and conventional-oil advocates will recommend intervals between 3,000 and 5,000 miles, because it keeps customers coming in the door. And truthfully some cars, typically older ones, need that kind of attention to keep working.

Car manufacturers and synthetic-oil makers usually recommend the longer intervals, because they know what modern engines require.

So what’s a car owner to do? Changing your oil often certainly won’t hurt anything, so if it makes you feel better, by all means, have at it. I think the best advice is to listen to your car, check your oil once or twice per month, and stick with the interval recommended as long as everything looks normal. If the oil level is low or the oil looks burned, you might have to brave the waiting room more often and decrease the amount of time between oil changes.

What car do you have, and how often do you change its oil?


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Used Subaru Legacy

1 Comment

  1. Synthetic oil does last a lot longer and you more than likely could go longer than 5,000 miles without a change. The 3,000 mile oil change recommendation is almost a tradition. Although this may be the case, as long as there are cars that need the change every 3,000 miles, and probably longer, service departments will keep recommending it.

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