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California wants you to kick the 3,000-mile oil change habit

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) launches its "Check Your Number" campaign to reduce impact of oil changes on the environment

Once upon a time, cars needed frequent oil changes, with 3,000 miles being the magic number in most people’s minds. Vehicle technology and motor oil have come a long way since then but while most manufacturers recommend far more time between oil changes, many consumers still follow the old rule. The only people benefitting are the shops changing the oil.

According to CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen, “With significant advances in auto technology, it’s important for drivers to understand that changing motor oil every 3,000 miles is an old default that may not be relevant for their vehicle. Frequent oil changes do not necessarily mean better performance or longer engine life. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, you will not only do right by your ride, but you’ll also benefit the environment by using fewer resources.”

Why do they care? They recently did a survey that indicated nearly 15 million Californians follow the 3,000 mile schedule. Most cars can go much farther between changes, however. CalRecycle gives the examples of a 2005 Tacoma pickup, for which Toyota recommends an oil change every 5,000 miles, or the 2007 Chevy Malibu, for which General Motors recommends a 7,500-mile oil change. If everyone would switch to the correct schedule for their vehicle, CalRecycle estimates the demand for motor oil in California would decrease by 10 million gallons per year. And that’s just in California. Not only would there be less damage to the environment, we’d all be saving time and money.

Here are some more oil facts from the Cal Recycle website.

- California consumes over 150 million gallons of motor oil each year, enough to fill 255 Olympic-size pools.
- one gallon of used motor oil can contaminate more than one million gallons of water
- 40% of waterway pollution is caused by used motor oil
- the color of your oil is not a good indicator that it needs changing. It may be black and still fine

You can check your owner’s manual to find out how often you should be changing your oil. You can also visit CalRecycle’s site, where you can plug in the manufacturer, model and year of recent popular vehicle models to find out how often you should be changing your oil. Your dealership should also be able to provide you with this information. Please note that the recommended oil change intervals are for vehicles being driven under normal conditions. If you’re regularly driving in extreme heat, cold or humidity, or hauling heavy loads, you may need to change your oil more often.