Oil Change Every 3K Miles? You Might Be Throwing Your Money Away

Car repair and regular maintenance are essential. Without them, your car may not survive very long. We’ve all seen the horror stories of vehicles without oil changes and engines full of sludge as a result. However, folks may not know that it’s possible to over maintain your vehicle. While over-maintenance may not have any adverse effects on your car, it can have a negative impact on your wallet. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes time for maintenance.

How often should you change your oil and other fluids?

Mechanic inspects oil level of a vehicle via the dipstick
Checking oil levels | Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

AAA reports that a common misconception about oil change intervals is a remnant of the automotive past.

Previously, oil changes every 3,000 miles were standard. However, modern oil and engines have made that short change interval a thing of the past. Instead, if you look in the owner’s manual of your vehicle, you’ll often discover that your manufacturer recommends between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. Some manufacturers even recommend every 10,000 miles. Considering the average annual mileage of 15,000 miles, this could save you up to four yearly oil changes! That’s $200 in savings, assuming a $50 oil change.

A red-clothed mechanic replaces the oil filter on a 1985 Mercedes-Benz
A mechanic replaces the oil filter on a 1985 Mercedes-Benz | JOEY MCLEISTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Other fluids, including coolant, gear oil in the transmission, and brake fluids, also have a life span. Generally, a car will very rarely need brake fluid flushed and replaced so long as the brake system isn’t leaking. However, coolant does need to be occasionally flushed. Fortunately, modern engine coolant is good for up to 10 years or 150,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer. Some still recommend a coolant flush at 50,000 miles, though.

Like brakes, transmissions generally do not need flushing unless the manufacturer recommends it or there is a problem with the transmission. As with oil changes, check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Generally, if you’re having a problem with the engine, transmission, or any other system that uses a fluid or oil, flushing or replacing it will not solve the problem. If your car isn’t running right or your transmission isn’t shifting correctly, a professional diagnosis is the only way to get real answers to your problem. So, if you aren’t mechanically inclined, it’s best not to start throwing money at fluid replacements as a solution.

Spark plugs, air filters, and air conditioning

Antifreeze being poured into a radiator
Coolant being poured into radiator | Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Another commonly over-replaced vehicle component is its spark plugs. Some manufacturers may recommend a shorter interval, but modern spark plugs can last up to 100,000 miles. Unless you’re suffering from a misfire or a mechanic has diagnosed a bad spark plug, there’s no need to change them regularly. As with everything else, use the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended change interval.

You may find that places changing your oil will offer air filter replacements for both the engine and the cabin. However, it’s likely unnecessary unless your vehicle is past the recommended change interval or regularly driven through heavily dusty and dirty conditions. If your filter is a bit dirty, often, you can simply knock off extra dirt and debris.

Finally, if your air condition system is blowing cold air, then it’s OK! There’s no need to get the system regularly serviced. So long as a vehicle’s AC system is properly sealed, it can last decades.

Overall, most regular maintenance items have a much longer lifespan than people might think. However, that does not mean that we recommend you put off regular maintenance. As was a recurring theme in this article, be sure to check your manufacturer’s recommendations for all of these items and follow them accordingly. Furthermore, if your vehicle is working fine and you haven’t hit the mileage or time frame for one of these services, don’t get them! As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

RELATED: Italian Tune-Up: Does Redlining Remove Car Engine Carbon Deposits?