From the Bay: Optimal Intervals

From the Bay: Optimal Intervals
OEM engine design and the growth of synthetic lubricants are having a major impact on oil change intervals.

Tailoring oil change frequency specific to customer needs. 

Many of us who have been driving and owning cars for a while remember the days of checking our fluids and fluid levels between oil changes simply while we were filling up with gas at “full serve” gas stations or on our driveways after we washed our cars.

Different story
Today it seems to be a completely different story—whether it’s a generational thing or simply an inconvenience. The fact is many drivers neglect the idea of knowing how to maintain a vehicle and see it only as a source of transportation, which impacts those of us who work in the service and repair business. Today, many motorists rarely read through the vehicle owner’s manual and have no knowledge of actual oil change intervals. Furthermore, the days of placing a sticker in the upper corner of the windshield as our reminder that a service is required once the vehicle meets a certain mileage seems to be quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Has it come to the point that we have become too comfortable with being lazy and expect all our bells and whistles to notify us, or is it that the miles traveled between these service intervals are less of a norm?

For the customer, the most important factor is choosing an automotive repair shop that they know and trust.

Take for example a newer vehicle: The majority of manufacturers have their intervals set anywhere from 12,000 to 16,000 km or sometimes even more. Today there are major advances in oil chemistry and engine technology, not to mention synthetic blends that directly relate to the interval in which it is required to change said oil. There used to be a rule of thumb that a vehicle’s motor oil would be changed in an interval of 5,000 km. Today, intervals generally run well beyond this old rule of thumb–thanks to the simple improvements to the durability and stability of the oil itself. There’s also the ability to protect engines from wear and heat while maintaining fuel economy and emission requirements. Another reason for longer service intervals is that automakers have designed engines to specifically use synthetic oils that are rated for severe conditions and reduce wear and tear.

Oil life monitoring
Lastly, our intervals have changed primarily because most vehicles manufactured after 2010 are equipped with oil life monitoring systems that notify the driver when a service is due based on the algorithm of driving conditions.

With these monitoring systems and synthetic oils comes a choice for the consumer in creating their own intervals for service. This is about the only thing we can relate to the good old days of simplicity because consumers all have their own favourite brands and choice of oils. Today, oil manufacturers are offering their own mileage guarantees. Some good examples include Mobil 1 Extended Performance, which is backed by a 15,000 Mile (24,000 km) guarantee, or Castrol Vecton Long Drain, which is backed by a 70,000 Mile (112,000 km) guarantee!

At this point, how do we pin down a “normal” interval for a simple oil change service? Perhaps the best advice for us as service providers is to talk to our customers, understand their driving style, frequency and needs and base the right service schedule on these as well as the vehicle owner’s manual, while at the same time encouraging our customers to consult the manual as well.

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