California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Used Motor Oil: Check Your Number

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How often should motorists change their car’s oil?
It depends on the car’s make, model and year, as well as driving conditions. Many of today’s automakers recommend oil changes at 5,000, 7,000 or even 10,000 miles. Drivers should check the automaker’s recommendation by reviewing the car’s user manual.

Will changing the oil less frequently harm a car’s engine?
Advances in motor vehicles and oil make it possible to go much longer between oil changes without harming a car’s engine. However, motorists should follow car maker recommendations for oil change frequency based on driving conditions.

How does going longer between oil changes affect a car’s warranty?
Following the car maker’s guidelines for oil change frequency will not affect a vehicle’s warranty.

How much used oil is generated in California each year?
According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB, now Calrecycle) in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available, approximately 153.5 million gallons of used oil is generated annually. Only 59 percent of that oil was recycled.

How do driving conditions affect the distance motorists can go between oil changes?
Automaker oil change recommendations differ depending upon driving conditions, as well as car make, model and year. According to car manufacturers, drivers considered “severe” should change their oil more frequently or at shorter mileage intervals than drivers considered “normal.” Severe drivers are those that drive in one of the following conditions in a typical week:

  • Extensive idling or in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Cold weather, less than 10 degrees.
  • Extreme heat, more than 90 degrees.
  • Extreme humidity.
  • Repeated short-distance trips of less than five miles.
  • Towing a trailer or hauling heavy materials.

How can used oil harm California’s environment?
Used motor oil poses a great risk to the environment. Many environmental problems are caused by improper disposal of used motor oil, because it is insoluble, persistent and contains heavy metal and toxic chemicals. Used oil that is not recycled often finds its way into California’s precious waterways—our lakes, streams and oceans—via the storm water system. Used oil in waterways threatens fish, waterfowl, insects and aquatic life. And one gallon of used oil can foul the taste of 1 million gallons of water.

How can the 3000 Mile Myth help me?
Less is more!

  • You’ll have more money in your pocket book by changing your oil less often!
  • Less frequent oil changes means more oil saved as one of our precious environmental resources.

How can I find out my car maker’s recommendations for oil change frequency?
Check your car’s owner manual. Or if your car is a 2000 model year or newer, look up your interval on our site.

Check Your Number Home

Last updated: February 18, 2014
Used Oil Recycling Program, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/UsedOil/
Contact: UsedOilHHW@calrecycle.ca.gov (916) 341-6457