The state of California CalRecycle website says many of today’s new cars can go much longer than 3,000 miles per oil change. New synthetic oils last longer and new engines require less oil changes. The CalRecycle website reveals a statistic about the amount of non-recycled used motor oil: “According to the CIWMB (California Integrated Waste Management Board) ‘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.’”
Where does the remaining used oil go? Tragically far too much in California and other U.S. states is dumped down storm drains, where it eventually ends up in streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. The constant dumping of used motor oil is a kind of unending oil spill. Recently we have seen one of the single worst oil spills in American history, but the constant dumping of used oil releases even more into the environment, yet generates nowhere near the amount of press as a single catastrophic spill. The Mississippi Dept. of Environmental Quality says 500 million gallons of used motor oil is disposed of improperly each year in the United States. They also say one gallon of used oil can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water.
So what is the connection between changing oil too often and the dumping of millions of gallons of it into the environment? Some of the people changing their oil too often are also the dumpers. If they can learn to change less, and recycle it properly the amount of damage to the environment would be decreased greatly. Changing oil less frequently also saves money for car owners.
If you are unsure how often your car’s oil needs to changed, consult the owner’s manual. The state of California has a table of popular cars and oil change requirements. According to their data, 2005 Honda Accords and Civics can have their oil changed every 10,000 miles. A person changing their new Accord’s oil every 3,000 miles would be throwing out or recycling oil that is still good. A 2007 Chevy Malibu is listed as needing 7,500 miles between oil changes. Of course this data is subject to evaluation based on the driving conditions for each vehicle.
In 2005, the Click and Clack Car Talk hosts on NPR said, “most manufacturers now recommend changing the oil every 7,500 miles. We recommend doing it every 5,000 miles, because we tend to be more cautious about protecting the engine. Very few people recommend changing the oil every 3,000 miles. It’s just not necessary, and the environmental cost is too high.”
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