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Replacement Intervals For Oil And Air Filters In Today’s Vehicles

Changing the oil and filter every 3,000 miles was standard practice decades ago. But it’s no longer necessary because most multi-viscosity oils today are a synthetic blend or a full synthetic that resist viscosity breakdown and oxidation for a much longer period of time.

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The factory-recommended replacement intervals for filters can vary quite a bit depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle, as well as how it is driven. As a rule, older vehicles (those more than 15 to 20 years old) typically have more frequent service intervals than newer vehicles. Why? Because late-model vehicles require less maintenance, thanks to improvements in motor oils, transmission fluids, engine design and filter media.

Many long-life air and oil filters use synthetic fiber media or a blend of cellulose and synthetic fibers to extend filter life.

Changing the oil and filter every 3,000 miles was standard practice decades ago. But it’s no longer necessary because most multi-viscosity oils today are a synthetic blend or a full synthetic that resist viscosity breakdown and oxidation for a much longer period of time. Late-model fuel-injected engines also run much cleaner than their carbureted ancestors, which reduces oil contamination in the crankcase.

Oil and filter change intervals for most late-model vehicles range from 5,000 to 7,500 to 10,000 miles or more. Many vehicles don’t even have a time/mileage recommendation anymore but rely on a computer algorithm to turn on a “service reminder light” when an oil change is needed.

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A key point with today’s extended service intervals is that they depend on two things: using a top-quality motor oil that meets OEM service requirements, and a premium or long-life oil filter (brand name or private label) that has the storage capacity to go the distance without clogging.

The most common mistake that’s made when recommending or choosing an oil filter is to go with the least expensive filter on the shelf. That can be a big mistake if a customer is not changing their oil for 5,000 miles or more. Many economy filters lack the storage capacity to go beyond 4,000 or 5,000 miles before they clog and go into bypass mode and route unfiltered oil to the engine.

Our advice is to always recommend a premium or extended-life filter to every customer who is following extended service intervals, as well as customers who are buying synthetic motor oil because they want the best protection for their engine.

Recommended replacement intervals for engine air filters can range from 30,000 to 50,000 miles or more, but it depends more on exposure to dirt than time or mileage. The dirtier the environment, the more often the air filter should be replaced. Inspecting the air filter when the oil is changed is the best way to tell if it is dirty.

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Cabin air filters that trap both dust and odors typically have a service life of about one year regardless of mileage because the charcoal particles that absorb odors degrade over time. Dust-only cabin air filters should be inspected and/or replaced every two years or 30,000 miles, or as needed depending on operating conditions.

In-line fuel filters typically have a recommended replacement interval of 30,000 to 50,000 miles. But many of today’s fuel filters are part of the fuel pump module assembly inside the fuel tank and are “lifetime” filters with no recommended replacement interval. The filter should have enough capacity to last upward of 10 years or 150,000 miles – unless the fuel is somehow contaminated with a tank of dirty gas (it happens!).

Most late-model automatic transmission filters also are “lifetime” filters with no specified replacement interval. Under “normal” use, the fluid and filter often can go upwards of 10 years or 150,000 miles. However, many transmission experts still recommend changing the fluid and filter every 50,000 miles for preventive maintenance. Fluid and filter life can be cut short if the transmission runs hot (towing can cause this), or as a result of hard use. Discolored fluid that smells like burned toast is a sign of overheating and should be changed without delay.

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