I have 19,000 miles on my car, having driven 4,000 of that in this month alone. (More on that later.) While updating my car’s maintenance history on the Subaru owner site this morning, I was puzzled that they were flagging my car for being past due on the “18,750 mile service.” 18,750?!?
The web site wouldn’t expand upon what this service is, instead deferring to my designated Subaru dealer so I can make the “necessary” appointment, but I guessed that the 3,750 interval is probably for an oil change.
Back in the late 80s, when I did all of my own car maintenance, I used to change my oil every 3,000 miles or 6 months, whichever occurred first. For the past couple of years, I had been letting this slide to 7,500 miles, because that’s what the owner manuals typically recommend and I have better things to do than change my oil unnecessarily. However, in the interest of continued happy running Subaru ownership, I wanted to substantiate this one way or another.
My owner’s manual is conspicuously missing any maintenance schedule, referring to a “Maintenance and Warranty Schedule” booklet that I have since lost. Unfortunately, this booklet is not available for download from the Subaru web site, though I can get a copy from my local dealer. Incidentally, it’s the local dealer, not Subaru, who recommends this 3,750 mile interval between maintenance.
Jiffy Lube, the McDonald’s of oil changes, recommends at 3,000 mile intervals. This blanket “rule of thumb” recommendation for all cars is even more aggressive than the local dealer recommendation of 3,750. This makes $en$e, considering Jiffy Lube’s business benefits from frequent recurring maintenance.
I checked three friends’ vehicle owner manuals and each had consistent schedules at this point in time:
Mileage Maintenance 15,000 Inspect brakes, clutch, steering, suspension.
Replace engine oil & oil filter.
22,500 Replace engine oil & oil filter.
30,000 Inspect transaxle fluid, brakes, camshaft drive belt, clutch, cooling system hoses & clamps, differential fluid, drive belts, fuel lines, fuel system, steering system, suspension system.
Replace air filter element, brake fluid, coolant, spark plugs, engine oil & oil filter, fuel filter.
In other words, on a new car, oil changes are recommended at 7,500 mile intervals. The first non-oil change work is done at 30,000, when the vehicle is just over two years old, and includes a coolant change and replacing the spark plugs. Oh, there is a little asterisk noting that a vehicle operating under “severe conditions” requires more frequent service intervals. Most of the manuals hint that severe conditions means things like driving in the Kalihari during a sandstorm, towing a trailer uphill, drag racing with Ted Timmons, or using your car to deliver mail/pizzas. None of these use cases apply to me. (“Hi, My Name’s Jim And I Drive A Station Wagon.”)
According Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of Car Talk, 3,000 miles was a historical recommendation (meaning “guess”) and 5,000 – 7,500 miles between oil changes is fine:
Ray: We used to recommend 3,000-mile oil changes because we thought that was a good compromise for most people. But with the dramatic improvement in oil technology over the years and the growing problem of used-oil disposal, we upped our recommendation to 5,000 miles some years ago. And it might even be time to go to 7,500 soon, for the same reasons.
Tom: So if you drive like a normal human being, under more or less normal conditions, changing your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles should be quite adequate.
I dug around further and found the official Subaru recommendation, which is oil changes every 7,500 miles, except when operating under severe conditions.