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February 3, 2016

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Calif. Bill Targets Oil Drain Intervals

Legislators in California are considering a bill that would require automotive service providers to notify customers of the oil change interval that carmakers recommend for their vehicles.

Service providers would be prohibited from advising intervals shorter than those listed in the owner’s manual, for example, when placing a sticker on the windshield indicating when the next oil change should occur. Installers would also need to list the oil grade and viscosity that the original equipment manufacturer recommends for the vehicle “in order to prevent deceiving or misleading consumers with unnecessary and costly oil changes,” states Senate Bill 778, submitted by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica).

Photo: Barbara Gregson/PRNewswire

A proposed California law would require installers to tell drivers to use OEM recommended drain intervals. The state began promoting longer drain intervals in 2012 (above).

“New motor oil formulations reduce repairs, prolong engine life, improve fuel economy and enable significantly longer oil change intervals than outdated 3,000-mile-oil-change marketing campaigns,” reads the bill. It adds that most automakers recommend oil drains every 7,500 or 10,000 miles for modern vehicles, with some going as high as 15,000 miles.

A quick-lube association is complaining that the bill takes an oversimplified view of oil change intervals and would risk damage to large numbers of cars.

The bill is focused on reducing numbers of oil changes, both as a means to save consumers money and to reduce environmental impact. According to the document, despite extensive recycling efforts by the state, only 40 percent of used engine oil in California is collected, and only a small portion is rerefined.

The measure mirrors previous initiatives in the state. In 2012, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery came up with the “Check Your Number” campaign urging drivers to determine the oil-change interval for their vehicles based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

An official with the Automotive Oil Change Association told Lube Report that the bill displays a flawed understanding of drain interval recommendations. Policy adviser Joanna Johnson argued that the intervals cited by the bill are intended as maximum distances that should be used only under mild driving conditions.

She maintained that drain intervals should depend on a variety of factors, such as driving habits, road and weather conditions, fuel octane level and adherence to maintenance obligations. “The highest mileage recommendation for a vehicle is actually intended only for a small subset of all drivers: those who do not meet the definition of ‘severe,’” Johnson said.

According to AOCA, some automakers recommend oil changes every 3,000 miles under average to severe conditions, which include any of the following:

  • frequent idling that occurs during stop-and-go driving in heavy traffic;
  • sustained highway driving in hot weather, such as vacation travel;
  • towing a boat or trailer or carrying heavy objects on a rooftop rack;
  • driving in dusty conditions;
  • prolonged operation at subzero temperatures;
  • driving regularly on steep hills or mountains.

Johnson said legislation should encourage vehicle owners recognize the importance of engine maintenance rather than stretching drain intervals. “Service providers must continue to have the ability to schedule necessary maintenance via a case-by-case analysis so that consumers avoid breaking down on the side of the road, losing warranty coverage, decreasing the useful life of their vehicles, and increasing the likelihood of burning oil and fluid leakage.”