How often does a car need an oil change? Ask Jiffy Lube, and it's a flat 3,000 miles. According to car manufacturers, however, their products can go anywhere from a low of 5,000 miles to a high of 10,000 before an oil change is necessary.
The Stranger crunched the numbers and found that if you listen to Jiffy Lube, you’re gonna waste a butt-ton of oil:
The 67,380,000 gallons of motor oil Jiffy Lube customers don't need to buy each year are gleaned from more than one billion gallons of crude oil. The unnecessary oil consumption of Jiffy Lube customers is a drop in America's oil bucket. But it's a 67-million-gallon drop.
Can't blame Jiffy Lube for trying to gin up business, I guess. But misinformation about oil changes is an old problem. In 1960, Vance Packard reports in The Waste Makers, Big Oil was pushing even more wasteful car maintenance:
For a number of years the American Petroleum Institute urged motorists to throw away their dirty old sludge and install bright-new oil every thousand miles. Motorcar manufacturers, in contrast, have stressed that their gentle cars could nurse oil for a long, long time. In 1959, Ford was promising prospective buyers that they would need to change oil only once every four thousand miles.
The numbers are a little different — hey, progress! — but the idea is the same. Companies that sell oil want customers to buy oil, no matter what the cost to the environment and society and the boring hour you spend sitting in the Jiffy Lube waiting room reading a month-old People.
- The Waste Makers, Vance Packard
Get Grist in your inbox