DETROIT—More miles between oil changes may be one of the benefits of a new engine-monitoring system being rolled out by General Motors Corp. that alerts drivers to the need for an oil change. With the device in place, a car can go up to 15,000 miles between changes, GM said.
However, the company added that a driver who puts in long hours on the highway, for instance, may need to change oil every 10,000 to 15,000 miles instead of the widely accepted 3,000 miles.
The GM Oil Life System—standard equipment on the high-volume 1999 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups—will be on 90 percent of GM vehicles within five years, the company said.
Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc. introduced a similar system in 1997 that tests the chemical composition of the oil and alerts drivers when it is time for a change.
GM's oil monitor is part of its efforts to turn areas of technological leadership into marketing opportunities, said Charlie Mott, Chevrolet powertrain manager.
``We have a long history of technological firsts, but in the era of brand management, we are trying to transfer this into a benefit for the customer,'' he said.
Mr. Mott said the device is good for the environment because it conserves oil before it becomes waste, also known as source reduction.
The car maker estimated its system could save as much as 40 million quarts of oil annually.
The oil-monitor system takes various engine measurements. Engine revolutions and operating temperatures are recorded, as are the lengths of trips and engine loads, he said. When the oil is ready to be changed, a dashboard ``Change oil'' light winks on.
Some driving scenarios break oil down faster than others.
``The absolutely most severe type of driving that makes oil degrade most quickly is the extreme short trip,'' Mr. Mott said.
Sales of oil and filters may drop off, but GM said the innovations would help dealers in the long run by pleasing customers.
GM offers oil-system monitoring on the Chevrolet Corvette and on some Cadillacs with the Northstar engine. But this is the first time it has been available on vehicles, such as the full-sized pickups, that will touch a wide range of GM customers.