SILVER SPRING, Md.—A study of marketplace modeling suggests consumers are changing oil less, and that trend could lead to adverse effects on vehicles.
Passenger car and light truck motor oil consumption, in the private sector, declined last year by 1.3 percent to 608 million gallons, according to data obtained by the Council for Automotive Reliability (CAR).
The consumption model was based on R.L. Polk vehicle registrations, average crankcase capacities, the average number of annual oil changes, top-off rates and factory fills. CAR said factors driving the change were a 3-percent drop in the average number of oil changes, as well as a 6-percent increase in average annual miles driven between oil changes.
The numbers are disturbing to the group. Larry Northup, CAR's executive director, said that "while it is obvious that people are changing their oil less frequently, there isn't one specific cause for this trend. Rather, we believe there are a number of contributing factors, most related to the general decline in consumer awareness of the need for regular oil changes and other auto maintenance."
Mr. Northup said confusion between "normal" and "severe" service maintenance schedules is a problem as many severe-usage drivers don't think they fit into that category and thus change their oil less.
"Combined, these multiple factors will have a significant impact on the automotive service and motor oil industries," he said. "They could also adversely affect long-term vehicle performance and durability." The key to managing these trends is education, he added.
CAR said it offers media relations and point-of-sale materials to educate motorists about the value of regular oil changes and other vehicle maintenance. The group is funded by a variety of associations, auto service facilities, parts retailers, distributors and manufacturers of automotive parts, lubricants and fluids, including oil manufacturers Valvoline Co. and Castrol.