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Servicing guides and mods

The American Oil Change Myth

In many ways , Europe is behind America. We get many of their fads, stars and TV programs years after them. On the flip side, America is behind Europe in many ways too. They have giant cars with silly sized engines, the country as a whole takes itself too seriously and many of them are stuck in their ways. Excessive oil services is one of those things they just can't let go of.

Modification Details

The 3000 Mile Oil Change

Before the invention of multigrade oils, before the creation of cleaner engines, before the discovery
of fully synthetic oils. Previous to all of these came the Americans with their 4, 5 and 6 litre (liter)
engines, dirty as hell and running poor quality mineral oil.

Back in the "good old days", even the best mineral oil wouldn't last much longer than 3000 miles in an American
car so it was common to do an oil change every 3000 miles as that gave the engine a better chance of surviving.

However, things change. Technology changes all aspects of our lives. Things that were true can
very quickly become nonsense. One of those things is the 3000 mile oil change. The problem
isn't the technology changing things, it's how quickly people adapt to these changes. For some
reason, there are so many people clinging to the old oil change schedule.

It's how we used to used to do it so this is how we will continue to do it.

Unnecessary Anecdote

A woman starts to prepare a turkey for a Thanksgiving dinner, she cuts 1 inch off of each end
and puts it in the oven. It tastes great but the man wants to know why she cuts on 1 inch from each end.
The woman says it's how her mother always did it.

A month later they visit her Mum who is cooking Christmas dinner. The Mum cuts 1 inch off of each end and places the turkey in the oven. The man enquires why and is given the same response, "that's how my Mother always did it".

The man walks into the front room to ask the Grandmother why she cut 1 inch from each end of the Turkey.

"We had a very small oven, it was the only way it would fit".

But Jiffy Lube Say 3000 or 5000 Miles

Of course they do, they are owned by Shell who make the oil. They want you to excessively buy oil, if you need it
or not. They'd much rather you serviced your car 2 or 3 times too often as they have shareholders to impress. Almost
all oil change places are going to run you the same line of bullshit. They want your money to be their money.

Technology Saves You Money

When cars first appeared on the streets, the oil had to be changed every 500 miles. Cars rarely drove very
far back then due to lack of decent roads but due to the massive expense of the car itself, they were serviced by
the manufacturer's schedule of 500 miles. Then technology came to the rescue and the oil filter was invented
in the 1920's. This immediately increased the manufacturer's oil change schedule to 3000 miles. There were
more roads of better quality, the engines were better made but the price of cars remained high (mainly because
most of the manufacturing in that time was concentrating on the 2 world wars). So again, people stuck to the
manufacturer's schedule to save them from a heafty repair bill.

Somewhere between 1920 and 1960, many Americans stopped listening to new information about
oils and manufacturer's service schedules. I believe this was mainly down to the cost of cars dropping
and making them accessible to more people. Information was hard to come by, people started fixing
and servicing their own vehicles so a lot of the knowledge was passed down. With such a big country
and so little info, it was hard to distinguish facts from rumour.

As is always the case.
Information that you have known to be true for so long is hard to change to a new way of thinking.

In the 1960's, multigrade oil was produced. This could vary the viscosity depending on the temperature of
the engine. This offered a lot more protection to the engine as the lubricational qualities were more suited to
the engine over a wider temperature range. The invention of multigrade oil increased the oil service schedule
once again to about 5000 or 6000 miles depending on the manufacturer of the vehicle.

It wasn't until the 1970's that fully synthetic oil became commercially available to motorists and car manufacturers.

By the 1980's, most cars had a service schedule of around 10,000 miles before the oil needed changing.
This had more to do with engine technology and multigrade oil more than fully synthetic oils. Fully
synthetic oils didn't really come into their own until the 1990's.

Fully synthetic oils are continuously developed and improved, allowing higher mileage between oil changes.
Friction modifiers, detergents and anti corrosion additives increase the life span of modern day oils.

It's actually these additives that wear out around the correct service period, not so much the oil.

Smaller cubic capacity engines with cleaner running and emissions have made leaps and bounds
over the last 10 years, again decreasing the regularity of a required oil service.

Luckily, American Smart Owners Are Usually Visionaries

The fact that they are driving a smart in the first place means they have broken free of the big car culture which
is far more wide spread than the excessive servicing culture. They are far more likely to follow new stuff more
closely and take advantage of it to save money and better their own lives. However, there are always "others".

So, How Many Miles Should I Service My Car?

As before, let the manufacturer dictate that. They know best as they invented and built the thing.
Car makers have always stated in the manual the desired mileage that they'd like you to service
the car you bought from them. It was only the oil service places, the "stuck in their ways" owners
and the misinformed drivers that decided to take the servicing schedule into their own hands.

Generally, smart suggest a 10,000 mile service for their cars.
This differs by model which is why you should consult your manual.

0W Oil Is The Best Though Right?

This is another piece of misinformation passed on as fact by people who don't really know any better.
0W oil should only be used if you live in a very cold climate to protect during cold starts.
It is not some super race car oil that does everything superbly, read more here.

3000/5000 Mile Servicing Can't Hurt Though, Right?

It won't hurt the car, no. However, it can harm the environment and seriously damage the funds
in your bank account. There is no point doing something 2 or 3 times too often if it's not necessary
and of no benefit. If you save the money you were going to spend on oil changes, by the time the
engine gives up you will have the money for a rebuild. If you spend all the money on oil, the engine
won't actually last much longer so when it needs a rebuild, you'll be down a load of money.

So, What Kills The Smart If It's Not Old Oil?

I have seen 10 year old smarts that have never been serviced, running totally sweet. Not using any
oil and no odd noises. On the flip-side I have seen excessively serviced smarts requiring reconditioning
at 40,000 miles sounding like a bag of bolts and burning a litre of oil every 100 miles. There is no obvious
reason for the longevity or the swift demise of similar engines treated the same way, however there
is a variable that does seem to extend the life of the Suprex engine.

What's The Difference Between...

...a 700cc smart fortwo engine and a 700cc smart Roadster engine? The answer is about 60,000 miles difference.
In general, the smart fortwo starts having engine issues around 60,000 miles. The Roadster doesn't seem to have
engine troubles until about 120,000 miles. Roadster owners don't necessarily look after their cars more, they don't
service them unnecessarily plus they are usually driven harder and produce more power than the fortwo variant.

There are 3 main differences between the engines. Bigger turbo, that has no effect on longevity. Better quality
inlet and exhaust valves, this helps a fair bit as the fortwo valves do burn out. However, as far as I can see, the
main reason the Roadster engine lasts longer is because of the inclusion of a oil cooler. The Roadster cools the
oil by pumping engine coolant into a heat exchanger that the oil is being pushed passed.

So, it's not the state of the oil, it's the temperature that causes the problem.

Hot Oil Is Bad

Yes, the smart has an efficient engine but it still creates a lot of power from a small displacement.
Plus it's a dirty engine with no drain plug on the 600cc and 700cc so it's impossible to change all of the oil.
You are always left with some old oil in the oil galleries that run around the engine. Many of you will notice that
it only takes a few hundred miles for your new golden oil to turn black. It's not a problem, the filter does its job.

Hot oil can break its molecular bonds easily. It can shear, burn and lose its lubricating effect.
Unless you plan to never drive your smart more than a few minutes or change the oil every day, there's very little you can do. However a prevention is better than a cure as we all know. So surely it'd be better to fit a thermostatically controlled oil cooler to regulate the temperature of the oil and therefore negate the issues.

Oil Coolers

Read more about oil coolers, here.


Here is a bit more extra reading to back up the information on unnecessary servicing. - breaking the 3000 mile habit. - 3000 mile myth. - do you really need to change your oil every 3000 miles? - stop changing the oil every 3000 miles already!

Even Jiffy Lube have had to change their stance on the 3000 mile service.


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