So, why do you change your oil every 3,000 miles?

MRAP on Patrol in Afghanistan. (Photo: Sgt. Justin Howe)

MRAP on Patrol in Afghanistan. (Photo: Sgt. Justin Howe)

This blog post was shared by the Reliability Information Analysis Center (RIAC). It is the 17th in our 22-part series produced by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC).

Because that’s what it says in the owner’s manual. But, how much could you save if you waited until 6,000 miles [provided of course you didn’t damage your engine]? It’s questions like this that RIAC engineers, scientists and subject matter experts (SMEs) are dealing with every day on weapons platforms from tanks, to planes, to helicopters, and even submarines.

RIAC engineers not only study the maintenance requirements in the owner’s manuals, but they also spend hours researching failure rates and explore various data sets related to maintenance events. This is a highly structured and very effective process called Reliability Centered Maintenance.

A Reliability Centered Maintenance analysis starts with detailed systems drawings. From the drawings, every component is analyzed for ways that it could possibly fail and then analyzed to see how severe that failure could be to the system. Next, engineers review the actual field failure data or use one of the databases on failures developed over the past 45 years at RIAC. Then, RIAC engineers look at the maintenance currently performed and analyze whether or not certain activities could be eliminated or reduced. Any activity that’s been identified for elimination or reduction must be explored further to ensure the overall system remains safe and reliable. If the overall system remains safe, there’s an opportunity for cost savings to come into play.

For example, RIAC engineers are currently analyzing the entire fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. These massive vehicles are designed to withstand road-side bombs (Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs). To date, RIAC SMEs have completed analyzing nearly 50 percent of the MRAP vehicle systems. Along the way, they’ve discovered various cost avoidances that over a 10 year period would save more than $6.5 billion! This savings includes nearly 175 million fewer man-hours to maintain the MRAPs. By freeing up 175 million maintenance hours, our men and women in uniform are able to focus their attention on other mission critical tasks, helping to get the job done sooner, while also saving on excessive maintenance costs.

The Reliability Information Analysis Center (RIAC) is one of ten Information Analysis Centers (IACs) established by DOD and managed by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). RIAC is the DOD Center of Excellence responsible for acquiring, archiving, analyzing, synthesizing, and disseminating scientific and technical information related to Reliability, Maintainability, Quality, Supportability, and Interoperability (RMQSI).

Interested in learning more, or working with RIAC on an upcoming effort? RIAC can be reached via the IAC website.

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5 Responses to So, why do you change your oil every 3,000 miles?

  1. tom says:

    I drive a 2003 chevy 1 ton van every day. Company Changes the oil every 7500 miles From brand new. Now 4/27/11 the miles on the van is 350,000 miles. No smoke, motor just as strong as new. Tom

  2. Earl says:

    $650 million of savings per year on maintenance on this one vehicle type!! If that’s a 25% savings, then the maintenance bill is $2.4 billion per year. Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to buy a new one if something breaks or it needs an oil change?

    These numbers don’t make any sense…do they?

  3. Adean says:

    That’s quite a savings. This simply begs the age-old question of how close you want to run your margins on maintenance. On the one hand it’s nice to have a buffer zone so that you, because you err on the side of caution, you always have failsafes, but on the other hand if you can save a large amount simply by running a little closer to the limit, that might be worth it. In the general scheme of things for civilians I would say that changing your oil half as often probably won’t pay much or anything in the long run, but for a system as big as the military it may make sense simply because of the huge scale.


  4. Norman Rockwell says:

    I am excited about the military minimizing its cost expenditures in a sensible manner. $650 million is probably just the proverbial drop in the bucket.

    So how often do we need to change the oil? Can we access the studies somewhere? This information could save the nation and civilians tons of money in addition to lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

    I hope this information will be published in readily accessible forum.

  5. How to make essential oils says:

    I would not skip an oil change I know someone destroyed their engine that way.