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2011 Malibu LTZ 3.6L V6 Red Jewel Tintcoat
21,135 Posts
What matters is how abused the additive package in the oil is. The more abuse it suffers the sooner you'll need to change it.

If all you do is drive short distances in town, somewhere around 3000 miles is a good estimate. But if you commute 50 miles a day on the freeway, then 7000 is a safe estimate. All that you're interested in is making sure that the detergent and anti-corrosion properties are still good enough to do their jobs. Once they are used up all you have left is the oil lubricating the engine. Without the additives you'll start seeing deposits and/or corrosion inside the engine.

There have been a few articles (available online - use Search on this forum to find references) that suggest that the GM Oil Life Monitor (OLM) is quite good at helping you determine the best time to change your oil. It's set up for regular oil, so if you switch to full synthetic then you'll be able to drive farther between changes.

When I bought my car I purchased the 3/36 LOF and tire rotation package (before knowing about the OLM), so I'm changing it every 3000 miles regardless. Once I get the last one at ~36K, I'm switching over to full synthetic as well and using the OLM. I believe that I'll end up changing it around 7-10 thousand miles. I'm at 15K now.

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20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks guys. I run Mobile 1 full synthetic and it's my goal to go 8k between oil changes. Or 6 months which ever comes first. It's my wife's car so it doesn't see that many miles.



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15 Posts
Mileage, city/highway driving ratio & average operating temp. There might be another, but that is all I remember reading as of now.
makes sense....and they have some prototypical "average" oil that they plug into the equation then, I would assume, as they can't make it apply for every specific case.

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249 Posts
GM Oil Life Monitor System
Frequently Asked Questions

How does the system work?
The GM Oil Life Monitor System is not a mileage counter. It is actually a computer
based software algorithm that determines when to change oil based on engine operating
conditions. There is no actual oil condition sensor. Rather, the computer continuously
monitors engine-operating conditions to determine when to change oil. Over the years,
millions of test miles have been accumulated to calibrate the system for a variety of
vehicles. The system was first introduced in 1988 and is now on more than 10 million
GM vehicles.

How do I operate the system?
The GM Oil Life Monitor System is very easy to use. First, refer to the vehicle owner’s
manual for a description of the specific ‘change oil’ message and the instructions for
resetting the system. When the vehicle has been driven the appropriate miles, the ‘change
oil’ message will be illuminated on the instrument panel or driver information center
when the vehicle is first started. An oil change should be done within two fuel tank fillups
from when the message was first displayed. Immediately after the oil has been
changed, the system must be reset. After resetting, the ‘change oil’ display will no longer
be displayed after engine start up.
I change my oil every 3000 miles, so of what use is this system?
You can continue to change your oil every 3000 miles if you so choose, but remember to
reset the system after changing the oil or you will get a false “change oil” message.
However the GM Oil Life Monitor System will allow you the ability to extend the
mileage between changes without harming your engine. This will save you time and
money as well as helping to protect the environment by minimizing the amount of used

Do I have to use special oil?
The GM Oil Life Monitor System is calibrated for use with standard “Starburst” mineralbased
automotive engine oil. Synthetic oils are not required except for the Corvette.
Make sure to read the owner’s manual and select the viscosity and oil grade that is correct
for your engine. Any oil selected for use should carry the ILSAC “Starburst”.
How many miles can I expect to go between oil changes when using this system?
The beauty of the GM Oil Life Monitor System is that it will automatically adjust the oil
change interval based engine characteristics, driving habits and the climate in which the
vehicle is operated. For instance, mild highway driving in a warm climate will maximize
the interval between oil changes. Depending on the vehicle, this could be in excess of
7000 miles and as high as 12,000 miles. On the other hand, short trip driving in cold a
climate may limit the oil change to 3000 miles or less. In general, most people that drive
a combination of city and highway schedules find that the GM Oil Life Monitor System
will indicate an oil change every 7500 to 8500 miles.
What happens if I change oil and forget to reset the system?
Since the GM Oil Life Monitor System does not actually sense oil condition, it is
important that the engine computer knows when an oil change takes place. By enabling
the reset (read owner’s manual for instructions), it lets the computer know an oil change
has taken place. In the event that an oil change is done without resetting the system, the
‘change oil’ indicator will remain illuminated until the system is rest. The more miles that
are driven without the system being reset, the more inaccurate the GM Oil Life Monitor
System will be. If more than 500 miles have been driven after an oil change without
resetting the GM Oil Life Monitor System, the oil change interval should be defaulted
back to 3000 miles. After the oil has been changed and the system reset, normal use of
the system can be resumed.
The oil change service station recommends that I change oil every 3000 miles.

Why should I not believe them?
The 3000 mile oil change is very conservative approach to maintaining your vehicle that
dates back to 1968. Many advancements in engine and oil technology have been made
since then. These advancements, in conjunction with using the GM Oil Life Monitor
System, allow engine oil drain intervals to be increased without risking harm your the

I change my own oil, should I reset the system myself?
You can reset per the vehicle owner's manual, or ask your selling dealer.
Will I damage the car if I don't get the oil changed soon after the light comes on?
As stated in the owner's manual, change oil as soon as possible. It is recommended that
oil be changed within 600 miles of the change oil light / message.

Do I have to check my oil level now that my vehicle is equipped with the GM Oil
Life Monitor System?
Yes, the system does not sense oil level. As stated in the owner's manual, it is
recommended that you check your oil every time you stop for gasoline.
Will I void my warranty if I don't go by the GM Oil Life Monitor System?
Complying with the owner's manual recommendations will maintain the warranty.

I had my oil changed recently and now my GM Oil Life Monitor System light came
If the system was not reset (refer to owner's manual) at the time of oil change, the system
can be reset as long as it's been less than 500 miles since the last oil change. If this
mileage has been exceeded, change the oil at 3000 miles and reset system.
I prefer to have my oil changed still around 3,500 miles, what should I do?
It is ok to change oil prior to being notified by the vehicle. Be sure the system is reset
even if the GM Oil Life Monitor System light has not illuminated.

My oil seems dirty, I have 6,000 miles and no light, do I have a problem?
Discoloration will take place under normal conditions depending on driving conditions.
Refer to the Owner’s Manual for further information

Can any dealer other than my selling dealer perform Simplified Maintenance
While we like to recommend the selling dealer, any GM Goodwrench dealership can
perform the Maintenance I and Maintenance II service and reset the GM Oil Life System.

I use synthetic oil, should I expect to get more miles before the trigger point with
The GM Oil Life System is calculated based on the factory fill requirement. While some
benefits may exist, the oil drain interval is not extended due to the use of synthetic oil.
During Summer I drive my vehicle in a very hot climate, do I need to change oil
more often?
The beauty of the GM Oil Life System is that it calculates for severe climate use and
determines the oil change interval just as it does for trailer towing as well as stop and go
operation. There is no need to adjust the oil change based on climate, as well as vehicle

I continue to get 3,000 mile follow-up mailers from my dealer, what should I do?
Inform you servicing dealer that you prefer to go by the Maintenance I and Maintenance
II driven by the GM Oil Life Monitor System so that they may adjust the way you receive
follow-up mailings.

I have another GM vehicle a 2002 model with the GM Oil Life Monitor System, can
I use the Simplified Maintenance Schedule with it also?
While it is equipped with the GM Oil Life Monitor System, Maintenance I and
Maintenance II was not yet introduced. The proper recommendation would always be to
follow the owner’s manual.

· Registered
15 Posts
Thanks for the info.
Got a chuckle out of your profile location also.
I see this is your 5th EcoTec motor.......apparently they have been reliable for you? Just ordered an LTZ and I stuck with the little I4....hope I don't regret it.

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249 Posts
Its my 5th car with an EcoTec. I find them extremely reliable. I am employed at the GM plant where they are manufactured.

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456 Posts
I have worked around EcoTecs for a few years... the 2.2 in the Cavalier, the 2.4 in the Cobalt & HHR, and the LSJ and LNF performance versions. Even did a complete tear down and rebuild of a LSJ in a co-workers garage 2 years back... that was fun. All in all they are reliable little engines that can take some punishment.

As far as the "oil life meter" goes... I trust it to a point. I typically run it down to 33% then make an appointment at the dealer... I don't ever let it get below 25%.

· Registered
249 Posts
what kind of oil do you run in them? I'm guessing a standard dino oil?
In the first 3 I had I just ran standard dino oil, but I traded them in before they hit 40K in miles. In my 2009 HHR I ran dino oil until the first change, then I switched to a full synthetic. I plan on doing the same with my 2010 LTZ. The reason being is that I plan to keep both of these vehicles for a much longer time.

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25 Posts
The reprint of GMs lie is false. My truck goes donw 1% per hunderd miles weather its city highway or towing A 12,000 pound trailer. My Sky sits all winter but it would still be 8000 miles to zero no matter what. Its mileage based.

· Administrator
2011 Malibu LTZ 3.6L V6 Red Jewel Tintcoat
21,135 Posts
The reprint of GMs lie is false. My truck goes donw 1% per hunderd miles weather its city highway or towing A 12,000 pound trailer. My Sky sits all winter but it would still be 8000 miles to zero no matter what. Its mileage based.
That's amazing that you can make such a claim with no more "evidence" than your truck and a rarely-driven car. So, you don't believe that GM has data from millions (or maybe even billions?) of miles from many thousands of cars with which to develop this device?

Rather than believing a plausable story from GM as an explanation on their algorithm you'd have us believe you with two cars and no more miles than I've driven on my last few cars? Sorry, I'll opt for GM's story.

Your opinion is still yours and valid as such, an opinion, but bashing others just because you don't believe them is no way to convince others and swing them to your camp.

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490 Posts
The reprint of GMs lie is false. My truck goes donw 1% per hunderd miles weather its city highway or towing A 12,000 pound trailer. My Sky sits all winter but it would still be 8000 miles to zero no matter what. Its mileage based.
You're an idiot and obviously can't read. If your car sits all winter and is not driven that means the system isn't going to be able to calculate anything. You see, in order for the car's computer to work you have to start the car. Then there's a little thing called the algorithm. You see, without your car being turned on this beautiful little monster can't do any work. If it takes into consideration RPMs, Miles, Temperature, etc. it can't make those calculations without the car running. Just because you think GM is a big bad scary monster doesn't mean it's true. I used to believe in monsters too, but then I turned 5.

P.S. Lookout! The sock monster is behind you...
P.S.S. J/K

· CMF Veteran Member
1,413 Posts
Jeez, people, lighten up a little. duramax's just saying his experience with his diesel truck is different. With his Sky, if he only drives it on open roads and in fair weather, I'd expect about the same results year after year.

On my ION, a couple of times I actually did not reset the OLM to see when it'd start nagging me:

04/29/07 - 12/24/07 13887 miles over ~8 months
12/24/07 - 06/22/08 10943 miles over ~6 months

That was evidence enough for me that it's not based on milage alone on my ION. I also think there's different calibration involved (my Malibu is currently showing 90% oil life after ~1200 miles).

Call me an idiot, too, but I seriously doubt that GM actually did oil analyses over millions of miles on thousands of cars. Not only is it improbable but totally unnecesary in engineering.
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