Cheaping out on motor oil isn’t too slick, experts say

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Just about everyone knows cars and trucks need engine oil in order to operate smoothly. But did you know that using the cheapest possible oil in your vehicle may not be such a bargain after all?

It’s more than just changing your oil. The wrong type of oil could eventually destroy your automobile’s engine. Cars are more complicated than ever and need more-sophisticated types of oil to operate trouble free.

“The engineers who designed the vehicle have determined a specific oil with a specific additive package needs to be used to make that vehicle last the length of time they’ve warrantied it for,” said Chris Chesney of the CARQUEST Technical Institute.

In Apex, thousands of vehicles old and new pass through the Southern Services oil change shop. The mechanics there know: One kind of oil does NOT fit all vehicles. As a result, they stock dozens of different oils to match whatever vehicle shows up at their shop.

Only about 75 percent of the product in any bottle of oil is actually oil; the rest is additives.

There are two types of oil, conventional and synthetic.

Most newer vehicles require synthetics with specific additives to protect the many high-tech components in the engine.

Some drivers think it doesn’t make a difference whether they use conventional or synthetic oil as long as it has additives.

“If the additive package is wrong and you put conventional oil in a vehicle, there’s a chance that vehicle won’t last more than a few thousand miles,” said Chesney.

Also, some oils and their additives don’t react well with things such as engine seals and can literally rot the seals away if used repeatedly.

Motorist Cherry Harrington found out she was using the wrong kind of oil when she came to Southern Services to get her oil replaced.

“Last time I had it changed, I went to a different place and they put in a conventional blend, which wasn’t synthetic. You are not supposed to do that because it can mess up your car over time,” she said. Harrington said the mechanic at Southern Services explained to her that she to use the same type of oil every time.

Synthetic oils also allow you to go longer between oil change intervals, which can save you some cash because you don’t have to do it as often.

“Synthetic oil should be able to go between 5,000 and 7,500 miles,” said Chesney.

But don’t wait too long between oil changes.

Southern Services manager Arthur Dunn keeps three bottles in his garage with different kinds of oil in them.

Once contains brand new, just out of the bottle oil. It’s golden yellow. The second contains oil that’s come from a car at about 3,000 miles. It’s light brown and leaves a light brown sheen on the inside of the bottle when shaken. The last bottle contains oil from a car that went 12,000 miles before it was changed.

When you tilt or shake the bottle that oil, it leaves a sticky, black residue on the glass.

“I couldn’t believe it when this car came in,’’ said Dunn. “If I tilt the bottle, it’s like pancake syrup”

He said that oil has lost all its protective qualities and is so full of contaminants that it does more harm than good to the engine parts it encounters.

Your owner’s manual dictates the kind of oil your vehicle needs, so check it, especially if you are going to change your own oil.

Although synthetic oil costs more than conventional oil, you save money in the long run because you avoid costly engine repairs when you use the right oil and change it out when you are supposed to.

For more information from AAA on oil changes, visit this link.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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