Dear Car Coach: I’m confused when it comes to getting my oil changed. Some places have deals, while my dealer says they are using the right oil and others aren’t. What are the facts? – M.C.

Dear M.C.: Motor oil is the lifeblood of an engine and can help protect and prolong its life. This phrase should ring true for the owners of the more than 300 million vehicles on the road today, whether for compact cars, pick-up trucks or SUVs. However, not just any motor oil will ensure the healthy life of an engine and, unfortunately, discounted deals for an oil change may not be such a deal after all.

With consumers looking to reduce their automotive maintenance costs, service locations can be quick to offer discounted services. Some providers offer discounted motor oil change services to attract value-minded consumers, but how can a consumer be sure he or she is getting a quality motor oil and filter as part of the deal? A promise of “up to five quarts’ conventional oil” doesn’t really tell the consumer much about the quality of the oil being installed.

I can’t stress how important it is to be “in the know” when it comes to motor oil changes. If drivers choose to have professionally installed motor oil in their vehicle, it’s a must for them to confirm what that shop is actually pouring into their car.

Motor Oil Matters, or MOM, a new consumer education and industry watchdog program of the American Petroleum Institute, has been established to stress the benefits of quality licensed motor oils and call onto the carpet those who engage in deceptive practices.

Here are some tips to follow, some from the MOM website:

•  When it’s time for an oil change, follow recommendations in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Pay close attention to the oil life monitor if a vehicle has it. When the monitor says it’s time for a change, it’s time. Drivers need to pay close attention to their vehicle usage because vehicle manufacturers sometimes recommend oil drain intervals based on driving habits.

•  Do you know what you’re getting? Your service provider should be happy to provide you with the motor oil brand, viscosity grade and performance level of the oil they use before it is poured into your vehicle. It’s also important to ask for that information in writing or on the receipt. Drive away from any locations that don’t know or won’t confirm in writing what they’re pouring into your vehicle.

•  Who can you trust? The American Petroleum Institute certifies oil change locations under the MOM program. Service providers that are MOM-certified have had their quality control procedures independently audited and have made the commitment to always tell their customers exactly what oil is going into their cars.

•  Does the oil meet the performance level recommended for my car? Any motor oil poured into a vehicle should meet the level of performance recommended in the vehicle owner’s manual. For many vehicles, manufacturers recommend oils that comply with the latest International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee or American Petroleum Institute standard.

•  Make sure the oil change includes a fresh “high grade” filter. Your owner’s manual likely recommends a particular type of oil filter, so make sure the right one is included with your oil change.

You can find out more by visiting Consumers are encouraged to confidentially report any oil marketer, distributor or service location that they suspect is misrepresenting the quality of the oil being marketed or installed. Just go to the MOM website and click on the Report Abuse button.


Dear Car Coach: I am always interested in estimated mileage on the new car window sticker. I don’t believe the info is accurate, but what else do we have to go by? – J.S.

Dear J.S.: First it was Hyundai with overstated miles-per-gallon figures, then it was Ford with the Fusion Hybrid. Now, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is investigating even more mileage claims. Fuel economy is one of the top three reasons car buyers choose a specific make and model.

Keep in mind that these tests are conducted under ideal driving conditions and using pure gasoline (while we are forced to use 10 percent ethanol gasoline). Sadly, there isn’t much we can do other than to check with magazines that actually run a full tank of gas and report their findings until we get results from regulators.