Dear Car Talk:
I really like the way you support us older gals who have to deal with car repair issues in a male-dominated industry. My question concerns how to keep my 2005 Ford Expedition, with 160,000 miles on it, running at its best well into old age.
My usual oil-change place has recommended synthetic oil for quite a while, and I assumed that was best for an older vehicle, even though it’s more expensive. However, I recently tried out the Ford dealer’s “Quick Lane” oil-change option and asked for synthetic oil. They told me that they use a blend of synthetic and regular oil, and the bill was surprisingly low.
This made me worry that in exchange for a lower price, I was shortchanging my vehicle by using mostly regular oil (since I didn’t ask how much synthetic is in the “blend”). When I asked about it, I was basically given the “don’t worry about it, little lady” response.
That’s when I decided to write to Car Talk, who never talks down to us “little ladies”! Should I stick with the synthetic oil or save a few bucks?
— Cowgirl Sue
Stick with the full synthetic oil, Sue. Synthetic oils outperform traditional oils in pretty much every performance category — including the all-important areas of viscosity and fluidity at colder temperatures.
And while they cost more, they not only perform better and offer better protection to your engine, they also last longer, so you change your oil less often. So if you’re interested in such things, you’ll also be disposing of less waste oil, which is better for the environment.
If you had asked the Quick Lane guy to tell you how much synthetic oil is in the blend they use, he’d probably have no idea. “Don’t worry about it, little lady” is your clue that he doesn’t know.
Oils are not required to list their ingredients on the side of the container like salad dressings. So you’re right to suspect that a low price probably means less of the good stuff.
So unless the Quick Lane offers a genuine, full synthetic oil as an extra cost option, I’d go back to your old guy and keep using the synthetic. That’ll give you the best chance of keeping your Expedition running well into old age — its old age and yours.