Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a 2009 VW Passat with about 6,500 miles. I called to set up an appointment to get the oil changed, and the dealership said it only changes the oil at 10,000 miles. My late husband took excellent care of all of our cars, and never would let a car go 10,000 miles before an oil change. Maybe I'm cheap, but if I wait until 10,000 miles, the oil change is free, since I have free scheduled maintenance. If I do it before then, it will cost $80 (!) and I'll have waived my free oil change. To complicate matters, I'm driving to the mountains soon. I'll still be under 10,000 miles when I get back, but I don't want to mess up my engine. What do you think I should do? Thanks, Ray and Tom. I appreciate the advice and the laughter.
Ray: Your car uses synthetic oil, Bonnie, which works better and lasts longer than the stuff you suck out of the ground and spill all over the Gulf of Mexico. And in many cases, 10,000 miles between synthetic oil changes is fine.
Tom: But in your case, we're going to make an exception. Lucky you, Bonnie!
Ray: VWs of recent vintage (at least the ones that have come into our shop during the past decade) have had a tendency to burn oil. Their engines burn through more oil between oil changes than we're comfortable with. And for that reason, we're going to suggest that you change the synthetic oil every 5,000 miles in this particular car.
Tom: It might not ultimately prevent your engine from burning oil, since we don't know exactly what's causing the oil burning. But it might help. It certainly can't hurt.
Ray: And it doesn't have to screw up your "free scheduled maintenance" agreement. You simply tell the dealer that you're willing to pay for an extra oil change in between the scheduled oil changes. You pay for an extra, unscheduled one now, at 6,500 miles, and then they'll change it again for you for free at 10,000 miles.
Tom:: It's true that if you do this, it'll cost you 80 bucks once a year or so. But it's cheap insurance for your engine. You can think of it as honoring your late husband's wishes. And helping your poor VW dealer make his boat payments. Have a good trip, Bonnie.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)