Watchdog: Oil changes, buyer beware

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(WZZM) — There’s a new trend that is alarming auto mechanics: 20% of the time you change your car’s oil, you are not getting what you pay for.

Just four years ago that number was half that. What you are getting could be cheaper oil, a different brand, impure oil and even used oil.

Changing your oil might be the single most important thing you can do to keep your engine in good running condition. That’s why our Watchdog team was surprised to find there is really no regulation of the oil you put in your car.

According to mechanics, oil is the most basic and overlooked maintenance item in an automobile and not changing your oil and putting in improper types of oil can lead to catastrophic damage. But even if you do what mechanics and car makers tell you, there’s a potential problem you may not be aware of.

The Michigan Petroleum Association estimates that over 20% of the time, consumers may not be getting the type of oil change you think you are gettingThere is no way to know for certain what’s being put in your vehicle, unless you take the oil to a lab and have it tested. There are no regulations relating to the quality of oil being used.

That’s why oil businesses themselves are pushing for tougher regulations and enforcement. That legislation would help provide a paper trail requiring not only certain labeling of the oil, but also specific information on customer receipts from oil change facilities, car dealers or mechanics.

The installer has to give the customer a receipt that says what they paid for including the grade of oil, the quantity of motor oil and the brand that was purchased. This paper trail would provide some accountability for those who try to deceive customers, like charging you for expensive synthetic lubrication but putting in cheaper oil.

But that enforcement would require more state inspectors.

Craig Van Buren works for the State of Michigan and he would be responsible for investigating complaints under the new law. He says right now the state does not have the manpower and lawmakers say they don’t have the money to hire more. The estimated cost is $190,000 a year. Some say that is barely a blip in the just-passed $37.5 billion general budget and that it is more than worth it to protect your car.

Right now, the proposed rules are stuck in the state legislature. The bill is in theHouse Agriculture Committee which last month removed the funding for it. 28 other states have already passed the tougher regulations.

The Michigan Petroleum Association says the good news is that 80% of the time, there is no problem, but the new rules would go a long way to making that 100%

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