MEMPHIS, Tenn. — That oil change sticker on your car might be misleading. A WREG investigation found customers paying for more expensive oil, but they got reminder stickers that didn't reflect how long the oil is supposed to last.
It's called full-synthetic oil. It's more expensive than conventional because it lasts longer. Experts say anywhere from 7,500 miles to 10,000 miles.
But at the Valvoline on Stage Road in Bartlett, we found customers buying full-synthetic with stickers telling them to come back in just 3,000 miles, which is the standard for conventional oil.
So, we sent one of our producers to get an oil change. She got full-synthetic and paid more than $90. An employee told her it lasts longer, but the sticker they gave her told her to come back in 3,000 miles.
Even other Valvoline shops we called say full-synthetic lasts 7,500 miles. So, we asked a manager at that Bartlett location why the stickers aid to change it sooner.
He said their stickers default to print out 3,000 miles.
Given how pricey full-synthetic is, we asked him why the system is like that.
"That's something they're supposed to tell us beforehand but I cannot answer any more questions. I'm done with questions," he said.
Our research shows the average Shelby County resident drives about 10,000 miles a year, and according to AAA, a typical full-synthetic oil change costs $70. That means you'd pay more than $200 a year if you came in every 3,000 miles, but you'd only pay about $70 if you came in every 10,000 miles.
Martin Gambill is Director of Automotive Service for a local trade college called "Moore Tech". He says there are several options when it comes to putting oil in your car.
"One of the most beneficial is what's known as a synthetic blend," he says. It's cheaper than full-synthetic but it lasts longer than conventional.
"That kind of gives the best of both worlds," Gambill says.
At the end of the day, sticker or no sticker, Gambill says your owner's manual is the best way to know what kind of oil your car needs and how often you need to change it.
The fine print on Valvoline's sticker refers drivers to their car's manual too. W called a Valvoline spokesperson to ask why stickers automatically print with 3,000 miles on them.
The company released a statement. In part, it says, "The sticker is a reminder (not a recommendation) and is intended to jump-start the customer’s thinking so that he/she does not exceed the manufacturer-recommended interval in getting his/her next oil change. We view this practice as protective of our valued customer’s safety and of the long-term life of his/her vehicle."
"There's definitely more to maintenance than just engine oil," Gambill says.
That's why he wants you to rely on your manual, not the sticker.
"Cabin air filters, engine air filters, brake fluid, it all costs money. So, if we spend it all on oil changes that we don't need, there's nothing left over to do other critical services," Gambill says.
Valvoline says employees can change the mileage on those reminder stickers if a customer asks them to.