Only real advantage of synthetic blend oil is the cost

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2015 Nissan Rogue with 30,000 miles on it. I've done all the oil changes as called for. So far, I've always used a synthetic blend oil. At my last oil change, however, they used a full synthetic oil. I want to go back to the synthetic blend next time. Any problem with that? Thanks. – Al

RAY: No. As an American, you have a constitutional right to switch oils, Al. There are three types of oil out there these days. There's conventional oil, which comes from decomposed dinosaurs and is pumped out of the ground. That's what we've been using for decades. And it's been constantly improved over the years.

Sometime in the 1970s, Mobil One became the first widely available synthetic motor oil. Synthetic oils also have been improved over the years. Then there is what’s called a synthetic blend, which is the material your leisure suit was made out of in 1979, Al. Actually, a blend is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a mix of synthetic oil and conventional oil. And the only real advantage of a synthetic blend is that it’s a little cheaper than a pure synthetic.

In terms of its longevity and its ability to lubricate, conventional oil is the least effective, a blend would be next best, and a synthetic would be best of all. And, in fact, over the past decade in particular, we’ve seen car manufacturers really embrace synthetic oils because, since they help engines last longer, they cut down on warranty costs. And bad Yelp reviews.

And even though synthetic oils are more expensive, since you change them about half as often, we’ve found that it’s pretty close to a wash. So you’ll only pay for half has many oil changes, half as many oil disposal fees, and half as many oil filters. So, technically, there’s no problem with you switching back to a synthetic blend, Al, but there’s no real advantage to it. Unless you really enjoy the coffee and vending machines at your oil-change place.

Stop tooting your own horn when locking your car

Dear Car Talk,

Could you help me understand why car manufacturers are allowed to include a system where the car’s horn goes off each time a person locks or unlocks his or her door? I never fail to walk through any parking lot before several go off. Some are much louder than others. My hearing is very keen, and the horns continue to startle me. They wake me as my neighbors come home late, and as they leave early for work. When I think of it, I wear ear plugs. Not fun.

Surely these horns contribute to noise pollution and hearing loss. How many people have walked or biked past a car as its oblivious owner blasts the horn? Isn't there a soundless way to lock up these vehicles? What does it take to get auto manufacturers to stop including the horn blast, to have existing vehicles recalled and to create a culture where drivers want to lock up silently? Thank you for your insight. – Sabrina

RAY: I agree with you, Sabrina. I'm not a fan of the audible horn alert for locking and unlocking a car. For one thing, it wakes up my wife and lets her know precisely how late I'm getting home from my poker game.

Here’s the good news: We drive new cars all the time, to review them ( And pretty much every new car has a way to turn off the horn alert. It used to be that you’d have to go to your dealer, and they’d have to do some minor programming magic to turn it off. But now, pretty much every car has a “vehicle settings” menu, where you can choose “horn,” “lights” or “nothing.” I always choose “lights.” That’s enough to let me know that the car responded to key fob command. But not so much that it makes the guy walking by the car make use of his Depends.

The problem isn’t so much the carmakers; it’s the car owners. People either don’t know they can turn off the horn, or they don’t want to turn off the horn. So I think you’re going to have start a national movement, Sabrina. You’re going to have to form a political party called the Anti-Horners, and you’ll have to be its candidate for president in 2020. When you get it set up, send me a yard sign.

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