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Given the number of oil-related questions that I receive, I thought a handy summary of the five most common inquiries might be beneficial.

1. Is synthetic oil really necessary?

If your car manufacturer stipulates the use of synthetic oil, then the answer is yes, you must use synthetic oil. If it does not, then it is optional. If you are an aggressive driver or tardy with your oil-change intervals, synthetic oil is a great idea.

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2. Can I switch back and forth between synthetic and conventional oils?

Assuming your vehicle stipulates conventional oil, then yes, you can switch back and forth. When synthetic oil was first introduced, switching back and forth was not recommended, but that is no longer the case. Advances in synthetic-oil additives has made this a moot point.

3. How many extra kilometers can I go on a synthetic oil change?

That depends on the vehicle manufacturer, the oil manufacturer and also the filter manufacturer. When the quickie-oil-change facility upsells you a synthetic oil, don’t forget to stipulate a filter that can go the same distance as the oil. Too many times, unsuspecting consumers are upsold a synthetic oil but aren’t informed that the oil filter they installed can’t go the same distance as the oil. Your vendor will tell you how far you can go depending on all three parameters.

4. I drive low kilometres per year; how often should I change my oil?

If you drive fewer kilometres per year than the recommended mileage interval, change your oil once per year with a high-quality synthetic oil and filter.

5. Why is my oil change so expensive?

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This is a question usually asked by owners of European cars who didn’t research their vehicle before they bought it. No disrespect intended, but if you have to call around looking for the cheapest oil change for your fine automobile, perhaps you should reconsider your vehicle choice.

Your automotive questions, answered

Hi, Lou. I’m turning 74 this fall and have driven a 2005 Nissan X-Trail since 2006. It has 292,000 km and runs very well. It’s made in Japan, and I have met X-Trail owners who have almost 400,000 km on their vehicles. In the last two years, I have replaced the alternator and the starter motor. Five years ago, I replaced the radiator. Recently the ‘service engine soon’ light came on. I have booked a service call with a mechanic, in a couple of days. Could it be the spark plugs? The air and oil filters?

Is it time to consider another vehicle? Your thoughts, please. Thanks.


Victoria, B.C.

Your question reminds me of a story. Several years ago, I had the same conversation with a customer of the same age. He was driving an older vehicle that was starting to give him significant problems, and he was contemplating a slightly newer but still very used vehicle. In an incredible lack-of-tack moment, I insensitively blurted out that it was going to be his last car, so why not buy something brand new. He was clearly rattled by my statement and stammered a feeble reply, questioning my statement, and it was at that moment that my mid-40-something-year-old self realized what a complete buffoon I was.

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While it still needs to be discussed, I totally could have handled this moment better. With that in mind, I will do my best to handle this discussion.

While I realize every person’s health status is different, I have found that most of my customers stop driving in their mid- to late-80s or, at the very least, limit their travel to essential-only. My question is, will your 2005 Nissan X-Trail last you 10 or so more years? I highly doubt that. Now are the years to enjoy your retirement and do what you want, when you want. Worrying about whether your 300,000-km X-Trail is going to make the drive to visit your grandkids a few hours away is not something I would want for myself or for you, George. If you can afford to buy something that will last you 10-15 more years, do it now while your mobility and willingness to hop in your vehicle for a spur of the moment trip is still high.

My son has a 2016 Honda Accord Sport with the 2.4-litre engine. The car has about 85,000 km with no driving issues.

In a recent article, you mentioned that a 2014 Equinox should have a direct-injection service at or before 100,000 km. Should the same apply for the 2016 Accord? I understand that Honda uses a single injector in the intake system with direct injection. Would this delay or prevent the need for a direct-injection service?

Rick M

Simcoe, Ont.

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I think your understanding may be a bit off, as the injector is located directly in the cylinder head, not in the intake system. Honda was a little late to the direct-injection game, but they seem to have a slightly better handle on carbon build-up than other manufacturers. While I have had instances where various Hondas have needed a carbon-cleaning service, it wasn’t as dire as other models. All manufacturers are now looking at ways to combat carbon build-up with adjustments to timing and engine-combustion temperatures and even experimenting with placing a second injector to wash the intake valve. Specifically, on your son’s Honda, if he has seen no drop in fuel economy or any drivability issues, I think he is okay for the time being.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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