Dear Car Talk:
I own a 2019 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen with the 1.8L turbo engine. In the owner’s manual, it calls for 5W-40 or 5W-30 engine oil.
I brought my car to a local franchise chain to have the first oil change done. Let’s call them ... “Honest Bob’s.” When “Honest Bob” performed the oil change, for which I was charged $60, they put 0W-20 in my car. When I discovered this after the fact, they insisted they did it correctly and, according to AllData, all engines can take 0W-20, contrary to what Volkswagen states.
I insisted they fix it and put the right oil in, which they eventually did free of charge but told me the next change wouldn’t be $60, but $160 because it required “euro-spec oil.”
I have no intention of returning to this shop, but this price seems outrageous given the dealer will do the same oil change for about $100.
Does this “euro-spec” special price seem outrageous? What kind of damage might have been done if I hadn’t noticed this and driven 10,000 miles? -- Patrick
The reason they told you it would cost you $160 next time is because they wanted to make sure you never came back, Patrick. We use that tactic all the time and it always works.
It’s true that most engines will do fine on 0W-20 oil, but a number of European cars have their own specifications for oil. The details are not something they share, but VW’s “euro-spec” oil may contain, for instance, additives to address a specific issue they’ve had with that engine, like oil burning.
So, if your owner’s manual says to use 5W30 oil with a particular European specification, the ideal thing to do is follow that requirement. Especially while you’re under warranty!
I’m guessing that the oil VW requires is also a synthetic oil, which is why it’s more expensive. And why it’s better. We recommend synthetic oils for everybody, since they protect better and allow you to go much longer between oil changes.
The reason Honest Bob was eager to get rid of you is because his business model revolves around using the same oil for every customer. Because 0W-20 is fine for so many cars, Honest Bob buys it by the tanker truck load. That means he also gets it at a very good price, which allows him to make money doing oil and filter changes for $60.
When some pain-in-the-neck customer (that’s you, Patrick) wants a special oil, he has to go out and buy four or five individual quarts of the stuff and those quarts cost him a lot more. Plus, it’s an inconvenience to have to track it down and order it and then hope you actually come back and pay for it.
Your dealer, on the other hand, orders this particular euro-spec oil in bulk, because he’s changing the oil on VW engines all day long. So he can make money doing the job for $100. Plus the shocks and tires he talks you into buying.
So I’d play it safe and stick with the oil that the manufacturer recommends. And $100 is about the right price, so I’d go to the dealer.