Oil: Is it ok to use a different brand name?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

As a fairly decent "shade tree mechanic," I was taught that once you started using a certain brand and type of oil in a new car, you should always use that same brand. Is this true?

TOM: That's a great question, Chuck, one that a lot of people have asked us. And the answer is no, it is absolutely not true.

RAY: Our investigator, Paul Murky, of Murky Research, Inc., has conducted hundreds of blind taste tests on engines across the country. And not one of the engines was able to distinguish one brand of oil from the next (or one brand of oil from Coke and Pepsi, for that matter).

TOM: Seriously, Chuck, using different brands of oil is no more harmful than drinking different brands of coffee on consecutive mornings. The only exception is mixing synthetic based oils (like Mobil 1) with petroleum based oils (like almost everything else). But even that's not a hard, fast rule.

TOM: This myth was probably started by merchants who used to sell only one brand of oil. And that same kind of chicanery is still going on today. Many owners manuals warn you not to use anything but, for example, "Ford Automatic Transmission Fluid," "Honda Power Steering Fluid," or "Yugo Tire Air." Most of these warnings are bogus, and are designed to direct your money towards the manufacturer, rather than making your car run any better.

TOM: So when it comes to oil, use any brand that meets the American Petroleum Institute (API) specifications listed in your owner's manual. And when it comes to other replacement fluids, use anything that says it meets Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) requirements.

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