Should it cost extra for an oil change, if your car is 4-wheel drive?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

A few weeks ago, I stopped at Jiffy Lube for an oil change (I have a 2005 Kia Sportage, four-wheel drive, with 16,500 miles). I asked the man behind the counter for a price on an oil change. He said $24.95. And then he said: "Oh, you have four-wheel drive. That'll be $39.95." I asked what four-wheel drive has to do with the price of an oil change, and he just pointed to the price on the board. Since then, I've talked to five other garages, and they had that same dumb look on their face that I did when the guy pointed to the sign. So, is there any reason an oil change for a four-wheel-drive vehicle should cost more? -- Dave

RAY: Only when the owner of the garage has a boat payment due.

TOM: The answer is no, Dave. There's no technical reason why an oil change should be any different on a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The number of driven wheels is determined by the transmission, not the engine. So a four-cylinder engine, for example, holds the same amount of oil whether the car has two-wheel drive or eight-wheel drive.

RAY: My guess is that this particular Jiffy Lube (Jiffy Lube is a franchise, so each store is owned by an individual, not by Jiffy Lube itself) includes something else along WITH the oil change.

TOM: Exactly. So, along with any oil change, for instance, this Jiffy Lube also checks your differential fluid level. And since you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle, you DO have an extra differential to check. If your car had an on-demand-style four-wheel-drive system (which it doesn't), there'd be a transfer case to check, too. Still, an extra $15 bucks for that seems kind of steep.

RAY: We checked with a local Jiffy Lube franchise near us, and they charge an extra $2 to do it.

TOM: It's something a lot of places will even do for free, Dave, since it gives them a golden opportunity to sell you a complete differential and transfer case service!

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One