A Couple of Controversies Concerning Conventional Car Care

Part 1

You are Probably Changing Your Oil too Frequently

How frequently do you change your motor oil? Every 3,000 miles? 4,000? 5,000? Your local oil change shop probably advises you to change your oil every 3,000 miles. They are so thoughtful they even put a transparent sticker on the corner of your windshield telling you to bring your car back in when the odometer hits certain mileage.

Listen to your manual, not your oil change retailer
Photo: Wikipedia

I used to do it every 4,000 miles because calculating 4,000 requires no brain power. But since the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery launched its Check Your Number campaign, I have been reformed. Check Your Number urges drivers to go with manufacturers’ recommendations for oil changes. Many newer vehicles, in fact, have devices built in that calculate when your next oil change should take place. My 2007 Honda Element has an indicator in the odometer that tells me the amount of oil life remaining based on how I drive and how many miles I have gone. For me, it’s at about 5,000-mile intervals. If I did more long distance driving it would extend the oil life even more. My 2001 Toyota Solara does not have that feature. The manual allows me up to 7,500 miles, but that applies to ideal driving conditions. Since most of the Consumer Gal’s and my driving in that car is of distances ranging between one and seven miles, I recently switched to oil changes at 5,000 mile intervals.

Why is all this so important? There are three reasons.

1) Nearly 40 percent of the pollution in America’s waterways is from used motor oil. One gallon of used motor can pollute one million gallons of water.

2) Changing oil less frequently saves the consumer money. If you change your oil, as an example, every 5,000 miles instead of 3,000, you get two-thirds more for your money.

3) Consuming petroleum products adds to the demand for fossil fuels, which our country can ill afford for a variety of reasons.

So check your owner’s manual and follow its recommendations. For more information, go to the Check Your Number web site at www.checkyour number.org. It’s aimed at Californians but you most of it applies to you no matter where you live.

The ten states that prohibit credit card surcharges are :

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.


 Part 2

Credit Card Surcharges at Gas Statiions

How do gas stations get away with charging more for credit card purchases? Sloppily written laws, that’s how. Ten

Gas prices higher for credit cards
Photo: KPBS, San Diego (Glenn Batuyong)

states prohibit surcharges, also called checkout fees (see below). Under California law, for example, a retailer may not charge a fee for using credit cards. But with a loophole the size of the Van Allen radiation belt, they may offer discounts for using cash. This is what I call a scam, especially when the huge price sign required for gas stations in the Golden State sometimes show the discount price, with a tiny sign below showing the “full” (read “credit card”) price. Adding insult to injury, ARCO stations in California do not accept credit cards. They do, however, accept debit cards if the consumer pays a flat fee (35 cents the last time I looked) for using the debit card.

According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACSO) makes the case that credit card companies charge gas merchants about two percent for each transaction (Duh!), so they need to pass that cost along to their customers. The fallacy with this argument is that most gas stations, as well as printers, plumbers and pizza parlors, just figure the expense of credit cards into their prices without passing the costs along to just their credit card customers. Look at it this way; if you were to purchase a $500 TV set with a credit card at Best Buy, and the store were to charge you an additional 10 bucks for using the card, you’d be pretty ticked off. You might even leave in order to look around for a better deal. And, after all, credit cards bring more business into the stations and simplify their accounting by automating those purchases and generating computerized bookkeeping. On its web site, Visa explains that it does not allow its merchants to surcharge customers for using its card, but does not have a policy on cash discounts. My advice to you: skip retailers that charge extra for credit card usage and find stations that even the playing field. Here are the ten states that prohibit checkout fees: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.