Two-Year, N.Y. Taxi Test Proves Motor Oils Alike, Magazine Says

NEW YORK - Premium motor oil and fancy additives are nothing more than slick sales, Consumer Reports says.

The consumer watchdog tested 20 types of motor oil under the most grueling conditions - in a fleet of 75 New York taxis - for nearly two years.

The results: There is little difference among brands as long as the container carries the starburst symbol, which means the oil meets a standard set by the American Petroleum Institute for additives needed to keep modern engines running.

The study also found:

-- Changing a car's oil every 7,500 miles, or at the automaker's suggested interval, is sufficient. Although some mechanics recommend oil changes every 3,000 miles, that only wastes money and adds to the nation's oil-disposal problems.

-- Expensive synthetic oils worked no better than conventional motor oil in the taxis, which drove 4.5 million miles in stop-and-go traffic. But synthetic oils may be worthwhile for cars in extreme driving conditions: very hot or very cold climates, or in cars with a high engine load.

-- Additives such as Slick 50, STP Engine Treatment and STP Oil Treatment showed no significant reduction in friction and engine wear compared with engines using the same oil without the additives. Consumer Reports said additives are unnecessary as long as the oil used meets the API standard.

The findings are reported in the July issue of the magazine.


WASHINGTON - Honda says it will lease, not sell, its California electric cars to keep their otherwise stratospheric price within reach.

The automaker will decide early next year what the lease payments will be, based on studies of what consumers will pay. That will be less than what the exotic cars cost to make; Honda will subsidize the rest.

Honda EV, a four-seat subcompact, will be available next spring in California. EV was developed specifically as a battery-powered car and is not derived from any other Honda model.

General Motors will offer its EV1 two-seat electric car - also designed strictly as an electric - at 27 Saturn dealers in Southern California and Arizona this fall, priced about $35,000. GM hasn't decided whether to lease, sell the cars outright or offer both options.

Chrysler's Epic electric minivan goes on sale in California late next year. No price or other marketing details have been announced. Ford will sell a Ranger pickup converted to run on batteries carried in the cargo bed, priced at about $30,000. Toyota will offer a battery-powered RAV4 sport-utility vehicle. Nissan plans an electric vehicle for California in '98.

Electric cars are required in California soon under an agreement between the state and big automakers designed to reduce pollution.


WOLFSBURG, Germany - Volkswagen said it is recalling 950,000 cars worldwide to correct a defect in the engine cooling system.

The recall affects Golf and Jetta models built from 1983 to 1989 with 1.3-liter motors. It also affects Passat and Corrado models with four-cylinder engines built in 1988 and 1989.

Volkswagen said it had already set aside enough money to pay for the recall, which will be free for customers.