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4 Common Oil Change Scams (And How to Avoid Them)


With the exception of electric vehicles, all cars will need many routine oil changes throughout their lives. For many people, the most convenient way to do this is to take the car to a workshop and have it replaced.

Unfortunately, giving the car to someone else does not leave the user with any maintenance responsibility. Although we hope it never happens to us, the truth is that there are some quick oil change shops and even dealerships that have no problem taking advantage of unsuspecting customers.

Here are four common oil change scams car owners may encounter and what they can do to avoid them.

Related: Best Places to Buy Cheap Motor Oil

#1 – “Come back in 3,000 miles!”

oil change label interval

This is probably the most common and subtle sales tactic used by quick lube stores. Modern full synthetic oils can last 6 to 10,000 miles, and some even last up to 15,000 miles depending on the vehicle, oil formulation, and driving conditions. Many conventional oils can last 5,000 miles or more under normal driving conditions.

Every quick lube store I’ve been to gives you a sticker and tells you to come back after 3,000 miles. Unless you drive in extreme operating conditions or your owner’s manual does not specifically list a 3,000-mile interval, this is usually all too common. The actual condition of the oil is more important than an arbitrary mileage number.

See also: Conventional vs synthetic motor oils

Always check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval and use it as a rough guide. A quick lube shop won’t know what the recommended interval is; They earn money every time you join.

#2 – Upsell

mechanical scam

When you perform an oil change, most shops also perform a quick inspection of the vehicle. They will check everything from the headlights and turn signals to the air filter and various fluids in the vehicle, such as the transmission fluid and brake fluid.

While this can be very helpful in discovering a blown bulb or an annoying leak that went unnoticed, some shops will try to convince you to let them do the maintenance much sooner than necessary. The best way to avoid this is to keep an accurate record of the maintenance performed on each of your vehicles and know when the manufacturer recommends performing each task.

Oil changes are often a big drain at a quick lube shop, whether it’s Jiffy Lube, Firestone, Express Oil, or an independent shop. They are designed to attract a customer and this business model requires the store to convince the customer that it needs additional maintenance.

The profit margin on an oil change is very slim, if any. However, other maintenance tasks generate much more profit, which is bad news for the consumer.

In most cases, you can replace your own air filter in 5 minutes, but a shop may charge you $20 for labor to complete this task.

Radiator and transmission burnout are among the worst offenders. You can buy a 50/50 mix of coolants for the price of a few slats and replace the old ones in about an hour after watching a YouTube tutorial, but many stores charge up to $150 for this service.

The more you learn about the maintenance you can (or can’t) do, the easier it will be to spot when a shop is trying to get you one quickly. Beginners would be surprised at how easy car maintenance or repair is. Investing in a repair manual is one of the best things you can do.

#3 – Treating you with condescension


If a store starts talking to you like you’re stupid, walk away. A good store understands that not everyone is mechanically inclined or even interested in cars and will meet customers wherever they are.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand what the technician said, it’s better to ask than to blindly accept what he or she recommends.

If you politely ask why a job is needed and they give up or respond defensively, it could be a sign that they are trying to take advantage of your lack of knowledge. There are plenty of other places to change your oil, so don’t hesitate to take your business somewhere else.

If in doubt, find a trusted car or girl and ask them to accompany you, or write down the task with the technician’s explanation and take it to a trusted friend later.

#4 – Not doing the work

signs you need an oil change

We all like to think this one is rare, but unfortunately, it happens. When you go to change your oil, chances are you won’t be in the bay watching the technician do the job.

Most shops are honest and do the job they charge you for, but to prevent this from happening, always check the dipstick to make sure the oil looks new and the correct level of oil has been added before you leave. .

It’s much easier to fix a problem now than later when you need a new engine because the shop has made cuts.

Also, check under your car for leaks when you get home. Surprisingly, there have been many cases of quick lube shops taking the oil drain plug or tightening and removing the threads in the oil pan hole.

An oil filter that is too tight is another problem that can cause problems the next time it needs to be changed.

See also: How to remove a round bolt


Not everyone can work on their own vehicle, and that’s okay. There are many reputable shops that do excellent work and will keep your vehicle in top condition.

There’s nothing to worry about when you take your car to a shop, even if it’s a new place you’ve never been to. Being aware of these pitfalls will go a long way to keeping honest and valuable stores in your pocket.



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