How to Get a Cheap Oil Change Without Getting Ripped Off Post 2

by on Apr.08, 2011, under Entertainment

How to protect yourself, Part Two:

Choose your quick lube shop carefully. All you need is a cheap, quick oil change. The less other services they sell, the less they can try to upsell you.

It’s not that hard to tell if a shop is a pure lube shop. First, shops that just do lubrication are usually pretty small; the Quaker State ones along the East coast are tiny. Second, they’re built as a drive-through building, like a car wash. And third, if you peek in the door, they don’t have much equipment. There are no lifts, they just roll the car over a pit. There is no heavy machinery, just a bunch of hoses hanging from the ceiling, and a few wrenches hanging on a rack.

One of our editors was offered a manager’s job at one of these lube plus brakes plus shock absorber shops, and the interviewer told him his goal would be to write an average bill of $160.00 – and this was not in a rich part of town. As he said later, “I looked out into that waiting room of poor people, and at their beatup cars, and politely declined the job.” Just as well; that shop and 22 others in the chain were indicted for fraud six months later. (By the way, the salary they offered was $92,000/year – with incredible benefits.)

Why we can’t recommend any particular quick lube chains.
We just don’t know which ones are most honest. It changes from year to year, from state to state. To be fair, we know several individual quick oil change shops where they will let you escape without trying to “upsell” you. It depends on the manager.

But then the company has a bad quarter, and pressure comes down from the top to get more aggressive. Or one district gets in an ambitious manager, who starts hammering all the shop managers for higher profits, and the honest managers quit.

With some of our memories going back 30 years in the auto repair business, it is hard to think of a single chain, including the national ones, that has not at one time or another been indicted for broad patterns of fraud.
How Often Should I Change Oil?

Manufacturers are telling the public to change oil every (choose one) 8,000 miles, 10,000 miles, or 15,000 miles under normal driving conditions.

What they call normal is highway driving. The engine is humming like a sewing machine, so there’s not much strain. It’s hardly using any gas, so there isn’t much burnt gas building up in the engine. And the engine is always hot, so it never builds up moisture to corrode the innards.

The fine print from the manufacturer will talk about unusual circumstances – like suburban driving, or stop-and-go rush hour traffic. Then they recommend changing the oil every three to four thousand miles. Right. That’s what we say. Why didn’t they just tell the customer in the first place?

What if you don’t change the oil at all? Well, modern cars run pretty clean. You might go 70,000 miles without a major mechanical problem. At about 40,000 miles you’ll start needing a lot more sparkplugs, though: dirty oil starts to contaminate the rest of the engine.

The big reason to change oil is engine longevity. A car that goes without an oil change for 50K has probably lost 30,000 miles from its natural life span. If you trade in cars every 3 years, then maybe you don’t care. It’s kind of cruel to the next owner, though.

The Fine Print: If you really, truly are using the car for pure highway driving – and the car is relatively new (clean-burning) – then we don’t have a problem with going 5,000-6,000 miles between oil changes. For example, a two week cross-country roundtrip of 6,000 miles really just means about 10 warm-up periods, and for the rest of the time the engine is humming steadily.

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