Oil Change Pratfalls

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Changing a car’s oil is pretty simple – so it’s surprising it gets done wrong so often.

Sometimes, by “professionals”  . . . who actually aren’t.

See that part above about “simple.”

Many places that do oil changes (such as tire shops and quick-lube joints)do not pay trained mechanics to do them. Because trained mechanics have better things to do – and because most shops can’t offer a $19.99 oil and filter change and pay a trained mechanic to do them.

Not without losing money on the transaction, anyhow.

For that reason, they have whoever they’ve hired for this duty do the job. They are often not trained mechanics and so come cheaper. While many still know what they are doing – changing oil is not rocket science – some don’t.

Also, assembly line oil change shops change oil differently than you would at home.

For instance, they often don’t add fresh oil one quart at a time, from quart bottles – as you  would, at home. Instead, they use a gun that feeds oil into the engine from an industrial-sized barrel of oil. This makes sense from a shop’s perspective. They buy oil in bulk because it costs less and because it eliminates having to deal with cases of individual quart containers of oil.

But, when you refill the engine with five quarts of oil from five quart containers of oil, you know you’ve added five quarts of oil. No more – and no less.

With a gun, its different. The guy shooting it in trusts that the gauge telling him how much oil he’s added is accurate.

Assuming he checks the gauge.

If he does not . . . if he assumes .  . . you could be sent on your way with an engine that is overfilled or under-filled and both are potentially catastrophic. Especially in late-model cars, which are very sensitive to oil level.

For this reason, you should check the oil level – before you leave the lot. Doing this will also confirm that the oil was, in fact, changed. Don’t assume that because you just paid for it, that it actually was.

Sometimes, it wasn’t.

Fresh oil should be obvious – it ought to be the color of honey and translucent. Oil that’s not fresh will not be honey-colored or translucent.

Also, be sure they use the correct oil. Modern car engines are very sensitive to viscosity – which is similar to octane as it’s a measure of parameters; in the case of oil, its flow rate at different temperatures (see here for some technical details). Use of oil that’s thicker or thinner than recommended can lead to engine problems that won’t be covered by the warranty. Be sure the correct weight oil is put into your engine.

Related: Many modern car engines require synthetic oil. It costs much more than conventional oil, but a replacement engine is even more expensive. Don’t cheap out on the oil – and be sure the shop doesn’t, either.

The next potential pratfall is leaking oil.

This can happen as the result of something fairly trivial, such as over tightening the oil filter (which will crush the gasket, resulting in the leak) or something serious, such as a drain plug that’s looser than a rotten tooth because of ruined threads, the result of over-tightening the bolt using an air wrench or because the bolt was not started by hand and got cross-threaded by a careless or hurried “technician.”   

This happens more often than you might think.

Sometimes, rather than admit  a mistake was made and fix the damage, the “technician” will let the owner drive off – fingers crossed that the plug will not wobble all the way out, at least not until the car is a few miles down the road and he (and the shop) can plausibly deny any responsibility. Sometimes, the loose-toothed drain plug will hold for weeks or months, but leaks all the while – slowly emptying the crankcase until one day, there is a critical pressure drop and – if the owner doesn’t notice this immediately and leaves the engine running – he is soon the owner of car that needs a new engine.

Which, probably, he’ll end up paying for – because the seizure occurred after he left the oil change place and the oil change places will probably claim it’s not their fault and so not their responsibility.

To avoid this mess, look for one.

Before you drive off, look underneath the car – with the engine running (this is important; if it’s off, there’s no pressure and a leak might not actually leak, just as a leaky garden hose doesn’t drip when you haven’t turned the spigot on).

If you see even a single drip, shut off the engine, go back in and ask them to put it on the lift to find out why it is dripping. Especially if the engine wasn’t leaking before you took it in for the oil change.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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64 COMMENTS

  1. As the great Canadian philosopher and sage Red Green once said, “When you take your car to have the oil changed, you don’t know if they’ve done a bad job, where as if you do it yourself, you’re sure.”

    I’ve been a mechanic professionally for four different chain auto repair places at various times in my life, which is why I don’t trust mechanics. What has been seen cannot be unseen, and all that.

    While I’ve known some true masters who cared and were conscientious about every turn of the wrench, I’ve also worked with meth heads, punk kids and other assorted ZFG trash.

    These days, pretty much the only thing I’ll take a car to a garage for is tire mounting and balancing, and that’s only because I don’t own the machines to do the job myself.

    I’m currently in Florida fighting the spark plugs in my dad’s 5.4 3-valve F-150 using THREE different special tools – my parents’ theory is that it’s literally less expensive to fly me halfway across the country to do the job than to pay a mechanic, who’ll probably just screw it up and charge them for it.

  2. Yeah, I wonder how the damn “Stupid Lube” outfits stay in business, although, I guess usually they do the job well enough that the car it not damaged outright.

    I have been doing my own oil changes since I was 16, about to turn 60. As Eric explained, in a “professional” shop generally you get an untrained grease monkey to do your oil change. An exception is a one-man shop, or a small shop where the owner is the main tech and is right there on the service floor.

    • The problems don’t generally appear until after the oil plug and the filter have been removed and the oil drained. That is when the cross threadings and the poor seals appear. I got an oil change at a Walmart once and woke up on their lot to a puddle under the van. I took it back and they used a vacuum cleaner to hold the oil in the engine while they replaced the plastic washer that had shattered when the plug was tightened down on it. That manager really knew his stuff and his crew got a good education from watching him.

  3. Here’s a story with a slightly different take on it.

    After I had my Toyota dealer change the oil in my 2001 4Runner that I love so much that I wouldn’t trade for a new one (my beautiful green truck – yes it was still on a truck chassis back then – a Tacoma pickup truck to be precise) I noticed a puddle of oil under it when I pulled out of the garage the next morning.

    I stopped and checked the oil level and it was fine, but I immediately drove to the dealer and told them.

    They brought it in almost immediately (with no appointment) and then had me go out to look at it while it was on the lift.

    They had the same two guys that had handled the oil change the day before show me that there was oil all over the bottom that they believed was coming from the crankcase. At least that’s what I was able to understand. They didn’t speak English very well and my Spanish is not so very good. I felt the oil and knew that it was too thin to be crankcase oil.

    Since a crankcase repair is expensive, I asked for a higher-level technician to have a look.

    Toyota has different levels of technicians. The oil change guys were probably level zero. The guy that came to review it at my request was a level four or five or something.

    He did the same thing that I did and felt the oil with his fingers and came to the same conclusion that I did that it was not crankcase oil.

    My 3.4 liter V-6 equipped 4Runner has the oil filter directly under the generator. It’s so close that you can’t fit a ring-type wrench on it to loosen it. You have to use a jaw type wrench. (They moved the oil filter location the next year).

    That’s not too bad, but it also has a skid plate underneath the entire engine compartment. It’s huge. Together those two things make it almost impossible to remove the old filter and install a new one without removing the skid plate.

    Somehow, the two geniuses that did the oil change managed it. In draining the oil and changing the filter with the skid plate on it though oil spilled everywhere and filled up all of the troughs and low spots with the old oil. That’s what was pouring out onto my garage floor.

    The level four or five tech had a few words to the two level zeros that I didn’t understand as he spoke to them in Spanish, but the gist of it was that they got an ass chewing. He made them remove the skid plate and clean in good. He even stayed to check my engine oil himself before allowing my 4Runner to be released to me.

    It could have been something bad as the other stories posted here will attest. But not this time.

    Steve C.
    Spring, TX
    “I’m from Texas. What country are Y’all from?”

      • I brought it up for the annual inspection and had them change the oil and rotate the tires while i was there.

        Having worked on cars since i was a kid back in the 60’s I hate that it’s so difficult to change the oil in my 4Runner that it’s better to just let them do it.

        Pulling off that skid plate in my driveway is a real PIA.

          • The oil pan plug isn’t the problem. there’s actually a cut out in the skid plate for it. Anyone with a socket set extension can get to it.

            The oil filter though simply in not accessible by humans. I don’t know how those two level zeros managed it.

            I had the skid plate off once in my driveway. That’s how I know what a PIA it is. I thought about just leaving it off, but I really like that it’s not just a plate covering the oil pan. It covers the entire bottom of the engine compartment – albeit with lots of contours and shaping. It’s a nice design and a nice protection. Toyota makes great vehicles.

            They just didn’t give much of any thought to how you could access the oil filter with the skid plate. Like I said, they moved it for the 2002 model.

            That’s one of the few complaints that I have bout my 2001 4Runner. That and it’s turning radius. It’s about the same as the battleship Missouri. It needs SPACE to turn!

            It’s been a great vehicle for me. The best I’ve ever owned or rented.

            • Sometimes when things are hard to get to…the pros make it look easy by not getting to them!

              I had bought an E150 van one time that had been fleet maintained. It developed a miss under load. 150K miles on it, so I decided to do a tune0up and change the plugs…. long story short, #7 plug which is very hard to get at, had NEVER been changed before.

              All the other plugs look like they had less than 10K miles on ’em. 7 was rusted and the electrode was worn away, etc.

                • I know what to expect, but I’m gonna have to watch those!

                  The spark plugs on both the 4.6 and 5.4 are really not bad at all- except #7 on the 5.4, which can be a little tricky- but still, nothing horrific. The hardest part is accessing a few of the nuts on the COPs (I’d love to twist off some cop’s nuts!) – In the future, I may just remove the fuel rails….it’d make the job a lot faster…. But lemme see what these guys in the vids have to say….

              • Nunzio – That problem with Fords is older than you think.

                We had to access the back plug on the 1966 T-Bird through a plug in the floorboard under the brake peddle. You needed every special socket extension and angle that Snap On had.

                It was insanely difficult to get to.

                I never got to own one, but I have a special love for the `66 T-Bird. They were tough to work on though.

                They used to advertise that “Ford Has A Better idea.”

                Yeah, it was to buy Japanese. So I did…

                  • Don’t know about it being revenge for WWII.

                    More just a different design philosophy.

                    We used to kid that anyone that bought a British sports car in the 60’s and intended to work on it themselves had some sort of masochistic tendencies…

                    The Triumph was the worst. If you weren’t nuts when you got it you would be on your way to crazy by the time you got rid of it.

                    When I worked for a British electric motor company around 2000 I went to England to spend a few weeks at their factories getting acquainted with their designs. It was the same with their electric motors. You had to get out a cutting torch to get to the windings to rewind some of them. Not a thought to maintenance.

                    The guy that used to pick me up at the hotel and drive me to the factory in the mornings was near retirement and his job in his later years was to act as escort for guests. One day he pointed up to sky and told me that when he was a boy during WWII he used to watch the American B-17’s forming up right about there for their strikes on Germany.

                    Then he said, “We used to say that you Yanks were overpaid, oversexed, and unfortunately for us over here.”

                    Without missing a beat, I replied that our response was always that. “You limey’s were underpaid, undersexed, and unfortunately for you under Eisenhower.”

                    He was so astonished that he pulled the car over and told me that in all the years that he had been escorting Yanks that I was the only one that ever knew that.

                    Lesson one – don’t mess with a history buff…

                  • I worked as a shagboy in a Buick dealer in the early 70’s and I was responsible for making sure that the mechanics returned the special tools that were kept in the transmission rebuild room. GMs have always had special tools and I doubt that there is as make of cars that don’t have them. The problem is that they are dealer only tools.

                • Darn, Steve! I never knew that! Who’d have thunk it? Yeah, it STILL surprises me, but some of those old cars- 60’s and even 50’s can surprise ya.

                  Knew a guy who bought a ’56 Buick Special wagon…..darn thing had an ENCLOSED driveshaft!!! WHAT a PITA!

              • Bill, Amsoil makes remote filter bases for full flow or by-pass filters…..or both. Might not be the same filter as stock but almost assuredly better, esp. using the by-pass system also.

                Why is it when I consider a Fumoto valve I have a bad nightmare involving mesquite trees and stuck somewhere with no engine oil?

        • My farmer uncle said I couldn’t come work for him as a farmer when I begged him.

          He said at 16 years old it was too late.

          He would have had to train me from the ages of 4 to 11.

          In this same vein, I think some of our Cloverisms are baked into us and it’s near impossible to undo them.

          Clover is another term for poorly socially conditioned. Maltaught as it were. Almost a reflex.

          The mentality required to drive in the fast lane at or below the speed limit is learned collectivist behavior I think.

          There are countless other cloverisms with similar pathology.

          What do you find cloveritic?

          Can cloverism be cured in your estimation?

    • On the other hand, I found a former 12 year shop operator working in a Midas in Fontana, CA who is the most competent mechanic I’ve found on the wet coast. There is also a Midas manager in Topeka, KS who spent 5 years doing front end alignments at a Ford dealership, and was proud to get the front end of my E-150 van into factory specs, even though it had several hundred extra pounds of custom bumper and tow bar hanging on the front, at no extra charge, aside from the cams.
      Every Midas is individually owned and operated. You can’t tell from the sign on the front how competent the technicians are.

  4. YES! I HAD a baby blue Taurus Wagon in 1994! Kidmobile. Anyway, I just use the dealership now for oil changes. They have pretty good promotions if you ask. Potentially have better trained workers than the Jiffy places. THX for the article, I will now check for those items you mention.

  5. took my 79 vette to a jiffy lube years ago, made it about 3 miles before a tapping alerted me to zero pressure on the gage. Long story short, an olds filter on a small block chevy just doesn’t cut it.

    • Hi Bald,

      Yup. As the owner of a classic Pontiac (with a real Pontiac V8) I discovered that the GM part number for a Pontiac filter is now used to denote a filter for non-Pontiac V8s. Pontiac people will know about this – but if not, be hipped! And be sure that filter for your class Pontiac is, indeed, made for a Pontiac V8.

    • Years ago a friend took his car to Jiffy Lube where they proceeded to drain the transmission fluid and dump 5 quarts of additional oil into the engine. Hilarity ensued shortly thereafter. (As I recall they did make good on the damage but only after a lawyer was involved.)

      I would not let those chucklheads anywhere near my cars.

  6. I’ve always changed my own fluids. Brake, oil, transmission, differential etc. But during a move from one city to another an oil change came due so I went to a quick change place. The next time I changed my oil I found the drain plug and the filter loose, not even hand tight. I was very lucky.

    Approaching 65 years of age auto maintenance is not as easy as it used to be but at least if it’s not done right I can give the culprit a good thrashing!

  7. The work truck can either go to the dealer or Grease Monkey. The dealer needs an appointment and usually wants the truck all day, so sometimes I have to take it to the Monkey. The Grease Apes “forgot” to replace the wiper blades twice now, but remembered it on the invoice. Makes me wonder what else they forget.

  8. The wife bought a new 2016 Honda Civic LX. It came with 4 no charge oil changes. Found out the dealership technician did not replace the lower engine cover correctly and it started dragging the ground. Additionally, they left off 4 fasteners. I obtained replacements from the dealership ships parts department cost me 45 dollars for the set. Two of the fasteners were no charge because they only come with the cover and aren’t sold separately. I informed the parts manager that I would no longer be bringing the car in for oil changes. I won’t stand for shoddy work especially from a dealership.

    So at this point, I will be doing the oil changes on the wife’s car. Aside from taking off and replacing the lower engine cover, changing the oil looks like it could be done easily as the drain plug and oil filter on this engine are easy to get too.

    Noneya

    • Hi NonYa,

      Jeez. And your experience is – sadly – more common than not.

      Pervasive incompetence and shoddy work. The country is literally disintegrating as a result, right before our eyes.

      • Eric,

        I do not know of any public high school with in a gas tank driving range on my truck that currently has a auto shop. I remember, even in rural Wisconsin, there being a wrench class anyone could enroll in in all rural schools, even the Catholic schools had them.

        I call this dumb down 101! Why? Get a threat to revenue stream and someone yells! Why we can’t have the common man doing his own auto repair work! Why that’d put bazillions out of work (sic)! Pass all sorts of laws and dictate what can be taught in all government regulated schools (side note all private schools that adhere to state accreditation fall with in this niche)!

        I rest my chastise!

        NoneYa

        • There was one in my Denver high school in 1972, last I was there. Then there was a half of block of auto shop at the votech. It was so unused that they put an IBM 1440 in there that was donated from its flooded home, and they cleaned it up before they moved it to the 4th floor, where it worked perfectly on power up.

  9. I always change my own. Cost is not an issue…. convenience is. It takes me less time to roll under it, cut loose the bung plug and let it drain into the tray, grab the fiilter with the band wrench, replace then refill with new oil of the kind I insist on using,,,,,,, and put it all back together again, than it would take to drive to some oil change shop, walk a few miles home or waste the time it takes THEM to do it, haggle with them as to WHY I do NOT want them to deal with any of the other “issues” the claim need attention….. and drive back home. Besides, NO ONE takes as good care of my rig than I do. I’m the one walking in the rain if I blow it. Not them.

    • Hi Tionico,

      Amen.

      In addition to the points you mention, I like to eyeball the underside. That way, I know whether anything’s not looking right (such as gasket leak or something’s loose).

      Also: If you happen to own an older car, the odds of them bolixing something up increase because it’s something they aren’t used to dealing with. They may not have the right (or an accurate) “book”to tell them what the crankcase capacity is and so on.

  10. Used to serve as fleet mechanic for a small service fleet….. car detailing on lots. I was available for any of the route guys to take care of their rigs… typically smaller pickups. Dave used Jiffy Lube for oil/filter changes, and me for everything else. Got a panicked call one Sat afternoon, he’d just had Juffy Luve change his oil and was on his way home, four miles away, when the red light came on concurrent with a heavy knocking sound. Instant declutch and shutdown, coasted to the side. Trail of oil going back a hundred yards, ending under his drain plug.. which was gone. Walked back, found the plug on the macadam, installed it again, found a wrench and tightened it, got some oil and refilled it…. still knocked loudly. SHut it off and called me. I came out, we chain towed it to his place a mile away. He called the store explained what had happened….
    you can come out and see the trail of oil for yourself…..”. They gave him their insurance carrier’s contact info. Called Monday, they balked. of course. Dave asked me to remove and teardown the engine… big end bearing shells damaged, crank looked perfect to the eye, I miked it, it WS perfect and unscuffed. Mazda of that vintage nitride hardened their cranks. Oil pump galled, cam fine, rings scuffed and bores damaged. Head and valves fine. I talked to the insurance people…. he tried to make Dave out to be an idiot, driving it till it blew up. I said HEY wait a minute…. ALL the oil drained out because YOUR insured blew it. Speed there was fifty mph. NO ONE can shut down an engine quickly enough to avoid ALL damage at that speed. He got it shut down so qukcly the crank is not damaged, nor the cam. Be glad he was driving it, not one of the other careless guys. Tried to make Dave pay for the bore and new pistons, as the truck had over 100K on it. I told him there was NO bore wear, only the damage from galling, the result of running dry of oil at speed. that engine had at least half its life remaining before YOUR INSURED left the drainlig loose and it dumped the oil. Be glad the EPA did’t find the mess while the truck was till there. You’d have a BIG bill to pay for their style of cleanup and spill mitigation.

    They paid me to rebuild the engine….. and I recommende ALL those guys stop using them.

    One guy didn’t. He had me do a tuneup on a Saturday, dropped it Sun night at Jiffy so he could pick it up first thing Monday. I had replaced the air filter…. when he got it back there was a terrible rattling at idle and up to about 1800 RPM. He was scared to drive it…. I came over and looked… the racket was from a metal casting banging about in the air intake system. I opened it up… a metal bracket holding part of the system together had been tossed back in, no screws to hold it. Found two of the four lying there in the engine bay. I found two more like them in my toolbox, and began to put it together…. then I realised….. that air filter element is NOT the one I had installed…. a good European brand….. it was a Juffy Lube branded one, nowhere hear the quality of the one I had fitted. I reinstalled it and told him to get back with Jiffy Lube, demand they replace the new filter they had tossed with one of that brand….. and reverse the charge for that cheap filter. He also told them he wanted them to pay MY bill for securing the bracket they’d failed to refit…… they did, and he never went back.

  11. This story should make you feel real good about all the scum bags that hire kids that don’t know squat about working on cars. I was hired to work in a gas station while in high school. My primary duties were to open, and close the place everyday, run the cash register, stick the tanks, etc. One day the boss/owner comes in and tells me to lube his car. I have no clue how to lube a car. The car is up on the lift and so I ask the mechanic how I’m supposed to lube the car. As he’s walking from the tool case over to the car he’s working on, he points to a lube fitting, and tells me to find all the fittings and squirt oil in till it oozes out. I start squirting oil wherever I see something that looks appropriate, and drop the car back down to the ground. The boss jumps into his car, backs out and since he’s kind of into doing coke and in a rush, he whips out way too fast, and comes within INCHES of plowing into the gas pumps. I lubed his brakes.

  12. Good friend of mine worked in his Father’s oil change business for some time, Dad was hoping Son would take over his business. He started out in the pit…. learning the protocol from the ground up. Worked every position over a couple of years, then became manager of that one store. He eventually was manager over all five of Dad’s stores…. knowing I’m a master mechanic, we talked over the “check and double check” protocols. Two guys in the pit every time. One has the checklist, which he reads, the other guy is the hands on with the tools. After they’re done, they SWAP ROLES, now the hands on guy reads the ticklist, the former reader puts his hands to the car. In five years that group of five stores never had a documented flub of any signficance. They also put a small coloured dot on the drainplugs after torqueing them (yes, they use a click type torque wrench every time, properly) to guarantee it has not moved. A coupleof times some clown came in and tried to tell them they’d left the plug loose….and some oil had leaked out. He’d “had to add three quarts” and wanted his money back. The shop put the car on the ramps, invited the customer to come down into the pit with the same two guys whod done his car, pointed to the blue paint still intact and unmoved…. said HOW did the oil get out past that plug which is not leaking now and obviously has not moved? Sheepish “I dunno”…. and quietly left.

    That young man went off on his own (could not work at oil changes in the state where his Dad had the stores due to a non-compete contract with the brand owner of his Dad’s stores) so went into the neighbouring state. He now owns seven oil change stores in that area, and is THE PLACE to go. He’s put in place the protocols he learned at Dad’s store… and installed live feed video all over the stores, so he can sit at home and at any moment watch in real time every move of every employee….. and they all know it and like it. That video, played back, has proven to the customer that he was lying and they know he was when he’s made some false claim. His crew feel protected because every move is recorded and available for their defense.

    • > the former reader puts his hands to the car

      The Japan Railways do an interesting thing called “Point and Call”. You’ll see the station master, conductor, engineers, etc. point at an item, say to themselves what they’re about to do, and only then perform the action. The combination of physical motion with announcing what they’re about to do, reduces procedural errors to almost zero.

    • Awesome story, Tionico! It’s encouraging, in these days of lunacy, to hear of people who do things competently and masterfully!

  13. One quick point you didn’t mention, but perhaps worth saying – often a car will leak when the oil filter is clogged.

    Changing the filter will cure the leak in many cases. So yeah, even if you DID have a bit of an oil leak before the change, you should still complain if you have one after it.

  14. Always changed oil myself – but with a new vehicle it was free for a while. Not worth it – dealer put 5W-20 in my V6 that required 5W-30 – most of the vehicles worked on were 4-cylinder that took the 5W-20, so why bother to look up specs? Got so I required that I watch the oil change and that quart bottles be used – who knows what’s in the oil container drums? Also, even Toyota’s own oil-fill specs are wrong for my engine (3.5L), Toyota calls for 6.4 quarts – online forms have it right – 6 quarts even.

  15. My horror story-We flew to New Orleans to visit my daughter and we drove her car for a few days. Going back to the airport, I stopped to get her oil changed. I was watching as they pulled the car into the bay and saw something under the car catch on their metal grating over the pit when they pulled it in the bay. I took a quick look when they pulled it out, but saw nothing. We had time for a quick lunch before our flight out, so we drove to a nearby restaurant and I heard metal scrapping the highway so pulled over and looked. They had caught a fuel tank strap on the grating, and broke the strap. They shoved it back up out of the way so I would not see it but it vibrated and fell back down and was bouncing off the road once I was driving the car. I had to get to the airport, so returned to the oil change place, told them my daughter’s boyfriend would return, and they better fix the car. Months later she came back to Ohio, I crawled under her car, and discovered they had put a bungee cord on to hold her fuel tank up. It is probably a good thing I was in Ohio and they were in New Orleans. I still remember how sickening sweet the person taking appointments was, and how their action could have easily killed my daughter. I remind myself of this whenever I am changing oil in a car in the middle of an Ohio winter. Then the concrete floor is not quite as cold.

  16. Here is a *dealership story*: My brother had his ford expedition tuned at a local dealership. He then had a scheduled vacation then upon return jumped in his vehicle and noticed it was not running well. I was out on a visit and said let’s pop the hood and take a look. It appeared to be a pulley missing, a stationary type near the top of the engine. We went back to the dealership the next day and confronted the service manager. He assured us that their shop
    missing a pulley was impossible. However his mechanic no longer worked there so he brought out another mechanic to verify our vehicle. He looked and said; oh, you have A/C therefore you don’t have the upper pulley as noted on the diagram on the engine bay. Then the mechanic made a mistake; he said I have the same model with A/C and I will verify on my vehicle. His vehicle had the pulley. The service manager then tried to claim that my brother’s vehicle came in without the pulley from possibly some other work done by others. We said sorry pal…this was my Dad’s vehicle and *you* were the only shop that serviced it. It got done but what a bunch of lying B’stards.

  17. Come to think of it, in my whole life, I have never let anyone change my oil. I’m tired of working on cars; in recent years, I’ve actually paid people to do some repairs (!)- but I always change my own oil; and do my own brake work.

    I’ve always been leery of places that offer super-low prices, too. Can’t make any money on a $20 erl change, to justify tying up a bay and an employee- even if he’s working for the minimum wage that Uncle allows his slaves to work for- so they’re gonna find other stuff “wrong”.

    It’s hard to find an honest conscientious mechanic…but one thing is for sure: Ya ain’t gonna find such at some franchise/chain place…or any place that tries to lure you in with rock-bottom prices.

    Not that it takes a highly-skilled competent mechanic to change erl….it just takes someone who gives a damn- but some kid working at a $19.95 erl-change place is the automotive equivalent of working at McDonald’s, and the vast majority of people who work at such places give zero damns- ‘specially today, when personal integrity, morality and pride in ones work are almost non-existent.

  18. Worst personal story – they left a crankcase breather hose off, and the massive vacuum leak won’t let it start. They didn’t care – just told me to get my car out of their bay.

    Worst story from a friend – they left a differential plug off. He drove to DC and most of the way back before it locked up. He went and talked to the manager who denied up and down that his “highly trained” employees could have done it. And then one of them walked in and asked “Is that the guy we left the plug out on?” They paid.

    • Hi Chip,

      Awful. I have a similar one, which I have told before here:

      Years ago, my mom calls me up and asks whether I have time t swing by their house to have a look at her car. She says there is a puddle underneath it. She had taken it to JiffyLube the day prior. I hustled over.

      Turns out, the Dweezil at JiffyLube cross-threaded the drain plug; it was barely holding on. So I did another oil change – then Heli-coiled the ruined threads…

      This kind of thing happens often, from the reports I get…

      • That’s the thing about the “Monkey Lube” places. *Everyone* has a story. Or knows someone that does. Based on how frequently it happens — anyone who says “I’ve never had a problem” is living on borrowed time.

  19. In 1992, my dad was getting ready for a trip to CT from Florida in his Taurus Wagon. Remember those? We put on a brand new set of tires the prior week and he went for a quick oil change. The a-hole forgot to put the oil cap back on the engine and he ended up buying a new engine in North Carolina. Of course, there is nothing you can do about that.

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