How to Tell if your Oil Change Shop is Crooked


Of all mechanics, oil change shops can be some of the least honest in the car repair business. They play the age-old game: lure you in with a cheap price and then gouge you with additional services once you arrive.  


These are common scams: 

  • Cheap oil: As discussed, the cheapest oil isn’t worth it. Buy decent oil and you can safely change it every 9,000 miles or more. We aren’t talking about using only synthetic oil. Conventional oil is fine (or even better in many cases). Just make sure it’s a decent brand. Like anything you buy, some brands are better than others (here’s more detail). 
  • Recommending changes every 3,000 miles: This was true in 1980. Now it’s excessive – as long as you use decent oil. Engines burn cleaner and oils are better (blog post here). 
  • Unnecessary air filter changes: Engine air filters need to be changed every 30,000 miles. No more. Look at the last time you changed your air filter before agreeing to a new one. 
  • Dirty power steering fluid: This is my favorite. It is very, very uncommon for a car to need the power steering fluid changed. Generally it’s near 200,000 miles or more. It is normal to be dirty. If you hear this, don’t respond. Get up and walk out. You’ve found a crook. 
  • Cabin air filter: This is for personal comfort only. You should get it changed every 50,000 miles unless you drive down a lot of dirty roads. I own a vehicle with 200,000 miles and it’s never been changed. It’s still fine (however, I really should change it). 
  • Windshield wipers: Can you see when it rains? Then yours are fine. 


How the scam works: 

Shops that specialize in oil changes are the worst. They have technicians that change the oil and a fear monger that works the front desk. The fear monger is on commission. They more they sell you, the more money they make. Worst of all, the fear monger generally has little to no knowledge of cars before starting to work there. The fear monger probably doesn’t even know how much BS they are selling. They are only reciting the information they saw in a training video the day before. 


How to get an honest deal 

  • At least at the dealer, they will sell you decent oil. However you may leave with a quote for $2,000 in unnecessary work. 
  • Avoid shops that specialize in oil changes. I’m sure there’s an honest one out there, I just haven’t found it. 
  • Find an honest, independent shop that does all repairs. Not all are honest. But your odds are better than a Lube shop. 

The Car Savior is a car repair concierge service, finding you honest, quality car repair services without all of the games, mumbo jumbo, or gotchas you find elsewhere. When booked with our service, we allow only the best parts and best mechanics. Then we let mechanics bid against each other to get you the best deal – without sacrificing quality. That’s The Car Savior way. Visit us here!


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