Did you recently take your car in for an oil change? You may be surprised to find out that the oil or the filter were never changed. While such cases are not very common, we have noticed a few common problems that customers need to be aware.
Many shops may not have the oil viscosity your car required and will use whatever oil they bought in bulk or use synthetic blend instead of full synthetic since that is cheaper. Another issue that we see is that inexpensive oil filters (designed for 3000 mile oil change intervals) are installed on cars. Synthetic oil may be used that can be good for 7500 miles. If this is the case you need to change your oil at 3000 miles, not 7500 miles regardless if you use synthetic oi or what your car manufacturer is recommending.
While there are many auto mechanics and quick lube shops out there, the issues we mentioned above aren't that uncommon. We are not saying that all auto shops use such shady tactics, but as a customer, you need to be informed and ask the right questions. If you are handy, consider changing the oil yourself instead of taking your car to a quick oil lube shop.
Oil Change Scam Tactics
- Synthetic blend oil used instead of full synthetic
- Wrong oil viscosity grade
- Low-quality oil filter not designed for extended mileage.
- Engine oil was never changed
- Old oil filter isn't replaced
- Cheap or conventional oil added instead of synthetic oil1
Questions to ask when getting an oil change:
- What oil brand do you use?
- Do you have the correct oil viscosity for my car?
(If your Mercedes-Benz requires 0W40 it is better to stick with that grade than use 5W30 oil.)
- Is your oil full synthetic or synthetic blend?
- What oil filter brand are you using? What is the recommended mileage for that oil filter?
What to do if you suspect an oil change scam
Check Engine Oil
Check the oil right after the oil change. The oil should be clean. In high mileage vehicles, it is normal for the oil to turn black after a few days.
Check Oil Filter
Check the condition of the oil filter. It should look new. An oil filter that has been in the car for a few months won't look the same as a new oil filter.
Remove a small amount of oil and send it to a lab for an oil analysis. An oil analysis will be able to look at the condition of the oil, the amount of metal in the oil. This is the best way to verify that your oil was changed. You will have to pay the lab between $20 and $50 to do an engine oil analysis. If you can't find a local lab, you can mail a sample of your oil to Blackstone Labs. The oil analysis will not only tell you how old the oil is but you will also know if the shop used synthetic or conventional oil.
My Oil Wasn't Changed
- If you are certain that the engine oil and filter in your car weren't changed you should call your State Consumer Protection Offices and report your mechanic.
- Please, write a review online of the auto repair shop. This will help future car owners know of the shady tactics of that particular shop.
- If you had the oil changed at a chain or franchise auto center such as Jiffy Lube, Firestone, Pep Boys, Merchant, MrTire Sears, etc call the corporate and report the incident.
What happens if the oil and filter weren't changed?
- Sludge could build up in your engine
- Oil filter may allow debris and metal shavings in the engine
- Engine may sound louder than normal
- Engine noise from hydraulic lifters and engine components
- Premature engine failure
Unfortunately, oil change scams are not uncommon in the auto repair industry. That's why we would recommend that you either change the oil yourself or take the car to a mechanic that you know or has been recommended by a family member.
If you don't want to get dirty but want the oil change to be performed properly another option would be to take your car to the dealer. It will cost more money but dealerships are less likely to practice these kinds of scams. Not only that, but the dealer will have the right oil grade. At a quick oil change place, you never know what oil and filter you will get.