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Home Auto Clinic How to Avoid Engine Oil Change Rip-offs

How to Avoid Engine Oil Change Rip-offs

… Also do Oil Change by Yourself

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]efore you take your car to the neighbourhood Quick-Lube you should know what to expect. There are oil change rip-offs out there you need to know about. There are also a lot of unnecessary up-sells that can be thrown at you during what you thought would be a basic oil change. If you want to save money and avoid being ripped off at the lube spot, knowledge is power.

Basic vs. Signature Service


Not so long ago, oil change centres offered various levels of service. Some still do, but most have dropped their less expensive “basic oil change” and only offer some sort of signature service that includes a lot of other stuff. This is a shame because the extra $10 or so is a throwaway for most people. But like they say in New Jersey, it is what it is. If your oil change location does offer the basic, I recommend going that route.


The Oil Switcheroo: Your car may take a standard grade oil, but many cars and trucks these days call for upgraded oil such as full synthetic. Higher mileage vehicles might benefit from special high mileage oil blends. These will cost you a little extra, but there’s nothing you can do about that. Unfortunately, oil change centres have been caught using basic grade oil even when customers have paid for the good stuff. Ask to watch them add the oil and check for yourself that it is either being pumped from the right tank or being poured form the right bottle. Shops on the up and up won’t mind at all.

No Oil Filter: The most often perpetrated oil change crime is in the filter — it doesn’t get replaced. An oil change is only half done if you don’t replace the filter. Here’s a trick: Take a Sharpie and put a small “X” or other mark on your oil filter before you bring it in for an oil change. When they’re done, if you can

The Extras

Draining the Old Oil
Draining the Old Oil

Most oil changes these days come with a list of additional services that are included in the price. These include things like topping off your windshield washer fluid and vacuuming your carpet. Be sure you know that they performed all of these services. You’re paying for them! I never knew Jiffy Lube includes exterior window washing with oil changes, and they haven’t done it to anybody I’ve talked to.


It’s impossible to get an oil change without being hit with the sales pitch for added services. These aren’t ripoff attempts, they are technically offering real services that will benefit your engine. The problem is your car or truck may not need these services. Always check your owner’s manual to see if there are any major services your vehicle is due for. If they tell you that you need a transmission service, but you know it’s not time, you’ll know to turn it down.

How to Change Your Engine Oil

Being prepared for your oil change will guarantee you won’t be taken advantage of at the shop. Of course you could avoid the whole thing by doing your own oil change

Never change your oil while the engine is hot! Let it cool for a few hours, oil can burn you badly.

Prepping The New Oil Filter
Prepping The New Oil Filter

Be sure you have a safe area to do your oil change. Level, solid ground is a must so that you can safely jack up your car. I also like to put something on the driveway or garage floor underneath the engine in case you spill. Cardboard or a piece of plywood is great for this. Before you even start to do your oil change, be sure you have everything you need to get the job done.

Caution! If you drove your car recently, your oil could be very hot. Allow at least two hours for your oil to cool before you start your oil change. Oil burns are very dangerous.

What You’ll Need

  • Ratchet or open end wrench
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil catch/recycle container
  • Funnel
  • New oil filter
  • New Oil
  • Clean rag

Let’s get to it.

Remove the Old Oil Filter
Remove the Old Oil Filter

The first step in an oil change is to get the old stuff out of there. The oil drains out of the oil pan at the very bottom of your engine. The oil is held in by a drain plug that looks like a big bolt at the bottom of the pan.

Warning! When your engine is warmed up, your engine oil can be as hot as 250 degrees! It’s crucial that you allow at least two hours before you drain your oil to avoid a very serious burn.

Before you remove the oil drain plug, be sure that your recycling container is positioned underneath the oil drain. An oil change can be no fun if most of your time is spent cleaning up oil.

When you remove the drain plug, let it drop into the top of the recycling container. There’s a screen on top that will keep it from dropping into the muck.

Let all of the oil drain out, then replace the drain plug, tightening it to your cars torque specifications (or “snug but not too hard” if you are sans torque wrench.)

Put the cap on the oil recycling container so you can drop it off at a location that accepts used oil — most full service gas stations accept it.

Installing the New Oil Filter
Installing the New Oil Filter

Next you need to remove your old oil filter. Using an oil filter wrench, turn the filter counter-clockwise until it’s free. Be careful with it, it’s still full of old oil that can spill and make a mess.

Some oil filters can be reached from the top, but for most you’ll have to be under the car.

With the old oil out and the old filter out of the way, it’s time to put the change in oil change. But before you install the new oil filter, you have to prep it.

Before you screw the new oil filter into place, lubricate the rubber gasket on the end of the filter with some new oil.

Next, fill the new oil filter with oil to about 2/3. It’s ok if you go over that amount; it just means you might spill a bit when you screw it on

Carefully screw the new oil filter into place. Remember, it has oil in it so don’t forget to hold it upright. It screws on clockwise.

Refilling the Engine Oil
Refilling the Engine Oil

You don’t need a wrench to install the new oil filter. Screw it on as tight as you can get it with one hand. Overtightening the oil filter can strip its threads and cause a leak. Of course, not tightening it enough can cause a leak. So screw it on as tight as it will go with one hand, but no more.

Now you’re ready to fill the engine with oil. Unscrew the oil fill cap and insert your funnel. I like to buy the 5-quart containers of oil (cheaper) but if you’re using single quarts that’s fine, too.

Check your owner’s manual to find out how much oil your engine holds. Pour a little more than 3/4 that amount into the engine. For example, if your car holds 4 quarts of oil, add 3 1/2.

If you’re using a 5-quart container of oil, there is a guide on the side that shows how much oil you’ve put in.

Checking the Oil Level
Checking the Oil Level

You’re not finished yet so don’t drive off

We didn’t add all the oil because there may still be a little oil here and there we didn’t account for.

Check oil and add more until you’re at the right level.

Be sure to put your oil cap back on! Oil spray can cause a fire.

Courtesy of AUTOREPAIR








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