Zen and the Art of Oil Changes

by | Apr 18, 2018 | Miscellaneous

Last week, I mentioned (in passing) that I had recently gotten my oil changed.

When it comes to auto maintenance, I’m dumb, but I’m not stupid.

When my car needs an oil change and tire rotation, I go wherever there’s a coupon available. The dealership where I bought my vehicle charges $60, which is absurd. So, I go with whoever is advertising “This week, $29.99!”

The problem with my method is that if the mechanic I’m using isn’t pulling a tidy profit on oil changes, he has to make up the slack somewhere else. Which is why there’s always, and I mean always, something “wrong” with my car.

In the past two years, I’ve “needed” the following:

  • New brakes
  • To have my brakes cleaned
  • A new timing chain
  • A new battery
  • New CV axles

And several other things I’m forgetting.

Every time I’m asked if I want to go ahead and have the service done—“since the car is already in the garage and all”—I decline.

Because I’m running a test, if you will, on these places.

Since I go to multiple locations, I get multiple offers of things to fix. Here’s where it gets silly: I have yet to hear the same item needs repair twice in a row.

That means I’ll take my car to Auto Mechanic A. While they’re rotating my tires, they’ll notice I “need” new brakes.

I deny them the opportunity, and pay for only the oil change and tire rotation.

The next place I take my car, Auto Mechanic B will say, “Your battery looks sketchy…”

5,000 miles later, Auto Mechanic C will point out my CV axles…

And so on and so forth.

What’s funny, if you’re paying attention, is: Auto Mechanic B didn’t tell me I needed new brakes. You’d think that if they were in such need of changing, like Auto Mechanic A said, then Auto Mechanic B (and for that matter, Auto Mechanic C) would have noticed, too.

But both B and C were completely silent on the brakes. They were pushing other “fixes.”

Which is one of the benefits to bouncing around. If two of the mechanics point out the same thing, I’ll take it seriously. But since they’re generally snake-oil salesmen, I roll my eyes instead. In fact, I once drove my car for 3 years after being told I absolutely 100% needed a new battery. During that whole time, I never had a problem starting my car, and she never died.

Funny, that.

The final amusing thing is: the last time I actually did need work done, the dealership came in a full $100 cheaper than the mechanic who told me I needed the fix.

Which makes sense.

The dealership is charging double what other places are for the oil changes, so they don’t need to make up any slack.

So, the moral of the story is: if you have a mechanic you trust, great. But maybe test him once in a while by quietly getting a second opinion.

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