Oil Change Scams Revealed


Most responsible car owners want to make their vehicles last as long as possible and be safe to drive. That means regular maintenance that can be time consuming and costly. That’s why so many of us turn to shops that can get it done in a hurry, for a reasonable price. But some of those shops are more concerned about your wallet than your vehicle and are more likely to scam you than to give you what you came in for in the first place.

Oil Change Speciality Shops

Almost any mechanic shop can and will do an oil change, but because they may not buy those materials in bulk, they aren’t able to offer the same rates as specialty shops that advertise their services for what seems to be an unbelievably low fee. It makes sense, but at the same time, it pays to keep in mind the old adage “You get what you pay for” and shop around for a mechanic you can rely on.

Common Scams

Like the people in the video, you might go in for a $20 oil change and come out having spent a couple hundred dollars. Why? Because the upsells combined with the lies not only lead you to spend more, but can also cause you mechanical problems in the future.

Before your car even gets in the bay, you might be pushed to buy a more expensive package under the premise that the oil used in the $20 package is of less than stellar quality. One might pause to ask why it’s offered or used at all if it isn’t of good quality. But, it’s only a few dollars, right? Sure, until you hit the other upsells.

Some of the most common upsells involve telling you that one of your fluids is brown or black and smells burnt. This can involve anything from power steering fluid to a full transmission flush. The truth is that many of these shops will tell you and every other customer that walks in the doors just about the same thing, whether it’s true or not.

Since you want what’s best for your car and you know that prevention is better than a breakdown, you and almost every other car owner are likely to at least be tempted by the upsells. Now for the real kicker.

In many cases, the extra services offered aren’t even performed after you pay for them.

Avoid the Scam

Now that you’re aware of the scam, how can you avoid it? After all, you still at least need your oil changed on a regular basis. The tips below will help prevent you from being the next oil change scam victim.

Record before you go. If need be, take a picture of the fluid levels and the colors of the fluids in your vehicle. This won’t prevent anyone from trying to scam you, but it does help you get an idea of which shops you can trust and which ones you can’t after it’s all said and done and you compare what they said with the information you have on hand.

Assess the sitting room. If there is an area where you can sit and wait for the services to be done, how far is it from the service desk? The further it is, and the less room there is to sit, the less they want you to overhear. After you hear the third or fourth customer come through with burnt fluids, you might start to catch on that it’s a scam.

Stick to your guns. If you only came in for an oil change, then that’s exactly what you should get. And if the $20 deal is what you were after, then don’t budge on that either. Yes, there is a difference in the qualities of motor oil offered, but they all essentially do the same thing and the shops have to use the oil weight listed for your vehicle. If you’re going in for regular oil changes, the brand shouldn’t be an issue. For more in-depth services, visit a mechanic you can trust.



  1. Maybe for men it is easier to spot these scams, but for a woman – especially from NY, it is very hard to know what these mechanics are doing to my car. Thank you for these great tips!

  2. It’s who you are dealing with. Ask friends or co workers where they take their vehicles. I have owned Ford for 30 years now. When I go to the local Ford dealer where I bought an 09 F 150. Last year I took it in for an oil change at their “Quick Lane” I told them oil change only. The manager came to me and said the technician said that you need new brake pads on the truck they are less than “?” millimeter thick. I replied “Sir, I just replaced my brake pads two weeks ago.” Oh my! Lets eat crow! Fortunately I know a young mechanic in his 30’s who is up on all the new stuff, been to all the schools and refreshers. He does my real mechanic work. I still go to Ford for my “oil change only” however it recently went from $39.00 to $49.00 so may tell Ford bye all together. I also had a tire pressure sensor go out and I bought a replacement and Pep boys put it in. It did not stay calibrated and I asked the Ford place about it. They proceeded to tell me that all of my sensors were bad and they would be glad to replace all four for $500.00+ the technician went to each one with a hand held device and had it beeping on each tire and said “see there they are all bad”. Then he went to another vehicle and each tire “no beep”. You need new sensors! Pep Boys damaged all of your sensors! I ain’t that stoopid!! Stupid! I went back to Pep Boys and they re calibrated the one sensor. Nothing wrong with the others. I went back to Ford and told the service manager “Busted”!! So long story short. Learn about your car. Have them do what you came in for. If they tell you extra stuff it does not hurt to have a second or third opinion. Best if you live where you can find a mechanic you can trust. BTW my mechanic took a job as service Mgr. at a Hyundai dealership. Only worked there less than six months because they wanted him to “sell stuff” that was not needed. The Ford place I am talking about, well you just gotta watch out for yourself and find a mechanic who will watch out for you.

  3. One reason I always take my vehicle back to the place I purchased it I have found out that they try to keep their customers happy and satisfied and i have not had any problems with their servicing my vehicle or trying to make me spend more for a unnecessary procedure that I didn’t need or if on a trip I always take my Ford vehicle to a Ford dealer for service when needed

  4. Thank you for the tip. This is so true but for someone who doesn’t know it’s really good to know


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