Changing Where I Get My Oil Changed


Hope everyone had a relaxing and fun-filled long weekend! Johnny was in NY for work again last week, so we were just happy to have him back. While he was gone, I woke up to Sally yelling, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddyyyy!” from her crib. Our cat, Persie, tried running away one day… I guess life without Johnny is unbearable. And me? Well, I was counting down the days until his return the second he left. So it was a very enjoyable weekend with all of us back under one roof again.

While Johnny was gone, I decided to take the car to get its oil changed. Usually Johnny equips me with some special coupon before I head off into the sleazy world of oil change-dom. He’s also helped me learn the methods they’ll use to charge me extra, and how to avoid them. But I didn’t have Johnny’s coupons or words of advice last week, and so I headed to Walmart because I figured it would be cheap.

When I dropped the car off, the attendant asked me what kind of oil I wanted, and I replied, “Standard.” Our Corolla is four years old, and standard does the job — especially for Toyotas. He then asked me if I wanted my air filter replaced if it was dirty, one of their go-to scammy questions. I said, “No,” and then headed into Walmart with Sally to pass the time.

About 30 minutes later, my name was called over the intercom, and so I quickly headed back to the oil and lube center with Sally in tow. But when I got there, my car wasn’t ready. Rather, a guy told me that they weren’t able to complete my oil change because my car “requires synthetic oil.” He said, “You requested standard, so we just need your okay before going forward.” I was confused. If they’d called my name over the intercom, it was obviously a real issue, right? “Okay. Sounds good.” I said. They quickly finished up my car, and when it came time to pay, I owed $63 instead of $30. The price had doubled! This gave me pause. “So why exactly is synthetic oil required for my car?” “Oh, Toyota requires it for their cars. It’s not us. Your warranty is void if you don’t use synthetic.” What the? Our warranty only lasted until 30,000 miles, and we’re at almost 60,000 now. I had a screaming, cracker-throwing toddler by this point, and so I just paid and left.

When I told Johnny about it, he was peeved. It’s one thing to offer scammy services, and it’s another thing to call customers over the intercom and tell them something is required when it really isn’t. And Toyota doesn’t require synthetic for their cars… that’s another lie. It recommends it, which is a big difference, at least in my book. Needless to say, I  won’t be going back there. The only good thing that came of going to Walmart was finding out that my tires actually have over half their tread left, unlike what a Les Schwab guy told me a month ago when I got my brakes checked: “Your brakes are fine, but your tires? They’re not gonna get any traction in the rain. You need new ones.”

It’s downright insulting how these men lie to women — ones with children in tow, taking advantage of our lack of automotive education. I’d like to see an honest tire and lube place open up. They’d get my business. For now, I think I’ll let Johnny handle the oil changes.

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  • Reply Gretchen September 2, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Ugh – that’s terrible! This is why I always send The Big Guy – he knows far more about this stuff than I do! Kind of doesn’t surprise me though. The world of automotive service and repair is full of myth and secrecy!

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:05 am

      Now at least I have a good reason to get Johnny to go do it from here on out!

  • Reply Wade September 2, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Many newer cars will take 5W/20 with is almost always a “synthetic blend” oil. Part real oil, part synthetic. I typically go full synthetic in our cars. The first is because I can got 5,000 to 6,000 miles on an oil change. The second is because of our super cold winters. Regular oil can gel when it is -10 or -20. In the end it probably makes no difference as long as you change the oil regularly. I don’t feel too bad when they try to up-sell me. There is very little margin in an oil change. They try to sell you other stuff. It is retail 101. You knew enough to say no. That is a win. If they say I need an air filter, I go buy one myself. What I do like about Walmart oil changes is they are reasonable. We have a Fleet Farm where I typically get my oil changed. The price is reasonable and they are pretty fast. Thanks for sharing your tale.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:07 am

      Agreed… they are reasonable. And any other place tries to up sell me, too, so that’s not a big deal. I just wish they’d been a little less aggressive about it. In the end, I guess I’ll enjoy the synthetic this time around :).

      • Reply Wade September 5, 2014 at 11:36 am

        Enjoy it. Get all wild and crazy and go 6,000 miles between oil changes. Living on the wild side! 2X the miles = 1/2 price. 🙂

  • Reply TT September 2, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Unfortunate. I try to change the oil myself, but when that isn’t in the cards I always go to WalMart as I’ve found them to be the cheapest option. Then again, we only do synthetic, so I suppose we avoid these types of up-sells.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:09 am

      I wish Johnny or I had the slightest clue about changing the oil ourselves! They’re definitely a reasonable option, and I guess now that I’ve learned what to look for, there’s no harm in giving them my business again.

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls September 2, 2014 at 8:11 am

    This is why I get frustrated with my husband for making me do these things myself. I go bc he tells me something needs to be done, then they convince of other crap that “needs” to be done. I spend the money on said crap then hubby is mad that I did it. The rule should just be the husband manages all car related crap. The way I manage all kid/school/doctors/financial/grocery/cooking related crap!!!

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:10 am

      Totally! But, hey, I say since we’re willing to get it done, we’re blame-free no matter what happens! And good call… car stuff is officially now on Johnny’s list!

  • Reply Valerie September 2, 2014 at 9:15 am

    This exact scenario happened to me! I generally visit a Mom-and-Pop store, but had to get my oil changed quickly one day before a road trip. I dropped my car off at a box oil change place and went next door for lunch, as they promised me it would be ready when I was done.

    When I got back, however, they had drained all the oil out of my vehicle and then told me I couldn’t get anything but synthetic in it, as it was “required.” I fought them on it for a few minutes, but they kept telling me it was required and I had to do it to get my car back. Frustrated and late for work, I paid them and was on my way, albeit $105 poorer.

    My husband was furious at them and called our credit card company, the store and the BBB, but they all said because I signed off on it, there was nothing they could do. SO FRUSTRATING!

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Seriously! I really don’t get it… We’ve gotten our oil changed at least half a dozen times since getting our car, and this “required” talk hasn’t been mentioned until now. It’s nice to see our husbands get mad in our defense, though, right? 🙂

  • Reply Little House September 2, 2014 at 9:47 am

    I hate how some mechanics take advantage of us (women, that is,) It’s infuriating paying more for a service just because we’re more gullible when it comes to our lack of car knowledge. I’m just glad that Mr. LH deals with all our car issues so I don’t get duped.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:19 am

      Good call! I will gladly be passing the car stuff over to Johnny from here on out!

  • Reply Sarah September 2, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Bleh. This reminds me how much I miss living back in our old city when my husband’s best friend would just take care of our vehicles (he’s a mechanic.) I miss having that person working on our cars that we could actually trust!

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:20 am

      I know! It’s almost as hard as finding a good hair stylist (for me anyway)! You gotta search and search until you find someone you can really trust!

  • Reply Emily @ evolvingPF September 2, 2014 at 11:45 am

    We’ve started trying to avoid the places that seem dishonest or are always trying to upsell. I agree they were trying to take advantage of your uncertainty and frazzled-ness because of Sally’s presence.

    My husband likes for me to interact with the mechanic we favor now because he thinks the guy is nicer to women. He explains what’s going on with the car more with me and just is short with my husband and assumes he knows the jargon, which he doesn’t. Thankfully the niceness doesn’t seem to extend to upselling.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Glad you’ve found a good guy to go to! And the fact that he prefers you is an even bigger plus! Now, if I could just find someone like that…

  • Reply Nicole September 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Just found & started reading your blog–Sorry this happened to you! I agree w/ you–car “professionals” all over the place try to scam women especially assuming we’re ignorant to vehicle stuff. I’d contact and complain, write and complain as well. It’s worth the time–I can’t speak for WM (we have agreed as a family to never go to WM, but we’re in a bigger town with lots of options), but many places will offer you a free or discounted next service if they can make you happy after an incident like this.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:23 am

      Good idea, Nicole! Johnny is planning to write a complaint along with the complaining I did in person earlier this week. I just want them to realize that it’s not okay to be so dishonest!

  • Reply Valerie September 2, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Sorry you had to deal with such a pricey oil change Joanna; I’m fortunate that my Dad taught me to change my own.
    Your story is a great example of why I think it’s important to learn basic car mechanics and basic care/maintenance. I think learning a few of the basics (often found in your owners manual)—how to check fluids, what kind of oil to use, how to check tire tread wear, how to check tire pressure, how to change a tire, when maintenance should be preformed— helps when you need to take your car to be fixed.
    It creates a basic understanding so you can speak intelligently about what you need allowing you to better understand why some of the up-sells they suggest may (or may not) be something you want. In your case, you had some basic knowledge (thanks-Johnny!) but should have asked ‘why’s it needed?” before signing off, and maybe a ‘what’s the price difference?” instead of waiting for the bill, of course the screaming toddler probably didn’t help.
    I also think most mechanics aren’t the shady characters they are made out to be, in this case, the mechanic was just looking out for you regarding warranty; he doesn’t know how long your warranty lasts and it would really suck if you were still under warranty and something silly like oil type voided it.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:26 am

      You’re right… I shouldn’t have been so trusting! It didn’t even occur to me to ask any questions… I had way too much faith in them. Lesson learned… the hard way, unfortunately!

      I hope his intentions were good… I’d like to think they were, even if it didn’t seem that way!

  • Reply Rob September 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Well Joanna, I can well understand your frustration. It was certainly not the best time for you to handle the “dark arts” of car maintenance, was it? 🙂 You were blind-sided as to what exactly your car required (according to the guy that you dealt with) – and – you were also stressed out with a rambunctious toddler in tow,

    So not being all that “techie” myself when it comes to car maintenance, all I can do is to offer a few suggestions to you and Johnny for handling future car maintenance trips.
    (and btw, I too own a Toyota, and have done so for years).

    If I were you guys I’d first sit down together and work out a game plan for all your future car maintenance needs (eg., oil, tires, brakes, etc) – “long before” you need to act on them.

    Check out your car manual info for accurate warranty needs.

    investigate where the best place might be to get these things done and, if possible, try to line up an honest reliable mechanic whom you can then give your steady business to.

    If at all possible try to visit your car service location alone – either have Johnny go, or you go alone and have someone else look after Sally for a little while while you are away.

    Btw, I use synthetic oil and have my knowledgeable neighbor (who recommends it) to do the work. He does all his own routine car maintenance and has for years. I wait until synthetic oil goes on sale at the retail store chain where I was employed (prior to my retirement) and then my neighbor and I stock up on supplies, taking good advantage of the sale discount as well as my employee discount on top of it. Is there anyone in your neighborhood that you guys can ask for advice or help?

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:32 am

      Good advice, Rob! We’ve really loved our Toyota. I really like your idea of buying synthetic when it’s on sale. I wish I knew someone who could change the oil for us. If my dad lived closer, I’d have him do it… maybe he can teach Johnny the next time we head to AL!

  • Reply Mr. Frugalwoods September 2, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Boooo on walmart! I wonder how many people they’ve gotten with that pulse-raising intercom trick. Not cool.

    Funny enough, I think our mechanic actually gives better service to Mrs. Frugalwoods. They take more time, explain it more clearly, and don’t mind if she goes home to “talk it over with her husband”. AKA, we google the diagnosis and see if it makes sense 🙂 It’s an old-school neighborhood garage literally down the street. They know we live in the ‘hood, and wave to us when we walk by with our dog (frugalhound loves them).

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:34 am

      Why can’t I have that kind of effect on mechanics? I know I look young for my age and rather innocent, so I think their instinct with me is to be as dishonest as possible!

      Sounds like a great place you guys go to. And I really like your idea about going home and talking it over. Smart!

  • Reply Aldo@MDN September 3, 2014 at 9:49 am

    You definitely need to find yourself a trusted mechanic. I just asked a few friends and family where they go and found a pretty decent person who is also a mechanic. You need yourself one of those.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:35 am

      True that! I’ll have to start asking around!

  • Reply Anastasia September 3, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I had been taking my Honda Civic to Jiffy Lube for all of my oil changes until they tried to scam me by showing me a dirty air filter that wasn’t even from my car. “Miss, you really should consider replacing the air filter” ..Okay *I* will replace the air filter. So I went home and my hubs picked one up and when he went to replace the old “dirty” one, he saw it was just fine.

    Now I only go to my Honda dealer. They let me know when things really need to be checked, replaced, and rotated. Never again, Jiffy Lube

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:36 am

      That’s super lame. Jiffy Lube does that to every single customer who comes in, I swear. And agreed on the dealer idea… the couple of times I’ve gone to the Toyota guys, I’ve felt like I’m in really good hands.

  • Reply Michael September 3, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    A) Walmart is not the cheapest around here, they’re actually one of the most expensive.

    B) This just happened to my wife. I usually get our oil changed but last time my wife took her car in. They (not Walmart) charged her double what they’ve ever tried to charge me for different (not synthetic AFAIK) oil. They said she wouldn’t have to get her oil changed for 5,000 miles with this more expensive oil. We only change our oil every 5,000 miles anyway.

    C) What country do you live in where Toyota only warrants your car for 30,000 miles? Or was that some kind of used car warranty? In the US most manufacturers offer a bumper to bumper 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty and a 6 year / 100,000 mile powertrain warranty on new cars and in most cases it’s transferrable. Regardless, the bit about voiding your warranty is likely BS, as long as you have records showing you had your oil changed close to the recommended intervals you’re usually ok.

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:40 am

      Good to know about the warranty likely not being voided. We bought the car two years old, so it only had a 30,000 mile warranty with it unfortunately. Luckily, we haven’t needed it.

      I really wish they had some decency and didn’t take advantage of women. It’s super annoying.

  • Reply Laura September 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I find any and all “big box” garage corporations (even dealerships!) tend to suck when it comes to things like this! I was lucky that I had some mechanics that I was working with when I found out my car needed $700 in exhaust work (also a Toyota Corolla, but mine’s been on the road since ’97!) and they knew enough to help me find a good mechanic who let me bring in my own parts (ordered online) and it only cost about $300. I’ve also heard stories of dealerships failing inspections on cars with 80% of their brake pads left, just so that they can charge them for new brakes! I go to a little mom and pop shop, and they treat me great! I would definitely recommend asking around to find a place that isn’t a chain!

    • Reply Joanna September 5, 2014 at 12:41 am

      Based on your recommendation and others, it sounds like the mom and pop shops are the way to go! I need to start asking around because this up-selling nonsense is seriously getting old!

  • Reply John C @ Action Economics September 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    You made the right decision, Its been several years since we had a shop do our oil changes, We had a similar issue with the upselling. The last time we had our oil change done my wife told them what oil to use, its the same that is stamped on the oil cap itself in big bold letters, and they chose to put in a more expensive oil without even telling us. I love doing it myself because it saves a bit of money, there is no hassle or selling, and most importantly, I know it is done right!

  • Reply Melanie September 17, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I am an independent, headstrong woman–but let me tell you, I can’t wait to “hand over” car stuff to a husband someday. I HATE all of it-when I bought my car they stalked me and were annoying, and every time I get work done, an oil change, etc. What a pain!! It’s one of the few times I actually dislike being a woman. I feel your pain!

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