PSA: Double Check Wal-Mart Oil Changes

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Regular oil changes, as defined by your owner’s manual, is one of the best ways to lengthen the life of your car and the efficiency of its engine. Don’t skip oil changes to save a few dollars, the thousands of miles you’ll add to the engine’s life will dwarf the cost. That being said, there really isn’t much difference in the product and service offered at a discount oil change place and your dealership, despite what your dealership may say! This PSA is anyone who uses discount oil change services like Wal-Mart or Jiffy Lube. After you get your $15-$20 oil change, double check their work before you leave or you might be in for a nasty surprise.

Wal-Mart Whoops!

A while back my wife took her 2004 Honda Civic to the local Wal-Mart for their famously economical oil change. With a price under twenty bucks for conventional oil, you couldn’t beat it. After the oil change, she drove home and it wasn’t until she left for work the next day did we see an oil stain in her parking spot. When we popped opened the hood, we saw the oil cap sitting on the engine. I should’ve taken a picture because my wife’s daily commute is about 40 minutes and it’s a miracle the cap was still sitting on top of the engine (it may have been wedged by the hood, we didn’t check but there wasn’t a dent).

Everything under the hood was covered in oil spray and she lost about a quart of oil. We couldn’t believe they forgot to put the oil cap back on (then we realized the technicians are probably pressured to do things as quickly as possible, so it’s not that surprising that they miss something once and a while).

Check Their Work…

So, the next time you get an oil change at those discount places, do a perfunctory check that everything is in order. Check that the oil cap is on (I know it sounds ridiculous but it happened to us), check the ground when you pull out for signs of oil leaks, check your oil level via the dipstick, and check the service work report for inconsistencies. You won’t be able to detect detect outright fraud but you can ensure there isn’t any carelessness.

… Or Do It Yourself

I change the oil in my own car because I prefer to use synthetic oil (mostly because you change it less frequently, but there are other benefits). You can get synthetic oil changes at the discount places but the price magically jumps up to $50-60 for the base oil change, a price point that makes it more economical to change it yourself. I also drive a car that offers very easy access to the filter (the filter was impossible to reach in my last car, an Acura Integra) so changing the oil is straightforward. The only downside is the mess, but you do get the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

But, if I forget to put on the oil cap or tighten the oil filter… I have no one to blame. 🙂

{ 17 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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17 Responses to “PSA: Double Check Wal-Mart Oil Changes”

  1. Patrick says:

    A similar event happened to a friend of mine at a discount oil change location a few years back. The only difference is that they put the cap back on, but forgot to put in new oil. He didn’t find out until the next day when his car began running inefficiently. Needless to say, he was more than a little upset. There was no permanent damage (the company paid to have his vehicle inspected and offered to cover the cost of any damages). They also gave him coupons for free oil changes for the life of the vehicle, but he never went back there again. I can’t say I blame him.

  2. We change our own oil too and use synthetic, but every few changes we take it in to an auto shop just so they can make sure we haven’t done any serious damage and to top off our other fluids. It saves us money and gives us peace of mind.

  3. staci says:

    The same exact thing happened to my mom at Walmart. We haven’t brought our cars to Walmart since.

  4. Becky says:

    Yup: Jiffy Lube didn’t replace the cap on my friend’s car and the scene in his garage the next day was much like yours.

  5. Rick Morley says:

    I have read that you should always replace your own oil if at all possible. The reason is that the used oil takes awhile to fully drain out of its tank. When the “Jiffy” places do it in just 10-15 minutes, that does not allow enough time to let all the used oil drain out. They then put the new oil in. But because the used oil is not completely drained out, it mixes in with the new oil. And you’re left with brand new oil that isn’t actually clean.

    If you change it yourself, allow 2 hours for all the old oil to drain out. Your oil changes should last a bit longer this way.

    • Anonymous says:

      total bs….If your car is up to operating temp that oil is very hot and the vast majority is drained out rather quickly. you will never get it all out but the little bit that is left is so minor that it is not going to harm anything. The oil getting dirty is due to the combustion process.

  6. Kevin says:

    Jiffy Lube broke a bolt holding one of my belt pulleys, thus causing the belt to loosen and make a horrific squealing noise. I took it to the Jeep dealership and they told me exactly how it happened. I promptly went back to Jiffy Lube to demand reimbursement for the $200 I spent at the dealer, but the best they did was refund my oil change cost. Needless to say I haven’t returned. One of my goals for this year is to change the oil in my car myself. Anyone have a good website or free guide on how to do so? I have a Jeep Cherokee if that helps. Thanks.

    • Anonymous says:

      place container on ground to catch oil. take off cap. watch as oil drains. replace cap. take off cap on top. put in 4-5 quarts of oil depending on how much your car takes. check level. replace cap.

  7. Derrick says:

    Wal-mart did the same thing to me. I never found the oil cap, and it took me about two weeks to order one that would fit my explorer. I couldn’t find a store that carried a cap that would fit. Pain in the butt.

  8. Conrad says:

    I used to change my car oil by myself but I don’t think it is worth the hassle. I take my car to the local mechanic and has him do the oil change for me. He also does a quick inspection of my car while doing the oil change. I think the service is totally worth the extra money I am paying. My advice is to befriend a local mechanic and you will have a much healthier car.

  9. Cheapo says:

    Honestly no matter where you get your vehicle’s oil changed you should check to see the oil level via the dipstick and make sure the cap which is removed to fill oil in the engine is properly tightened. I have had the local Honda dealer not place the cap back on properly and even one time another Honda dealer didn’t fill the oil reservoir with the proper amount of oil. On another slightly related note, when I once had my vehicle’s tires rotated at a dealer, they forgot to tighten a few of the lug nuts for one of the wheels. I did not notice this until I drove the car, but this surely could have caused major damage or worse even an accident.

  10. mapgirl says:

    Another thing is that places like Jiffy Lube will over torque your screws/nuts. My guy friends all warned me about this because it makes it a beeyotch to get them off at home without a power tool.

    FWIW, lessen your risk by going less often. I’ve been moving towards going every 4-5K miles instead of 3.5K and my car has not had any noticeable problems. Of course, my car is now over 7 years old so I could probably just top off monthly and wait every 6-7K!

    The one thing I will say about Jiffy Lube vs the dealer is that the dealer will use a better filter. Jiffy Lube has been known to stuff an improper filter into cars which do not work as well, i.e. filter too small so it runs crap through the system.

    BTW, for all the people who say they want to do their own oil changes, SAVE YOUR GALLON MILK JUGS TO DISPOSE OF OIL. DISPOSE OF THE USED OIL PROPERLY. Nearly any service station will take it from you for free or a nominal fee. Even your local municipal trash facility will take it. DO NOT EVER DUMP IN ONTO THE GROUND OR THE STORM DRAIN. I can’t say that enough.

  11. jim says:

    Service stations are required to take the oil, but they could charge you a fee. My local gas station just points me to their disposal oil drum.

  12. Michele says:

    Be very careful of places like Walmart for oil changes. Once, they forgot to put the drain plug back in. Another time they stripped the threads on the filter when putting it back in causing serious leaking. Needless to say, you get what you pay for. Find a good mechanic, and get your work done there, even if it costs a little more.

    • icookforlove1s says:

      Michele, I think the same thing happend to me. How can solve this problem I have all my walmart oil change receipts.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I had a unsatisfying experience with them as well, they changed the oil, done things right on that part except when I checked to see anything wrong around the engine & I seen the tool/wrench they use on vehicles inside the hood of my car sitting in the upper corner. Luckly for me I seen this earlier, then removed it, cause if I didn’t, it could have fell within the middle-area that operates the engine that could have lead to high-cost repairs within the 1,000’s or 10,000’s & life-threating danger I would be in cause of a mistake a mechanic made.

  14. Matthew says:

    Long story short…

    I took my wife’s 2005 saturn to walmart to get an oil change in sept. About a month later my wife says that the “check engine light” is on. i went out to the garage and popped the hood. Well i found the oil cap was off and sitting on top of the engine, wedged there by the hood and the engine. Lost a quirt of oil.

    The Walmart manager said that they will give a new oil change but will not pay for the clean up of the engine compartment, as it was covered in oil. I told him that i wanted to make a claim. He told me that it is a long process and that it could take a month, that he would have to have the car parked for that period of time and so on.

    I than told him that I have no problem parking the car for a month, i also told him that i would get a rental car and get them to pay for that as well.

    In the end i received and engine flush, oil change, and replacement of some engine parts that were broken in the process.

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