By on June 12, 2013

oil light

I still remember them. Tall and clear eyed, their square jaws clenched tightly as a sign of their strict discipline and inherent resolve, they dressed in perfectly pressed brown shirts and marched in straight, ordered ranks before the camera. For them there was only duty and their duty was their honor. Nothing would sway them from their purpose. As they marched they sang, and their song was a call to action. “We’re the Minit Lube Minutemen, trained to do the job and do it right.” God help us, we loved them for it.

They are gone now – so gone that not even their commercials exist anymore. Other companies purchased their shops and changed their names, but they helped start it all and, like some other things started by some resolute men in pressed brown shirts, the reality ended up being somewhat different than the idealized image that appeared on film. It was hot, sweaty and more than a little greasy. Still, I was proud to be among them, selected to be a leader and made a “Management Trainee” by the powers that be, and I was determined to lead from the front. Despite the fact that I had been hired primarily because of my sales experience, something that should have had me close to the register, working with customers and encouraging them to buy add-on services like air filters and optional fluid changes, I knew that as a leader I must earn their respect and so I too did my time in the trenches.

Anyone who has ever taken their car to a Quick Lube has a pretty good idea of what happens. Part of that is by design, the bays are open and the waiting areas are often simple alcoves where a customer can enjoy a cup of coffee while they watch the show. The techs call out their every movement to one another, partially because safety (no one wants to be under a car when oil gets spilled) and partially because the more activity and noise the generate the more it seems like something important is going on. It gives the customer confidence in the work being done and to also allows them to feel that they are getting value for their money. And, like it is for every business that sells a service, money is what this is really all about.

JL customer service

The experience always begins outside of the shop when the customer pulls up and a customer service representative rushes out to speak to them about the kind of service they want. The truth is many customers don’t really know what they want, so this person’s job is simply to help them along but suggesting products or services here is a part of the game and often a simple phrase like, “Would you like synthetic oil?” can add real dollars to the company’s bottom line.

Once the customer signs the consent form, the car goes into the bay and over the pit where the action begins in earnest. Since most cars look a lot alike from the bottom, the customer service rep will tell the pit man the type and year of the car as well as the kind of service requested. The pit man always repeats this back in a loud voice, looks-up and stages the oil filter and begins to drain the oil. While the oil is draining, he will move back along the car, checking the various gear boxes he has access to and putting small samples of their oils on a plate that he will eventually pass to the customer service rep. If needed, he will lube the chassis and once the oil has fully drained he will change the filter, being careful to wipe the engine plate to ensure the gasket comes off with the old filter and re-install the drain plug.

JL pit

The pit man’s job It is a simple job, really, but it is also one of the most important. It is hot, dirty and more than a little dangerous working around extremely hot exhaust parts. Also, out of sight of the supervisor, the pit man is the most independently working guy in the shop, his attention to detail is critical and any mistakes he make can get really expensive really quickly. Personally, I liked this job best, but bouncing from car to car kept me busy and the truth is that my mechanical skills were not as good as my selling skills. The manager knew this and left me down there long enough to get the hang of it, but pulled me up on top where I could help make the shop money.

Up on top the hood man will begin by checking the automatic transmission fluid before the driver shuts off the engine. Then he will then move around the car, checking lights asking for signals to be switched on and off etc and finally make a big show of working under the engine. For the most part, with the exception of windshield washer fluid, only tiny amounts of any fluid are actually required if the car doesn’t have some type of real mechanical problem. The hood man will also pull the air filter and, unless it is brand new, will pass it to the customer service rep who, by this time, has also gathered the sample plate from the pit man.

JL hood man

A smart customer service rep will pull a new air filter and have samples of clean fluids with him when he approaches a customer. He will find them in the waiting room and explain what the condition of the filter and fluids are and, hopefully, up-sell the customer on an additional part or service and add even more to the company’s bottom line. My own approach here, total honesty, actually worked well. There are always several customers waiting in the room and they are all watching as you make your sales pitch. If you tell a customer that his obviously clean looking fluids look fine, you have just made a dozen friends. When you come back later and tell others that their dirty fluids are “border line” or worse, you will get their buy-in almost every time.

Back out at the car, the customer service rep will tell the service techs what additional services, if any, are required and the service will start to approach completion. The hood man will verify verbally with the pit man that the oil plug is in and that it is OK to add oil. That completed, he will verify the engine oil is in and that it is OK to start the car. While he does so, the pit man will stand by to make sure there are no leaks on the bottom side. That done, the hood man will shut off the engine and go to the front of the car where he will physically get down on his knees and watch while the pit man verifies that every drain plug is tight with a pull of his wrench. The service is completed, the hood goes down and the customer settles up.

For the most part the technicians who work at Quick Lubes are young people at the beginning of their working lives. Most are not professional mechanics, but everyone I worked with went through a fairly rigorous in-house training program and all were skilled at what they did. Each of us, of course, had varying degrees of experience and ability but for the most part the way the shop was run, with a constant communication between the techs and actual cross checks prior to the completion of a car’s service ensured that the work was done to an acceptable standard.

It was the 80s and this was the kind of thing we worked on.

It was the 80s and this was the kind of thing we worked on.

I won’t lie and say we never had a problem. Sometimes things got broken under the hood and our company paid to have them fixed. One time a drain plug on a differential wasn’t tightened sufficiently and our company replaced it and agreed to handle any problems when the customer brought it to our attention. The vast majority of our customers, however, came in, received their service without any problems and went on happily with their lives. That’s a good thing.

Looking back today I can see that the work we were doing was not terribly difficult and despite the searing pain of burned hands and wrists, the constant grit and grime under our fingernails, our oil stained uniforms and the constant smell of Dexron that wafted about us, we had an enjoyable job. Today when I roll into a Quick Lube I spend as much time watching the people as I do watching their performance and for the most part they are like I was back then, young, hardworking people who are trying to get ahead. I hope they go on to as much success in life as I have.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He writes for any car website that will have him and enjoys public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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47 Comments on “Gettin’ Lubed: I Was A Minit Lube Minuteman...”

  • avatar

    My Dad started an independent 10-min oil change in Portland in 1986. The industry was just getting going here in those days with a smattering of small independents and a few of the bigger guys–Minit Lube, Jiffy Lube were around in small numbers. I worked there on Day 1 and then off and on during my times home from college. He chose a good location with a good mix of residential neighborhoods and commercial/industrial areas from which to draw customers. The other key to his success was himself–he was there six days/week working on cars and talking to customers. They came back over and over because they liked dealing with the owner and he took good care of them. We had a few mishaps (customers driving into the pit, drain plugs stripped, oil trails leading out into the street), but the strangest involved an old delivery truck–during the leak check, the engine was left running with no one at the wheel. It slipped into reverse and backed its way right out of the bay and into the ditch between the shop and the nearby train tracks. Another time a guy brought in an old Triumph hoping to get us to change the oil for our standard price of $19.95. We’d only been open for a couple of months and agreed to give it a shot–after about 4 hours we finally got the cannister filter to seal, took the guy’s $20 and informed him that the next one was going to cost more.

    Eventually, Jiffy Lube came calling and Dad sold the business, building and property…almost 13 years in. He was underneath cars, getting greasy on Tuesday, on Wednesday he was retired with a pile of money in the bank. Not bad for a guy that started his first business at age 50.

    • 0 avatar

      Minit Lube was bought by Q Lube which was then bought by Jiffy Lube. They seem to be the 900 pound gorilla of the business now. My friend’s father owned several of the very first Minit Lube franchises in the Seattle area.

      He told me one time that when he bought into the franchise, the company was still so new that the corporate headquarters were in trailers. Talk about getting in on the ground floor. He did very well.

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking of gorillas.. I learned yesterday that you should pick your oil change place by whether they have a 40 foot inflatable gorilla out front. If they do, that’s good, because the gorilla isn’t working under the car.

        Had to use a breaker bar on the oil plug.. surprised it wasn’t damaged.

        This is the same shop that told my wife she _HAD_ to change the oil every 3000 miles, and that Ford’s replacement interval of 7500 miles was invalid “Ford doesn’t manufacture the oil” They also claimed it would be sludge at 7500. Oh, and we run full Synthetic on that car, I’d expect even less problems at the 7500. :)

        Not going back to that place, I’ll continue changing it myself.

        • 0 avatar

          Thats right, Ford doesn’t manufacture the oil, they want you to buy a new car. This is precisely why they do not have a stake in the longevity of your car and why they want you to use ‘lifetime’ fluids and filters. Their idea of a car’s lifetime is very short. I don’t give a shit if its synthetic oil or not, theres still just as much dirt and shit in the synthetic oil after 7500 miles as there is in dinosaur oil after 7500 miles, I don’t want either in my engine. Through high school and the beginning of college I worked for two different mechanic shops that had quicklube bays. I started in the quick lube bays and moved to do other mechanical work. The ways that people kept their cars, even ones that maintenance them at company intervals (the 150k mile Focus air filters, or 100k mile coolant, for instance) were pretty bad. The ones that didn’t maintenance them at all were worse. A person doesn’t have an understanding of how unsafe other cars on the road are until they work in a mechanical shop…

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Nice story,Thomas, and very well written. It’s nice to see something positive about a business that seems to be stereotyped as unethical, unskilled, or both. Hell, we even have a quick lube chain around here called Grease Monkey, as if denigrating their profession will come off as cheeky & cute to customers. That’s like naming your car dealership What Have We Got to Do to Get YOU into THIS Car!

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    I want dirt. Tell us about awful things that happen behind the scenes without the customers’ knowledge. Or tell us about nightmare customers.

    • 0 avatar

      This article brings back some fond memories. I worked in a quicky lube (Canadian Tire Pit Stop) for 4 or 5 years in my youth to put myself through university. I worked there part time, taking the evening and weekend shifts. I have plenty of dirt but one particular event was the highlight of my “career”. It had to do with a particular difficult customer.

      As soon as his car was on the hoist (I’m pretty sure it was a panther), the customer started berating me with swear words and threats and telling me that that the last time he brought his car in, we messed it up. I remained calm and went about my duties (draining the oil, dropping the filter, checking fluids, tire pressure, pcv valve and air filter) and dutifully noting everything on the work order.

      After the inspection, I brought to his attention that his transmission was leaking around the pan gasket and he should have this checked out since his transmission fluid was also low. That set him off in a tirade of insults and abusive language, accusing me of damaging the pan and causing the leak.
      I kept calm and finished my work. I put the new oil filter on and tightened the drain plug, put new oil in the car and started it up. The last part of the inspections before bringing the car down was to verify for oil leaks around the oil filter and drain plug and spray paint them red as a final check. This is when I had the brilliant idea of spray painting the word “@sshole” in big red letters on the transmission pan (it was a rear wheel drive full-size car so the pan was flat and large and easy to spray paint in legible letters). I brought the car down, the customer paid his bill and went on his way. I was happy, believing I had the last laugh about the incident. Turns out it wasn’t quite over.

      The customer was back a few days later, with his transmission pan in hand fuming and cursing at the store manager, angrily showing him my red handiwork. Turns out he went to a transmission place (Mr Transmission if I remember) to have the leak looked at. They allowed him to go under the car to look at the leak. That’s when he saw “@sshole” painted in red letters.

      I wasn’t fired but I ended being forced to take one month off off – in July.

      There was another time when a customer asked me to stuff a banana in his rear end… He said it kept his differential quiet.

    • 0 avatar

      In the interest of full disclosure, the reason I was made a “management trainee” is that the owner of the franchises was the father of my best friend. He remains a good friend today and I’m sure he will see this when I link to it on my facebook. It would be interesting to hear his perspective, I think.

      The truth is I was not very good at the technical part of the job. I had the basic knowledge, I think, but mechanical work requires a soft touch that you can only get with experience. My own experience was pretty limited at the time and some of the stuff that got broken under the hood was my fault.

      Beyond that the people I worked with were pretty good. The Manager of the franchise was the brother-in-law of the franchisee and he was a major tool. He treated me pretty poorly, scheduled me longer hours than anyone else and even six days a week even though I was making some pitiful salary. I can see now that he was trying to run me off – well, he did and after about three months I went back to Schuck’s Auto Supply. A year after that I joined the Merchant Marines and never looked back.

      There were no really problematic customers. I got to drive some really cool cars and generally had a good time with the guys. As far as I know nobody smoked dope behind the shop, but there was an assistant manager who got “robbed” when he went to the bank with the night deposit. He quit a week or so later…

    • 0 avatar

      I had a friend who worked at an independent repair shop, where his older brother was the shop manager. One day a tow truck hauled in a Toyota Corolla.

      Later that day my friend’s brother waved him over to the bay where the Corolla was located. My friend was informed that the Corolla had a seized engine. My friend’s brother then asked him to look at the engine and tell him if he saw anything unusual. My friend replied that he didn’t see anything unusual. His brother pointed to the oil filter. My friend stated that it looked like an oil filter. At that point his brother told him that he believed it was the original factory oil filter and the car had never had an oil change in the four years since it came from the factory.

      Next day they called in the owner of said Toyota (a middle aged woman) to talk to her. The conversation went like this:

      Shop Owner: “The engine in your car is seized.”
      Car Owner: “Is that bad?”
      Shop Owner: “Yes, it’s bad. Did you buy this car new?”
      Car Owner: “Yes, I bought the car new from the dealer.”
      Shop Owner: “Have you ever had the oil changed?”
      Car Owner: “Oh,no. I’m not falling for that dealer trick.”

      • 0 avatar

        I used to have a regular customer , a Lady of course , who’d bring her VW Beetle in for oil change and valve adjustment once or twice a year when the green oil pressure light in the speedo began to flicker ~

        I tried showing her the owner’s booklet in her glove box , factory shop manuals etc. , all o no avail ~ she _KNEW_ that light was to tell you it needed service and it never saw a garage until it flickered…

        An air cooled VW engine holds right at three quarts of oil , I never drained more than one quart out of her poor old Beetle .


  • avatar

    I’ve used quick lube places (mostly Jiffy Lube but a couple others) dozens of times and for the most part never had any incidents. You hear a lot of anecdotal stories about techs stripping the drain plug or forgetting to put it back in, but considering all they do is change fluids and filters all day, I’m pretty sure the repetition and processes they have in place actually make this less likely to happen there.

    I will say that the up sell can be quite annoying (I’ve had a couple places try to sell me new filters that I had personally changed only weeks prior). And once I had a transmission flush done that, based on how dirty I found the fluid to be six months later, did not appear to have ever been done. But if you stick to just oil/filter changes at these places, I think they are fine.

  • avatar

    Someone on here had a story about one of these places first asking the customer if his Ford Escape was 2WD or AWD, and then when told by the customer that it was AWD, the upsell guy said, “your transfer case needs new fluid.”

    The other thing I’d worry about is whether the actual fluid is correct — e.g. if your car needs a particular coolant or transmission fluid, whether these guys would get that right.

    As always, a great column by Thomas — good to hear a positive version of this story.

    • 0 avatar

      I think things were easier back in the day. There weren’t as many brand-specific fluids and it was easy to know which vehicles required something special. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be today.

      Of course these days computers probably track a lot of that. In my day we had a special book, but unless you knew to look in there it was easy to get off track. Today, as soon as you enter a car’s vin the computer could alert a tech about any special service requirements.

      Still, as a customer, I keep track of things myself. For example, when I used to take my 300M in for service I told them to never add transmission fluid. My concern may not have been necessary, but given the stories I had heard about those transmissions and their dislike for anything other than their required fluid, I thought it was better to not take any chances.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a very similar story with my Element. I pulled into my usual quick oil change place, a Valvoline joint. I usually just stay in the car because I don’t like getting out and they don’t care. They popped the hood and started the entire works as noted above.

      A few minutes later, the service rep at the computer told me that I needed an automatic transmission fluid flush.

      “Really?” I said.

      He replied “See here on the computer? We punch in your VIN and it tells us what the manufacturer recommends at each mileage interval. At 110,000 miles Honda recommends an automatic fluid flush.”

      “This car is a manual transmission.”

      “No, it’s not.”

      “Yes, it is.”

      “They didn’t make those.”

      I opened the door and pointed to the clutch pedal. Service rep got red-faced and didn’t say anything.

      To this day, I wonder if I had agreed to that automatic transmission fluid flush what they would have done…

  • avatar

    The sample plate has been phased out in NY, CT, and many other states. It’s technically illegal (at least in NY) to sell fluid changes based on fluid color.

  • avatar

    Jiffy lube-“dollars over base”. Remember that line, Thomas?

  • avatar

    I did a lot of oil changes when I was doing smog tests, and the only bad thing I can remember is changing an oil filter on some old car, and it had the canister one with a bolt through it, and it sprayed warm oil all over my pants. Took 4 tries to stop it from leaking.

    A friend of mine worked at a Pennzoil oil change place and the only funny thing I remember happening to him was burning off one side of his hair one morning after a long night when he stuck his head up under a truck with headers and grazed them. The polaroid pic he took was hilarious. He spent his lunch at the barber shop down the street, getting “evened out”.

  • avatar

    I;ll be honest, I never really understood the point of quick lubes. At least in Canada, our main purveyors in this area are Mr. Lube and Jiffy lube. These places charge between $40 and $90 for an oil change depending on whether or not you choose synthetic. For the same price, or probably less, you could go to any other shop, where you would get an experienced tech doing the same job as a loss leader to sell you sell you additional service for likely less, and the job would be done by someone overqualified to perform it.

    Sample size being one and all, most of the Mr. Lube people across from where I worked would smoke weed on the railroad tracks behind the shop and couldn’t care less about what they were up to. We used to be their repair center for screw-ups and had to fix the results of numerous drain plugs being left out destroying transmissions and differentials. Never saw the engine side of things, but can only guess. I’m sure there are some people in these places who actually do care about their job, but I didn’t really see it.

    • 0 avatar

      Most of the lube chain places around here in Canada advertise a $19.95 oil and filter change. Total cost usually comes in under $30.

      I hate dealing with shops I don’t have a personal relationship with because so many of them around here are just plain hungry and will try and sell anything and everything. I can deal with the sales pitch, but it’s the workmanship that bothers me.

      With the lube places, I just don’t trust them. Yes, usually they do a fine job, but the horros stories I’ve personally repaired have kept me doing 100% of maintenance myself.

  • avatar

    I’ve never trusted quick-lube places… and I never will. I can never forgive Jiffy Lube for the death of the Twin Dual Cam 3.4L V6 in a friend’s ’95 Grand Prix.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the new perspective, Thomas.

    I’ve always used an indie mechanic that specializes in my make, though. It’s comforting to deal with the person who actually works on your car and knows that their future business is directly related to the quality of the work they perform.

  • avatar

    Great article, I enjoyed reading that. Thanks, Thomas.

  • avatar

    Great story about a vanishing part of automobile history.
    However, my family’s luck with quickee oil change places wasn’t so good. We had 1991 Mitsi Eclipse with the normally aspirated engine. However, there were 2 types of oil filters for the Eclipse – one for the normally aspirated and one for the turbo motor. The oil change place installed the turbo motor filter and caused it to seize up. Fortunately though this was a rouitne happening at the change place and they paid for a new motor to be installed.

  • avatar

    Great article with bonus GLHS!

  • avatar

    I’m sort of lukewarm on the chain stores, but I love the occasional old gas station — usually with an old national-brand sign that’s been taken down for years, turning it into an indy shop. The grizzled 60-something chain smoker guy will still change your oil for $30, even if it takes longer than 20 minutes, but you have a better sense it’s being done right.

    You spend a few minutes listening to him moan about OBD electronics, and how so many cars have belly pans that take 10 minutes remove, but at least you know he’s competent at removing them (unlike so many chain stores, who will lose $30 of fasteners along the way, eventually resulting in the belly pan’s falling off and a $150+ trip to the dealer for a new pan and hardware).

  • avatar

    I usually take my 1981 Mercedes Benz 240D to the independent shops in Austin for my service. One busy weekend, I didn’t have time to make that 25 mile trek, so I left the car with the local Goodyear in my little Texas hill country town. I even went and bought a hard-to-find canister type oil filter at Auto Zone for them since I knew Goodyear never stocks the old stuff.

    I should have known that my worst fears were going to be confirmed when I got the car back and in my driveway. I noticed that not only did the spotty teenager at the shop pull two of my vacuum lines loose, but the hood pull latch was broken. Not only could I not shut the engine off, but I couldn’t even open the hood. Thankfully, the Goodyear manager was willing to take care of the mistake and even called the spotty teenager back to the shop to show him what he did and help fix it. The collective response was “Well, we normally don’t handle old diesels”.

    No [email protected]*& Sherlock!

    • 0 avatar

      Just be glad they didn’t try to change the spark plugs.

      • 0 avatar

        LOL!! :-D

        Haven’t had a bad experience, but a local quickie-lube left the drain plug loose on my Dad’s car, or didn’t install the crush washer–forget which. No oil trail–he drove it straight home from the place–but he had a helluva cleanup job of the garage floor the next day, said floor normally clean enough off of which to eat. (According to the Honda dealer, the car had no damage done–on the way to said dealer, the tow truck made a stop at the q/l for a fresh fill and proper plug installation. My Dad got free oil changes for as long as he owned the car–another couple years and several oil changes, as he was still racking up miles as a commercial sales rep for a national security system company before he retired and bought a new Accord.)

        I stopped going to that place after they stopped offering regular coupons–and started charging $40 a pop for a regular 5W-30 dino oil change, when I could get it done for $29.95 at the stealership! Now that I have a new Honda Accord that requires 0W-20 synthetic-blend, my dealer’s $45 still beats the quickie-lube’s $65 for the same thing! (And not only am I likely to have my drain plug in place, but also the crush-washer to go with it!)

  • avatar

    Well written as always Thomas .

    There was a Jiffy Lube (or whatever) right down the street from my old indie shop , they hired anyone who asked for a job , mostly incredibly lazy stoner white college boys who hated cars and simply didn’t care .

    They all had short hair and were skinny , that was the big sell for some reason , how they looked as they were joking around and forgetting to tighten your oil drain plug .

    Lots and lots of ruined engines .

    In the overall view , this sounds like an ideal shop situation ~ get your oil changed whilst having a nice cuppa joe and maybe the Mechanic will spot a torn CV Joint boot or whatnot , let you know before it’s a serious problem .


  • avatar

    I just tend to avoid these guys in general, finding it more satisfying to do my own changes. In 1996, I went to one place that didn’t properly put on the oil plug. The entire contents of my oil pan drizzled out onto the road as I was driving away.
    That said, I’m sure the quality control at these places is a lot better now.

  • avatar

    I was in the waiting room when the young man came in to show me a tear on the air filter and it had to be replaced. It happened to be the size of someone’s finger, they were the only place servicing the car, and I’ve never gone back. It’s been many years now and I was 200 miles from home and the change oil light was on, so I stopped into the jiffy lube. Almost $45 bucks for a change, and that was with standard oil. It’ll be another 15 years or more before I make it back. My usual place provides an oil change and rotate for $27.

    • 0 avatar


      My local “indie,” family-owned quickie-lube had $25 oil changes with coupons for years, then stopped offering them. Went in W/O a coupon anyway after my car’s oil-life computer got down to 5% and I knew I wasn’t going to have time to get to the dealer–and was shocked when they charged me $40!! (After they mistook my 2006 Accord for my * previous * car, a 2000, which was still in their system!)

      My new 2013 Accord takes 0W-20 synthetic-blend, which is only $40 at the stealer, but ** $60 ** at the other place (and the local Jiffy Lube which ** HAS ** messed-up a friend’s car); that same $60 also gets a tire rotation with the O/C.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I use Jiffy Lube for the company van. I use a few different shops in the metro Boston area. I havent had a lick of trouble with one yet. I sure as heck wouldnt take my own cars in. Especially an old furrin car.

  • avatar

    The manager of a quick lube shop near me hired workers just released from prison. They apparently did OK, and the boss did a real community service.

  • avatar

    I started back changing my own oil after this experience at a Quick 10. It was January, W was being sworn in for his first term on the TV, and I – third car back was sure that I would soon be on my way. Wrong, 2 hours later, I saw my Nissan Frontier roll in the service bay. I went out and made sure the “tech” knew I what oil I wanted and slipped back in. There was another 20 minutes and I saw the tech stack up the wrong brand of oil in front of my truck, I again went out and asked him to use what I requested (and what was spelled out on the order). Now, the manager comes over and askes what’s the problem, I don’t want to rat the kid out so I play it as – oh, just checking stuff, and he see’s the 2 brands of oil, figures it out then proceeds to berate the guy to no end. But, the deal breaker was my bill. See that $19.95 oil change got bumped up to $45 because – oh, you have a 4×4, so? and there’s the extra checks, and the disposal fee. Really? That truck only took 3-3.5 quarts of oil, and 5 screws removed the skid plate.
    I spent 3 hours, $45 and decided then and there to go to WalMart, buy some ramps and an oil collector.

  • avatar

    Interesting story. And I loved the additional story/comment from the Crappy Tire employee.

    I would imagine with the advent of IT, they have a large database of what everything takes these days so hopefully the chance of a mishap is minor. I’d personally never go to one though because I don’t like other people touching my cars, especially not people that aren’t trained to deal with a specific make. My Jetta wagon is under the VW carefree maintenance right now and it pains me to take it to the dealer but since it’s paid for I’m letting them do the first 3 services. Once that’s done with I’ll be doing oil changes myself with my Pela extractor.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    My old car was burning some oil, so when I went to a Jiffy Lube shop (coupon) and had to go back a couple of times for refills, the guy there told me not to come back and to fix my oil burning problem otherwise I could not go there again.

  • avatar

    Tom, I really enjoyed reading your article. Took me back to my days working as a grease monkey and gas pump jockey at my uncle’s Shell Service Station in Southern California, during the 1963 – June 1965 time frame.

    Compared to the 10-minute oil change places of today, things were downright archaic back then having to use a hoist to lift a vehicle instead of using a basement walk-under of today.

    • 0 avatar

      To “highdesertcat”

      “…things were downright archaic back then having to use a hoist to lift a vehicle instead of using a basement walk-under of today.”

      Sorry, Bassackwards…

      The vehicle must be lifted to…

      1. Unload the suspension and listen for unusual suspension noises as it goes from “normal” to “end-of-travel”. (I’ve also caught loose lug nuts under full wheel covers as the wheels unloaded.)

      2. Unload the suspension so grease can flow into and flush the loaded surfaces (today mostly on trucks.)

      3. Slowly rotate the tire to check the tread for imbedded debris and cuts.

      4. Spin the tire to listen for unusual bearing and brake noises.

      Which of those four items are “archaic” and/or unimportant?

      Next time we’ll explain the difference between Sam’s Club gas and “toptiergas”.

      • 0 avatar

        See “” for more info.

        Wikiapedia has a nice discussion on this:

        So now 76 claims to top “Top Tier Gasoline”.
        When and where will this detergent race end???

        Old business: a twin-post lift can cost from $2500 plus $500 install. A pit runs about $750. So “Oil Can Harry’s” saves a few bucks upfront meanwhile a split-second before you are about to throw it into a 0.50g turn you sweat how long has it been since a skilled technician did an inch-by-inch inspection of your tires to ensure one or more are not about to rip open under stress loading.

        You do the vehicle service yourself? Please skip the ramps and use a commerical jack and jack stands and allow the suspension to hang with the tires off the ground. Rotate tires slowly and pick out all debris in the tread. Inspect carefully so you are not a hazard to me and those I care about on the road.


  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I have been told the weight has to be off the suspension for the new grease to thoroughly bathe the components and force out the old grease. Therefore I prefer to patronize a garage that utilizes a hoist for oil changes and chassis lubrication instead of a walk-under pit.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    There is a Jiffy Lube in the town I reside in, when I owned a Plymouth Voyager I used to take it there for oil changes; they did a good job but I eventually stopped going there-I got tired of the customer service rep always trying to sell me a “fuel injection flush treatment” every time I brought the vehicle in. There was an indie quick lube close by, I took my van out there once–everything was going well until I went to pay. The cashier dutifuly described what service had been done and then told me they had set my tired to 44 psi…I tried to tell her that pressure was only for when the vehicle was carrying its maximum load…she kept insisting 44 lbs. was the correct pressure despite my protests. I finally paid, left and reset the tire pressure to 35 psi; I never returned. A similar experience happened to a friend..his car road so bad he check the tires and found one at 90 psi(!). I also heard complaints of customers having items stolen from their cars; a short time later the place closed.

  • avatar

    Let’s be honest. Every one of you bought a new Corvette C7. Will you go there for it’s oil changes?

  • avatar

    Those quick lube places are disasters for your cars. First off they use the cheapest oil filters. If you use those filters you should get it changed every 3k miles. So yes they have computers that will say what fluid your car needs but it doesn’t mean that they actually have it. A lot of Jeep transfer cases require a fluid that is only available form the dealer and is $17 a pint. Quick lube places don’t have it but they will still service your transfer case. Same with the axles. Put wrong fluid in and you can drive away fine. 5k miles later your at the dealership putting in new ones cursing. On a lot of auto transmissions (Honda)you will damage it by flushing, yet that’s all they do. Jiffy Lube has been caught so may times faking repairs. They will charge you and not actually do it. Look it up on You Tube.

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