Monday, December 5, 2011

The simple oil change?

I had a conversation with a friend a few months ago regarding basic maintenance of any vehicle.  We pretty much glossed over them: oil change, air filter, belts and brakes seemed to the ones that people can do at home with some hand tools.

When it came to the oil change however, for convenience's sake my friend said he always opted to go to the quick lube places since the price of having someone else change the oil was about the same if he were to buy the parts and do it himself.  He also happens to live in an area where doing car work is frowned upon by the local housing manager. 

His main concern when going to these places were if his old oil filter was actually being replaced. 
Some companies state that their oil filters may go for xxxx amount of miles before needing to be changed, but I believe that it's just good insurance to change the old filter at the same time you change your oil.  I suggested that after his next oil change, that he take a look at the filter and see what company filter is being used.  That way, he can write down the model number if it's stamped on the housing. 

I also suggested he take a permanent ink marker and scribe something on the filter housing in a spot he can easily see on the filter, and take either a pocket knife or scissors to make a small scratch on the very top of the housing (just to take care and not puncture the oil filter).  After the next service, he would easily be able to tell if the old filter had been replaced or not. 

Another thing is that most shops will allow you to view your old parts (whether it's an oil filter, air filter, brake pads, etc) if you request to see them before you have them begin their work.  Any shop that refuses would raise a red flag with me.  If they cannot be honest enough to show you what they are being paid to fix, how will you even be able to trust the quality of the work they will do? 

Before you take your car in for a quick service, take a look at the shop you have selected.  How clean is the appearance?  Are there rags and tools laying about haphazardly?  Are the floors dirty and layered with grease and brake dust?  (I do realize no shop floor will be perfect, but if you go by most factory dealerships, you will see how clean their shop floors are in general)  Is the service manager friendly and willing to explain things well, or does he/she seem interested only in pushing more services onto you than you originally planned?  Double check your invoice before you leave to make sure you are not being overcharged.

If you feel uncomfortable with a shop, you can refuse the service before you sign the agreement.  Nothing is forcing you to stay, and there are other places to go.  With the Internet and social media, it's even easier to look up opinions and read the experiences of customers for a particular shop. 

Finally, if you wish to learn to work on your vehicle so you know 100% for sure what parts went onto your automobile, there are a number of ways to begin your foray into automotive maintenance.  The best thing you can do is purchase a service manual for your vehicle.  These have step-by-step guides for nearly every part on the car.  A local community college may offer basic auto classes too, which is where I started years ago.  Chances are good that there are also forums dedicated to your particular vehicles where you can network and talk to other owners of your car.  Just beware that misinformation may be posted at times, so it is imperative to pay attention and do additional research of a topic when necessary. 

Do you have any personal experience or suggestions to share?  Any tips people can utilize?  Let's share and help out! 

With that, happy motoring and keep on driving!

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