The Best Place for an Oil Change

by Jody L. Campbell

Where do you get the biggest bang for your hard-earned bucks? Oil changes are an important car maintenance procedure that should be taken as seriously as where you eat. If you go to a restaurant and experience wonderful service and great food, then go again and experience poor service and adequate food, it's going to change the way you feel about returning a third time. The same applies to the service station you bring your car to. Consistency is the key to quality service.

Getting to Know the Place

Mechanic checking the oil level of car

When Norm walked into Cheers, everyone knew his name, and that's a good feeling for customers when they go anywhere--service stations included. Get to know the people, but go a step beyond and ask questions. What are you getting for your money? Perhaps you get to see the service being performed through a window, but unless you know the ins and outs of maintenance, are you truly being taken care of? The cheapest oil change in town is not necessarily the best. Employment longevity is a telltale sign of a quality place to work, and happy employees tend to perform better. Even if you get to know the people and think they do a good job, if you keep seeing new faces out in the shop, there's probably a reason. New faces lead to inconsistency. What one technician specializes in, another may not. Knowing the manager or owner might feel like a great asset, but if he's dealing with other customers or chewing the fat with you, he has no idea how the tech is performing in the bay. Getting to know the techs is as important as knowing the person behind the counter. Establish a rapport with a technician and then demand that he work on your car in the future. This will not only honor the technician but make sure they perform a premium service on your car.

What's Included

Mechanic holding an oil dipstick

Knowing what you're getting for oil change service far outweighs the actual price. Service centers get a bad reputation for trying to up-sell components that are questionably OK at the time. Getting to know the staff will lead to a degree of trustworthiness that works both ways. An oil change should include other maintenance features without you feeling the business is just looking for another up-sell. Keep track of what is sold to you to help prevent unnecessary services; it's not a bad thing and doesn't have to be revealed to the business. A brief but thorough inspection of your tires, front end and basic engine maintenance components should always be included in the price of an oil change. While the vehicle is up in the air, undercarriage components should also be looked at. This will ensure you're being looked out for and getting what you pay for--no matter what it costs.

The Cost

Customer paying a service station employee

The cost of the oil change is irrelevant to the service performed. You get what you pay for, and you're never going to get prime rib for the price of a hamburger. Some places might charge more but have great staff retention. Others might be dirt cheap but have frequent staff turnover and try to up-sell you something you got last time. Trust and consistency aren't hard to figure out if you pay attention. The truth is, the profit margin on oil changes is nominal for service stations. That's why many places cut it even lower to bring in customers, then up-sell from there. On the flip side, paying more for an oil change doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get what you pay for. Trust, staff consistency and getting to know the place and people you bring your car to far outweigh the actual cost of the service.

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.

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