Tag Archives: oil change

Better Van News


After a routine oil change resulted in a laundry list of supposedly needed repairs that were going to cost upwards of $2,000, the Lady of the House gave me the name and number of a mechanic her family (and her friend’s family) have used in the past. The Lady thinks the guy does good work and believes him to be very honest. I called him before the weekend and made arrangements to bring the van in to his shop early on Wednesday morning.

Our phone conversation was very enlightening. He seemed surprised by how high many of the prices given by the first garage were. He asked me how long the “check engine” light had been on. When I said it wasn’t on, he wondered how the first garage knew about a certain problem if it wasn’t because of the “check engine light.” He asked how much oil was ending up on the ground; when I told him I didn’t see any oil on the ground, he wondered why the first garage would recommend one of the repairs if hardly any oil was leaking. Before he even looked at the van, I felt reassured that maybe the van wasn’t in as bad a state as I had been led to believe.

I arrived at the garage bright and early on Wednesday morning. The mechanic remembered me and our phone conversation. He took the van into one of the bays to look it over. I didn’t wait long before he came back.

He said that yes, there were small oil and coolant leaks. However, the leaks were so small that no fluid was hitting the ground. He said he wouldn’t even worry about these leaks unless they got worse. He said to be sure to check the fluids regularly. I told him that the guy at the other garage said I should check the oil and coolant every other day. The second opinion mechanic said I should check the fluid once a month, or if I wanted to be super cautious, every two weeks.

Obviously those other guys were trying to scare me into having work done that isn’t even currently necessary.

The second opinion mechanic did say I need some front end work. The thing is, when you start taking things apart up there, it’s better to change as many parts as possible because you only want to pay labor once. So to get the front end tiptop, it will cost about $700, which I’ll be able to do once I get my first paycheck from the soon to start temp job.

I feel better about the van.

In tooth news, I called the my dentist’s office and explained to the office manager what happened at the endodontist’s office. The office manager said that the endodontist had not sent the report, but that she would call his office and ask for it, show it to the dentist, and call me back. She never called back. I guess I have to add that to my list of things to do.

Oil Change Revisited


Last we left the oil change saga, I had gone to a locally owned auto repair shop that turned out a little sketchy. After that encounter, I got online and found a shop with really good reviews. People said they were honest, did good work, didn’t do work that wasn’t necessary. It all sounded fine, so I called in the morning to find out when I could come in.

The main who answered the phone had the swoon-worthy voice of a radio announcer. This man was smooth. He said an oil change for the van would cost $19.99. He told me to come on in, and they’d take care of me.

When I arrived, there were already several people sitting in the clean waiting area. The big television was playing a morning news show. After checking in and meeting Mr. Swoon, I settled in with my book, confident that I would soon be happily back on the road.

After some time, another worker called me up to the desk and told me that they’d found some problems. Every time he’d name a problem, I’d say, What does that mean? After two problems, he called Mr. Swoon from the back to deal with me.

Mr. Swoon was very nice and patiently explained everything to me in language I could (almost) understand. I had already told him I didn’t have any money, mentioned the new crown and the root canal that I still need. When he finished listing everything wrong with the van, I asked him how much it would all cost. He said about $2,000. That’s when I started to cry.

Here’s a list of the things wrong with my van and how much the repair will cost.

Lower intake manifold gasket leaking ($825.50)

Transmission mount ($165.50)

Upper ball joints ($385.50)

Inner and outer tie rod ends ($416.50)

Rear main seal leaking ($650)

Upper and lower radiator hoses ($149.95)

Fuel injection service ($109.95)

Fuel filter ($85.50)

Shocks ($289.95 x 2)

Of course, some of these repairs aren’t urgent. Shocks? I’ve never had a van with decent shocks. Aren’t shocks just about comfort? I’d rather spend money on my air conditioner instead of buying shocks.

And I could probably buy parts online or at an auto parts store and save money that way. I didn’t ask, but I’ve done that before when I was having Sears work on one of my vans. (I don’t trust Sears any more because workers at a Sears in Ohio straight up lied about what was wrong with my vehicle.)

We all know that if I buy the parts myself and get an individual to work on my van in his/her backyard, I could save myself a lot of money. The problem is that the person I trust to do this kind of work is in another state, and I don’t know who to trust where I am.

So I started crying. Not sobbing, just tearing up, but then the tears started to fall. I tried to dry my eyes on the sleeve of my shirt. I apologized, and Mr. Swoon got really flustered. He told me he’d finish the paperwork, so I sat down. I quit crying pretty quickly. Crying’s not going to help, so why keep doing it?

When Mr. Swoon finished writing up the recommendations, he called me up to the counter. He asked me if I was ok, and told me they’d take care of me. He even grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze.

As soon as I got back to van and into the driver’s seat, I received a phone call about a potential job. I was taking that call when I saw Mr. Swoon walk out of the office and head towards me. I thought he probably had some business with the vehicle next to me, but he came right over to my open door and asked me again if I were ok. I had to ask the temp job recruiter on the phone to hold on, then assure Mr. Swoon that I was indeed ok. He seemed really worried about me.

I wondered again later to the Lady of the House why more people aren’t bursting into tears when they hear bad news while sitting in the chair at the dentist’s office or when the guy behind the desk at the auto repair shop tells them the work their vehicle needs will cost more than what they paid for the vehicle in the first place. We decided most people are just numbed out, either by the day-to-day struggle to survive or by the drugs (marijuana, meth, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, pain killers, whatever) they are using to help them get through the day. The Lady wondered if fewer people would need drugs if they allowed themselves to cry in front of the mechanic or dentist or whoever is asking for more money than they possess.

I don’t doubt the van needs work. It’s a 1992. I just don’t know if it needs everything this place says it needs, and I don’t know what can wait and for how long. So now I have to start the process of finding a garage to give me a second opinion.

And the $19.95 oil change? It cost me $24.45. That’s a lot of tax, I thought, but found when I looked at the receipt that the tax as only $1.30. However, there’s also a $1.20 charge for “supplies” (on top of the $13.95 I paid for parts), and a “hazmat” charge of $2. What are these supplies? And if every oil change results in a hazmat charge, why not just add that to the advertised price? I’m tired of surprises.

Sketchy Characters


I’ve needed an oil change for a couple of weeks. While driving around town, I saw a small garage that seemed locally owned with a sign out front that read, Oil Change $17.99. That seemed like a really good price, so I stopped there one afternoon. When I asked for an oil change, the guy at the counter said it would be an hour before they could get to me. I didn’t want to sit there for an hour and there was nothing nearby that I needed or wanted to do, so I left and blew off getting the work done.

One morning a few days later, I called the shop around 8:40 and asked if they could change my oil if I showed up in about half an hour. The guy who answered the phone told me to come in one hour, and he could take care of me.

I arrived a little before the appointed time, and told the guy at the counter that I had called earlier. He told me they could do an oil change in an hour. I thought that was strange since I had something akin to an appointment, but I realize that sometimes it takes longer to make a repair than estimated. I figured it was just taking the mechanic a little longer than he’d thought to finish up what he was doing.

The guy I was talking to ask me if I wanted to leave the van and come back. I don’t know where he thought I was going without my vehicle. There’s not a coffee shop or anything remotely fun on that block. I told him I didn’t have anywhere to go so I’d wait.

I sat in one of the chairs in the grungy waiting room and pulled out my book. I’d been sitting there reading for at least 10 minutes when the guy came back into the waiting area and asked me if I knew it was going to cost $30 to have the oil changed in my van.

I was stunned and told him No, I didn’t know that.

Yeah, he said, it’s $30 for an oil change on a van or a truck.

I usually pay a little more than $30 for an oil change, and I know that’s about what it runs at Wal-mart. I wasn’t opposed to paying $30. However, I thought it was really sketchy that the sign in front said $17.99 for an oil change, not $17.99 and up, not $17.99 (vans and trucks extra). I thought it was sketchy that I’d come in previously and the guy I talked to that day didn’t mention the oil change would cost more because I had a van. I thought it was sketchy that I’d called 45 minutes earlier inquiring about an oil change and had not been told that on some vehicles it would cost more than the advertised price.

I really felt like the guy was trying to get rid of me, so I got up and left. I might end up paying someone $30 for an oil change, but it’s not going to be the folks at that garage.

I was annoyed further when as I was leaving because I saw the same guy I’d been talking to get into a customer’s Denali and drive it into one of the bays. Why was I going to have to wait another 45 minutes, but that guy’s SUV was going right in?

I figured there wasn’t much I could do to fight back, but I knew I could write about my experience and post it on review sites. When I got back to my laptop, I did a search on the garage and found it already had several bad reviews. The workers were accused of lying, saying they’d repaired things that were still broken, as well as breaking things, then saying they hadn’t caused the damage.

Note to self: read reviews before stopping in for an oil change.