Thanks a Lot Valvoline

by Ryan Guina

I need an oil change. It’s been a couple months, and about, oh 5,000 miles or so since my last oil change. Don’t worry, my car’s owner’s manual calls for oil changes every 5,000 miles, so it’s no big deal. But I’m going on a trip this weekend, so it’s time to get the oil changed.

Never pay full price for an oil change. You can always find a coupon for an oil change. A couple years ago, I started going to Firestone for  oil changes because they were so cheap. Our local grocery store prints coupons on the back of receipts and a couple years ago we could get oil changes at Firestone for $10.99 + $5 for a tire rotation. That’s about as good as you will find anywhere and I got into the habit of going there for oil changes and other car maintenance – new tires, tire alignment, etc.

All good things come to an end. Unfortunately, Firestone stopped offering such a good deal, so I went with the offer of the day – a Valvoline franchise near my home was $5 cheaper than Firestone, so I decided to try them out. I went there for my last oil change and all was fine until yesterday, when I went back to Firestone for an oil change (Firestone started offering coupons again; not as good as before, but good enough).

Bad news. I sat in the waiting room for 30 minutes talking to a young military member when the mechanic said he wanted to show me something. Don’t you just hate hearing those words at a service shop?

My car is 3.5 years old, so my mind is running through the worst – bad breaks, an oil leak, cracked hose, bad suspension, you name it. The cost of my fictional damage report quickly ran into the hundreds of dollars when the mechanic pointed up at my oil filter.

“See that?” he asked. I nodded.

“The people who changed your oil last time tightened your oil filter too tight. We can’t take it off because it might crack.”

Normally a cracked oil filter wouldn’t be a big deal, since you are changing it. However, the oil filter canister on my car is attached to the car and only the inner part of the filter is changed. If you crack the oil filter canister, it needs to be replaced. Of course, they didn’t have the canister in stock.

My options. The mechanic said I could take it back to the last place I had my oil changed and have them change my oil. If they cracked the canister, they would have to replace it. I could also leave the filter in place and drain the old oil and add new. Skipping a filter change once and awhile probably wouldn’t cause much harm, but it was a short term solution. My last option was to have them order the part in the morning and drop my car off again to get the oil changed.

I settled on option 3. The part only costs around $15, so it wasn’t worth my time to go back to Valvoline and convince them they were responsible for the oil filter canister, then have them change the oil in my car. I’m done with Valvoline and sticking with the company I am familiar with. I just hope they continue to offer good coupons!

What would you have done? Paid the $15 for the part, or gone back to Valvoline and try to deal with the hassle of convincing them they are responsible?

Published or updated April 8, 2009.
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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad

You did the smart thing, but, on principle, I might have gone back to the other and had thrm fix what they did . . .


2 Ryan

DDFD: I’m usually the kind of person that would go back based on principle as well… but I’ve found that lately I have less time than before, so it came down to whether or not I wanted to use that time to convince them they made a mistake on my last oil change, or just pay a few bucks and not deal with it. This time convenience won out.


3 Avdi Grimm

Jiffy Lube did the same thing to me (I have a Mazda 3, which requires a special wrench to correctly install and remove the oil canister). I took it as a sign that it was time to start changing my own oil. It cost me a fair amount of money for ramps, oil pan, tools, etc; but it’ll pay off in the long run. And I have the satisfaction of doing the work myself and the peace of mind that comes from knowing the job was done *right*.


4 Kristen

Ryan, I’m like you in that usually I would go back to the first place out of principle. Unfortunately, however, sometimes our time is more valuable. I’ve gone to the same place to get my oil changed for years. They are local and are very trustworty. Plus, when you get nine oil changes, the 10th is free!


5 susan

definitely taken the vehicle back and made the offenders correct their mistake. is it a hassle, yes it is! allowing a service provider to do a shoddy job and get away with it is worse than the inconvenience of making them do it right. at least if you bring your vehicle back and call their attention to what was done wrong there is a hope that a permanent fix will be put in place saving future people from the same experience. for this reason i always follow through.


6 Ryan

Susan: You are correct, and that is probably the best course of action to take. This time around, though, I just didn’t feel like doing it. They have lost all future business from me though.


7 My Journey

I wish I was handy enough to change my own oil, but Ryan makes some kick ass points…even IF I could do it, how am I going to get rid of the oil? Does that mean I need to bring a can/bucket/cup/etc. of oil in my car?

I heard the gov’t and my condo asssociate really really likes when you just pour the old oil on the grass


8 Miss M

I’d choose option 4, do your own oil changes. Mr M does all of ours, I haven’t been to an oil change place in years. No one carries the filter and this little odd gasket you need to change the oil in my car so I’d have to take it to the dealer. Instead we stock up on filters and gaskets and do it ourselves. I’ve never calculated the savings but there is also peace of mind.


9 Ryan

Miss M: I don’t change my oil for several reasons. I would need to buy a special tool to remove the oil canister, I would need to buy oil pans and blocks, and I would need to dispose of the oil. Add in the time involved, and it is just easier to take it in. I usually take my car to the place where I bought my tires, so I can get a free tire rotation, which is necessary for the tire warranty.


10 Avdi Grimm

Regarding oil disposal – my understanding is that many auto parts stores will accept oil for recycling.


11 Ryan

Avdi: Many auto parts stores accept oil for recycling, but most (if not all) charge a disposal fee. So it’s still another trip. I prefer to get it all taken care of in one stop. The convenience factor is the deciding factor for me.


12 Blaine Moore

I get my oil changed for me rather than doing it myself because I’m not a mechanic and I like having somebody look over my car and let me know of anything I should get worked on before it becomes expensive. I can change my own oil, but I might not notice when the brakes need to be replaced or when a line might be ready to go.

As such, I don’t try to save $5 for an oil change. I bring it to a shop where I trust the guys there and spend the extra money. It puts the money into a local business in my community, it’s convenient, and they’ve always been helpful with what does and doesn’t need to be done maintenance wise.

I let my car tell me when to change the oil, so that’s sometimes 4 to 6 months between oil changes, and I’ll let the experts take a look at the car.


13 Pinyo

I hate going to unknown mechanic. I swear that some of them break your parts so that they can show you what needs to be fixed.

Anyway, I would have done the same as you…skipping the hassle.


14 NatalieMac

I would have done the same thing you did. I’m estimating it would take at least an hour and a lot of headache to go back to the other place and argue a point. For $15, an hour of my time isn’t worth it.

What *is* worth my time, though is to call them up or shoot off an email letting them know what they did wrong and how it cost them my business.


15 Hank

I would have opted for leaving the old oil filter on just this once. I’m lazy like that. I can’t stand taking my car to the repair shop. So, there is no way that I’m doing it two days in a row!


16 Kristy @ Master Your Card

Honestly, I don’t like confrontation unless it’s unavoidable. Not that I have a problem calling someone out when the need arises, it’s just something I’d rather not do if I don’t have to. That being said, since the part was only $15 and not a MAJOR problem, I would have done the same thing as you. There’s no guarantee that Valvoline would have even agreed to fix the problem in the first place, so if you had gone all the way over there only to turn around and go back to Firestone, you would have wasted your time and gotten all worked up over it. I think sometimes you just have to pick your battles and this case was not one I would have fussed over.


17 Curious Cat Investing Blog

I wouldn’t bother to try and get them to pay up. I also don’t believe cars need oil as frequently today as they did 30 years ago. Though I believe that is what owners manuals still say.


18 Thad

Unfortunately, people never read the part of a vehicle’s service interval that differentiates NORMAL duty from SEVERE duty. If you warm up the car for 10 minutes, then leave your driveway which ends at an interstate and cruise at an even speed and your job is right on the interstate requiring only a couple start/stops to reach your parking space in an environment that is always about 60 degrees F then that is NORMAL duty and the interval in 5000 miles. Any conditions beyond these is SEVERE duty and the service interval is 40% sooner. Chances are high that an engine under SEVERE duty conditions where the oil is changed every 5000 miles won’t make it to 100k. Mechanics make more money from people that don’t read their maintenance schedule. I change my oil every 2000 miles since I live in Florida where operating conditions are very harsh and the vehicle has 307k miles on it. Your choice.


19 Thad

As far as the oil canister filter element being too tight, it is caused from NOT replacing the rubber O’ring that seals the top cap of the canister to the bottom EVERYTIME the filter is changed. The tool used to remove the upper cap, by Snap-On is an A106 and it is recommended that a 36″ 3/8′ drive extension be used with at least a 12″ 3/8″ ratchet so that installing it will not result in overtightening. If the hex head that the sockets fits on is all gnarled, someone is using a pliers or channel-locks on it and it will very likely crack using such a shade-tree method of removal. Be wary, some oil filter manufacturers do not include this seal with the new oil filter and the $7/hour oil changer won’t know of this problem. Good luck and thanks for reading.


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