How an Oil Change Can Turn Into a Few Hundred Dollars

I am fed up with car repair shops. To the point where I want to enroll myself in a trade school program so I can just repair my own car in the future. I believe it is the only way I will get honest and good car repair in the future. My experience with trying to get my van fixed over the last few months has been a lesson in how far the country has come from the days where you could take a man or company at their word and believe what they were telling you. Where they weren’t out to rip you off or nickel and dime you, but actually cared about you as a customer and a person. What happened to those days?

This all started in January when my van was making a squealing noise and we were about to head down to Disney World. I took it into Pep Boys, which I thought was still Big 10 Tires who I loved and trusted after years of service. Turns out they were in the middle of a takeover at the time, not that anyone let me know. They said they test drove the van and that the issue was the harmonic balancer. I made arrangements, got the part, brought it in and they proceeded to repair it. But then, they decided it wasn’t the harmonic balancer it was the power steering pump. I returned the old part, got the new one, took it to them and they made the repair. Why did I buy the part elsewhere? Because they wanted to charge me at least a $100 more for the part.

No sooner did I get in my “fixed” van to drive away, but the squealing noise was still there. I did a u-turn, came back and they went out to take a look. Turns out, they never test drove it to begin with. They simply turned it on in the garage, heard it was running rough, assumed that was the noise I was talking about and fixed the power steering pump because it was vibrating not because it was bad. They then claimed the squealing noise was the breaks which they wanted me to pay almost $400 for. Matt replaced them with $50 parts from the store later that day.

Fast forward and we noticed we were losing power steering fluid quickly. That’s right, they didn’t even fix the part correctly. We took it in and 2 hours later the leak is supposedly fixed. We will see. Meanwhile, another man who came in when we were there was given an estimate for $1195 over the phone when all he asked for when he brought his car in were breaks and possibly a bearing. Why do they feel the need to try and nickle and dime you? They got none of the man’s money. He came and got his car to take it somewhere else. I will never return there again either.

Then, we go into Sears for an oil change and tire balance yesterday. They proceed to check all our tires. The one woman questions the age of one of the tires and then proceeds to hook us up for a “free” alignment check. Never mind that I had an alignment done a few months ago. We decide to only get the oil change. When we are paying a man comes up and tells us two of the tires are rotted beyond repair. This is where I call bullshit. Three of the tires are less than a year old because we replaced them all at once. Only one could possibly be bad and they claim it is because of the age and not the tread. They also proceeded to tell me I needed an alignment. Again, I had just had one a few months ago. So now, a $23 oil change was going to turn into several hundred dollars. No thanks. We took the car and left. Miraculously, it is still running.

This is just the tip of the ice burg. I won’t get into the story of the man from Firestone who told us that the check engine light being on could be one of a hundred different things and we would need a $99 diagnostic check even though we had just had a free one done at Autozone and knew what the error code was. We called the Kia dealership, they knew the code right away and are taking care of it this morning. So far they seem very trustworthy and knowledgeable, so let’s hope we found someone we can trust. When did getting a simple issue with a vehicle fixed become so hard? Why do they feel the need to turn a $30 visit into a $1000 one? Be honest and start treating your customers right.


  1. I don't really trust those kinds of places at all. I usually go to the dealer, but they are SO expensive so it's really hard. Where I lived in Michigan, I had the best private mechanic, the BEST!!! Oh, how I miss that place.

  2. I have experience with the check engine light one. I let my husband deal with that. You don't want to know how much that ended up costing us.

  3. The total today was $495, but at least they didn't give us a pretend list of everything that could possibly be or go wrong with the van in the future. They fixed what we asked without issues, so I guess we will be going to the dealer from now on.

  4. Unfortunately, it seems like the dealership is always your best bet — they're just always more expensive.

  5. My husband is a mechanic (an honest one and our customer base proves it) and he sure has shared some unreal horror stories that he's seen and heard of over the years.

    The dealer is NOT always best, but they are always overpriced. My advice is to ask around your community, local friends, etc. and see who recommends who.

  6. Great advise Marcie. I plan to do that, but for this particular repair, it had to be done before we leave for a trip on Sunday, so there was no time.

  7. I hate paying out the %$%$% for my car maintenance.. so I lease now. Only oil changes and other odds and ends and I'm good. However I will be buying used.. I hate spending money though 🙁

  8. I've been at the mechanics 3 times in the past 2 months. Thankfully my mechanic is very fair. It helps that I grew up in the automobile business so I know in advance what repairs should cost and what's wrong with the car before I bring it in.

  9. What a head ache but I do have to tell you if you get only 3 new tires that it's honestly possible that the tires can ware out quicker ane that you'd need another alignment because the bad tire would throw all the good tires off in no time or hitting a curb will do that one time.

    Its almost that you need to have a family member as a mechanic because thats' the only way you can trust someone not to take advantage of you

  10. I can't stand places like that! So frustrating. We always use Angie's list to find quality trustworthy places, and word of mouth helps too.

  11. My ex brother in law was a mechanic. He got fired because he wouldn't lie to customers. And this company that fired him he started working there in 1991. Was there until 2009. They made him a manager and he wasn't bringing in the money that the old manager did because he wouldn't lie to the customers. Customers came back though because he did not lie to them. I am thankful that my hubby can fix most things that go wrong.

  12. Wow that is quite frustrating. My husband has his oil changed at walmart years ago and they forgot to put new oil in. He drove across country and it killed his car.

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