What’s Wrong with Quick Lube Shops?

The case for using a mechanic instead of a quick lube shop

We know. Quick lube shops are extremely convenient. However, other than saving time, there are no other advantages and several disadvantages. This article will compare the 15 minute quick lube with having a 5K service done by a professional mechanic.

Here’s how we see the benefit of quick lube places: they will accommodate your schedule because they allow all-hours drop in oil changes, you may not even need to get out of the car. That’s it. There are no other advantages.

It’s not cheaper!

People often think it will be cheaper to change the oil at a quick lube shop, but that’s not really true these days. On 12/11/2020, I called the first quick lube shop I found with the Google search “oil change near me”. It was an “Oil Changers” right down the street from us. I picked a common car, a 2017 Honda Civic, and asked how much an oil change would be. $85.89 was the price. I then checked our computer and found we charge $79.43. You’d be paying more for less (and I’ll explain why in a bit).

Now you may be thinking, “Why should I believe this guy. He’s writing a persuasive article and he’s probably making stuff up.” Hey, good job with your critical thinking, reader who at the time of the writing only exists in my imagination! Your well justified skepticism can be assuaged by calling a quick lube shop and then calling Art’s Automotive to compare prices. Will we be cheaper on every car? No. On some we’ll be more and on others we’ll be less. However, in every case the pricing will be close.

An important note. Your car is never due for “just” an oil change. The tires should be rotated and the brakes should be checked as well, but that’s a service that Jiffy Lube and similar shops don’t offer. So, when you call for an oil change we’ll likely give you a price for a 5K. If you’re trying to compare prices, you’ll need to ask for an oil change only to compare apples to apples.

Here’s what’s missing from a quick lube oil change

A mechanic

You won’t find a seasoned mechanic at quick lube shop, kind of like you won’t find a seasoned chef at Mcdonald’s.  And the way the Big Box chains are run, it’s all about the numbers, so unfortunately you can never know if the ‘Up-Sell’ is a valid recommendation, or simply an employee trying to cash-in on sales incentives to bolster his abysmal pay package.

An oil filter designed for your car

Ever wonder how your Subaru can go to the same place that a Dodge Super Duty Turbo Diesel can go to? It could be because that this shop uses “universal” oil filters that cover multiple models and manufacturers. This way they can stock fewer part numbers and still have a filter for almost anything that rolls in the door. Since we specialize in certain vehicles, we stock the factory brand filter designed by Subaru for your Subaru. Plus, in the real world, we see many aftermarket oil filters that develop leaks. For such an important component, we do not believe in cutting corners that might help our bottom line at the expense of your vehicle’s long-term operation.

Drain plug washers and proper torque

Quick lube shops usually don’t have the specialty drain plug crush-washers for Toyota, Honda, Subaru, or Mazda. Each model has a washer designed specifically for its oil pan. Therefore, they’ll install a generic one (see the trend?) or fail to install a new drain plug washer at all. If a drain plug washer is reused, it’s likely to leak, so techs will GORILLA-ARM the drain plug tight to keep it sealed. This will often destroy the oil pan threads or warp the pan’s sealing surface.

Anything else your car may truly need

Quick lube shops are equipped to sell you services other than oil changes, but not necessarily those you need, and not necessarily competently. Keeping an older car humming along often requires prioritizing service and repairs. A shop isn’t likely to recommend services they don’t offer, so they recommend service based on their capabilities rather than the priority of the repair. Art’s Automotive is a full service shop with factory scanners and equipment for every make we work on. Our mechanics are not paid any type of incentive to find work to sell and we always have plenty of work. Our recommendations are base on your car’s needs, not ours.

Quality fluids

We stock genuine oils and fluids which we buy directly from dealerships. Using the wrong fluids can cause damage and void your warranty. If your late model car’s turbo-charged engine or CVT fails, you will likely need to provide proof of maintenance before any warranty repairs are performed. Are you willing to bet thousands of dollars that your Jiffy Lube receipt with generic multi-vehicle fluid will maintain your warranty? Even if your car is out of warranty, you’re changing fluids to maintain the car, not to break it. Keeping up-to-date with fluid requirements is not as easy as it might sound. It’s not uncommon for a fluid requirement to change after the car has been sold and the owner’s manual has been printed. We monitor the OEM websites and read TSBs (Technical Service Bulletins) to keep up with the latest requirements for your vehicle.

Resetting maintenance reminder systems

Sure, you can check your owner’s manual and reset the maintenance reminder yourself, but it’s nicer when it’s off after the service. When you bring your car to Art’s Automotive, we’ll reset the maintenance reminder for you. Also, we have the Honda HDS scanner, so we’re able to reset all maintenance items on Honda vehicles with the Maintenance Minder system, even if they are done ahead of schedule. We can also check the maintenance Minder codes and let you know if more than an oil change is required.

Bringing your car to Art’s for oil changes

We know that it takes more effort to bring your car to Art’s. You’ll need to make an appointment and our schedule often fills up a week or more in advance. We try to make it as painless as possible. You can drop your car off before we open using an early-bird envelope. If you can’t make it by closing, you can pick the car up after hours.

Other links:

Schedule oil changes with enough lead time

What is maintenance?

Why do we do oil changes?

Genuine oils and fluids