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Dealer oil change, how to confirm actually done?

Local Toyota dealer often has “buy one, get one free” specials on oil and filter changes, so that’s where I’ve been taking my car for years.

I don’t drive much, about 3K miles per year, with three quarters of that in the city, so I get the oil changed only about once a year. (Please lower your guns. I know about not using miles to determine when to change the oil on cars that don’t get driven much.) Whenever I take it (2011 Venza, V6, FWD, 90K miles) in for the oil change, I’ll first check the dipstick and find the oil looks clean, not at all dark, and at the full mark. (Thanks, Toyota, for a great engine.)

When I get my car back, I check the oil the next morning, with a cold engine, just like the day before. It looks like the oil hasn’t been changed. Looks clean, not at all dark, and at the full mark.

It got to where I was wondering if the kid doing the oil changes was actually out back smoking weed for a half hour while my car was on the lift, and pencil whipping the work order. The oil change area doesn’t have customer seating to let us see what’s going on.

But how to prove it? If my car used a disposable oil filter, I’d scratch or mark it some way, and then check back at home if the same filter was still on. But 1) at my age (73) jacking up the car and crawling underneath is not as much fun as it used to be, and 2) my car’s oil filter uses a permanent housing, and only the inside changes. So marking the housing wouldn’t tell me anything.

Here’s what I’m planning to do my next oil change: in the morning, car in the garage, not yet started, I pull the dipstick, then let a drop or two of oil fall onto a white paper towel.

The next morning, the oil changed the day before, I again pull the dipstick, again let a drop or two of oil fall on the same white paper towel, a few inches from the drop already on it.

The third morning, after the second drop has had a day to dry, the paper towel should, I’m thinking, show a difference between the two drops. The first drip (3000 miles of oil use) should be darker than the second drip (3 miles of oil use).

Three questions:

  1. Will this work?
  2. Is there an easier way to confirm the oil was changed?
  3. Am I in need of medication or another hobby?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Yes to number 3.


Is there a reason to believe the oil hasn’t been changed? Also, dealerships drug test their employees. It doesn’t sound like anything nefarious has happened.


You could etch match-marks on everything that has to be removed and reinstalled (plug, oil fill cap, and filter housing). If they still line up after the service, then they didn’t do it. But I don’t suppose this works for you, not wanting to get underneath the car to check.

This is a joke post, right? Surely, if a mechanic is going to lie about doing a job, it will be something which makes him big money, and which a customer is unlikely to question or be able to verify.

A timing belt replacement would be an example of this. Most people who would pay to have a shop change their timing belt are not going to subsequently remove the timing belt cover to see if the belt is new.

But an oil change? Most people do check their oil periodically, and would know if the oil is dirty even though they just paid to have it changed.

If they were pencil whipping your oil changes, the oil would start to get dark after the second or third skipped oil change. If you have been doing this for awhile and the oil is always clean, I’d conclude they are doing the job correctly.


If you are changing it at 3000 miles it isnt going to be very dirty . Some of these synthetic oils are still clear at 3000 miles . I doubt an actual dealer is going to take you for a ride . If it was some outside shop that you dont know about the odds might be higher .

:scream::rofl::rofl::rofl: I’m glad I was already sitting down for that one!

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OP here. No, it’s not a joke post. Let me say it another way: when I get my car back after an oil change, the oil on the dipstick looks the same as it did when I dropped it off: clean and at the Full mark. Because I don’t drive much and because the engine doesn’t burn oil, I’ve become accustomed to the dipstick looking, every time I check it, like the oil was just changed.

Then how can I be sure it was changed when I pay to have it done?

I might trust the dealership on a repair that’s readily apparent – brakes now working, a window now going up and down, for example – and I do believe a dealer’s mechanics are mature, conscientious workers for the most part.

But the ones who change oil all day? They’re like Privates, and I remember having to herd Privates. I can see one of them saying, when he starts work on my car, “Hey, this car was here just 3000 miles ago. Its oil still looks great. If I don’t change it, he’ll (both me and the supervisor) never know.”

I’m waiting for someone to tell me to take the car to a Quickie Lube place because of their large windows onto the work area. But as easy as changing the oil and filter is, we all know it can destroy an engine if not done right. The Toyota filter has a lot more opportunity for error than the easy-to-replace traditional filter. I’d rather get my car back with the oil/filter not changed (at the dealer) than get it back from Quickie Lube and have all the oil run out from under the car and the engine seize a few miles later.

Trust me… none of the regulars in this forum would advise that you take your vehicle to a Quickie Lube place.


Yeah, but am not saying this happens every oil change. Once in a while is when I get suspicious, but I have nothing to show the manager.

I’ve known people to use a small dab of nail polish on the oil drain plug, where it meets the oil pan. And then to add a similar dab to where the oil filter meets the engine housing.

After you pick up the car, if the nail polish dab isn’t “broken”, you know they didn’t touch it.

Nice to see I’m not the only one who’s paranoid.

OP here. I’m about to leave this site when I see suggested posts, one of them similar to mine. Here’s another guy’s experience:


Sep 10

The Dodge dealer I bought my Caravan from years ago did it to me one time. I did most of the oil changes myself but I would have them do it when they ran a special.

My GMC pickup - I had a coupon from my dealer for an oil change…It was real cheap. I dropped it off since it was about 100’ from where I worked and picked it up after work. I opened the hood and there was my bright Orange Fram filter. I pulled the dip-stick and the oil was NOT clean. I was furious. Service manager insisted that they did the oil change. I showed him my Fram Filter…He shut up and brought out a tech who drove car on lift as I watched and changed oil and filter in front of me. They probably could get away with that with their customers who only go to them for their service.

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That occurred 35years ago, it doesn’t seem to happen often enough to be a concern.

Are you Moderator on another forum ( Toyota ) based ? I ask because the posts you make here seem close to ones I have seen there.


Only way to know for certain is to watch them do it. Try asking next time. Most places don’t let customers in the bays for insurance liability purposes. I hope you figure it out.

The best solution IMO is to find a shop you trust and let them do their job.

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Nope, somebody else, not me.

Honest, I thought of that, but it means jacking up and crawling under the car twice. Just as soon avoid that if I could.