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Honest car repair or coincidence?

I had a repair situation occur and was recommended to post here to get some expert opinions. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

I drive an '04 Escape that just turned 100K miles. No prior problems other than general maintenance and I have been diligent at keeping it well maintained. Last weekend I took it in for a general oil change at a well-known national retailer in a major city who had done all maintenance on it for the past 60K miles. I dropped it off and walked back to my house (45 minute walk).

I received a phone call from the mgr stating that the oil pan gasket was leaking oil. I looked out at my parking space and saw no oil on the ground, and mentioned that to the mgr. He replied that it wasn’t an oil leak as in dripping, but it was seeping out around the gasket. He stated that he’d be happy to show me the problem, but since it was a 45 minute walk plus the time waiting around to finish the $250 repair I simply replied that I would like to have it fixed.

About three hours later I walked back to the shop and was told it was in the finishing phase. As I was sitting in the waiting area, another lady was in there waiting on her car as well, and she received a phone call. She replied to the caller that she was still at the repair shop. After a pause she she stated that she had taken her car in for an oil change but they found oil leaking out from around her oil pan gasket and she was waiting on that to be finished.

Needless to say I was floored. I realize this could be pure coincidence but I wanted some input from forum members. Does anyone feel this is too odd to be pure chance that the only other person in the lobby was there for the same, rare vehicle repair as me? Could this be magically “found” as a way to boost sales in a bad economy? Or am I overblowing it? And if it is odd, do I have any recourse short of calling some investigative reporter?

Thanks for any advice you can offer

I don’t think you have much recourse - it could have been seeping, and you said to fix it, but there was no need to fix it if no dripping was occurring. Yes, they probably were looking for ways to boost sales. I don’t have any actual repairs done at those shops. Find a good mechanic (they typically don’t work at those chains).

You knew the shop was exagerating the severity of the leak,this was demonstrated by your observation that you see no oil on the ground where you park your car,you should have believed yourself.Sorry

Turning normal oil seepage into a oil leak situation that need immediate attention is not a good bet for the shop,now they must guarantee that you don’t point out the normal seepage sometime down the road and want it repaired under warranty.

Oil pan gaskets can be difficult to do (I don’t know about your car) they must be real “hungry” to upsale these types of things.Possible they just cleaned things up,how long did they require the car after you gave the OK for the repair?Some guys get clever and keep the car long enough that the customer doesn’t get suspicious as to “how did you get this done so quick”?

“a well-known national retailer in a major city”

And therein lies the problem, more than likely.

Anybody who hangs around this forum is aware that chain operations like Sears, Meineke, Midas, Monro, AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, etc. are known for poor quality workmanship at inflated prices, and also for finding “extra work that needs to be done”. It is almost impossible to get out of these places with just having the needed work done and not having questionable or outright unnecessary work pushed on the unsuspecting customer.

The possibility does exist that you really did need an oil pan gasket, since good maintenance has nothing to do with needing one or not needing one. But, it does seem like a somewhat strange coincidence that the other customer was having the same work done on her vehicle. That does seem to suggest that oil pan gaskets may well be the “flavor of the month” revenue booster at this establishment.

I am not blaming you for naively be taken in by this “major national retailer”, but hopefully you will AVOID this establishment, and those in the same category, in the future. Ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives for recommendations on trusted independent mechanics in your area.

Also, on the Car Talk homepage, there is a “Mechanix Files” search engine for recommended mechanics in all areas of the country. For the sake of your wallet and your sanity, don’t patronize chain auto maintenance establishments!

Good luck with your future maintenance and repairs.

A slight seeping of oil from the oil pan gasket or above is not that unusual at 100K miles. If it is not dripping down, it does not call for replacement or any action at all. You’ll probably find that slight seeping on five out of any ten cars. It takes years for enough oil to accumulate to notice it. You were taken, but you have no proof now. Maybe you could interest the local news consumer reported in doing an undercover sting at this place?

This was neither an honest car repair nor a coincidence. It was a rip-off, pure and simple. It’s highly unlikely that your '04 Escape is leaking anything.

“Seeping?” BS! If the pan gasket leaks there will be drips, and you will see them where you park your car. No drips, no leak, simple as that.

I’ll bet they never bothered to drop the pan or replace the gasket. I think you’ve been had, but, I can’t prove it, and neither can you.

If you asked to see the problem they would have put a little oil on the outside of the gasket. Since you didn’t ask to see it they didn’t have to do anything.

If I were in your position, I’d put the vehicle on a lift and inspect the “supposed” new oil pan gasket. It would have to look REALLY new and clean to satisfy me.

There is such a thing as a tacit lie. The words aren’t actually spoken; but, silences at a strategic time can imply the lie.
You were lied to that a seep had to be repaired. Even a leak doesn’t, necessarily, need to be repaired.
The police have a division for these kinds of things. Call the police. They can investigate, and perform a sting, if they choose. The police don’t know if some deceptive business is being done if no one tells them.
You can, also, make a complaint to the State (Province) Attorney General For Consumer Affairs. You may notice that I don’t like to see people deceived; but YOU gotta do the doing. Go get’em Tiger!

I would be pretty skeptical of this. Oil pan leaks, or seepage is not as prevalent as it used to be for the simple reason that pan gaskets for the most part are rubber or cellulose. In the old days of cork gaskets then it’s possible a 5 year old vehicle with a 100k miles could be leaking.

A little seepage can sometimes look worse than what it actually is due to oil vapors mixing with dirt. You can see the same thing around valve covers, timing covers, etc. and it’s normally not anything to worry about.


Unless you tell us otherwise, I am going to assume that the “major national retailer” was Sears.

In case you may not be aware of it, over a period of several years, Sears was cited (and fined) by the Attorneys General of several states for multiple offenses ranging from selling old batteries and claiming that they were new, to selling needless repairs, to charging customers for repairs that were never actually done.

As I and others previously stated, DO NOT go to a chain operation for maintenance or repairs!

Not Sears, but Firestone.

I will say that when I walked back about three hours after they called, my car was still on the lift, so if they did make it up I they did well to act like they were really fixing it, lol.

Again, if it wouldn’t have been for the other customer having the same issue with her car I would have never suspected anything unusual for a vehicle with 100K miles. But the opinions on here now make me want to go elsewhere. Thanks for the input all

Firestone has been cited and fined for the same shoddy practices as Sears Auto Centers, but not as frequently, and not as recently. Perhaps they have cleaned up their act, but then again, based in this thread–maybe not.

If I am not mistaken, Firestone auto centers are individually owned, but even if that is the case, it is not likely that you will find the better mechanics at a place like that.

Firestone is just as bad as Sears/jiffylube and others. This kind of crap comes down from CORPORATE. The mechanics work on commission. It’s near Christmas…so they need that extra cash to buy the new Wi.

What you should do is get a mechanic to look at the pan very closely and try to determine if it was even removed or whether it was simply cleaned with aerosol carburetor cleaner in an attempt to make it appear a repair had been done.

Examination of the edges of the gasket is one example of how this could be determined. Poking the gasket with a small screwdriver to see if the gasket is soft or hardened from age/mileage is one way. Another is examining bolts/nuts for fresh marks from a socket or wrench is another.
Yet another could be remove the drain plug (yes, this means an oil change) and use a small wire, etc. to probe the bottom of the oil pan. If the wire is removed with any gunk on it then you can safely assume the pan was not off of the vehicle (fraud) or they removed it and failed to clean it (stupid).

I’m not sure but I think the way Firestone works is like this. Their mechanics are paid by the hour (not flat rate commission) so this means their guys know exactly what they’re going to make each week; hours worked X the hourly amount.
However, Firestone has a policy (unwritten) that the mechanics must “sell” an amount of work equal to 5 times their weekly pay amount or something like that. A mechanic who does not upsell work probably won’t be employed for very long by Firestone.
A guy who used to work for Firestone told me this several decades ago so I don’t remember the exact details. One could assume that Sears, etc. does the same thing.