Oil Change Quarts Charged From Dealer

I have a 2011 Dodge Caliber that I have the oil changed every 3-4 k miles at the dealership. The oil change comes with a new filter. I reviewed all my bills and noticed that the amount of oil they charge me varies anywhere from 2 to 4 quarts. The manufacturer spec says that the capacity is 4.5 quarts with oil filter. I suspect that they are doing one of two things. My first guess is that they did not change the oil filter. My second guess is that they are not completely draining the crankcase. What do you think?

Not completely draining the crankcase would actually be more trouble (and more mess) than it would be worth. If the OP is going with this theory, then he/she must believe that the oil change tech is carefully measuring how much oil has been drained, and is adding only that amount of new oil.

Is it likely that anyone is going to go through this partial drain/careful measurement routine?
This scenario is not likely, and–truthfully–is somewhat bizarre.

Much more likely is that clerical error has taken place when the bill was prepared, rather than failing to drain the crankcase completely.

If the OP wants to test his/her alternate theory about the oil filter not being replaced, all he/she has to do is to make a mark on the filter with a indelible marking pen prior to an oil change, and then look at the “new” oil filter after servicing. If the “new” oil filter also has the OP’s mark on it, then clearly the filter wasn’t changed. However, I think that this scenario is only a little less likely than the theory of a partially-drained crankcase. Most likely, he/she is just looking at clerical errors.

On a side note, I really hope that the OP checks the level (and color, and odor) of the oil on the dipstick after servicing, as this will help to determine if the oil has been properly changed, or not. Has the OP been doing that?

My car’s crankcase holds 7 qts of oil, and–once in a while–the invoice will list a charge for only 5 qts of oil. Since the dipstick shows that my crankcase is full of clean, fresh oil, the obvious explanation is that the service writer used the codes for changing the oil on a 4-cylinder model (which takes only 5 qts of oil), rather than the code for changing the oil on my 6-cylinder model (which takes 7 qts of oil).

Car service shops do this often. Last time someone put 5 quarts of oil in our little Nissan where 4 is what’s needed. In this case it was a clerical error. Shops usually have oil in bulk, and the tech just dials in the amount needed, based on a chart. In my case the error was clerical, the oil was up to the right level.

However there is always the danger that some kid working at a Jiffy Lube will misread the chart and put too much or too little oil in, or forget to put any in, as happened to my late father-in-law. In that case, it takes only 7-9 miles to seize up the engine. Always check the oil level after having it changed!

I, too , belive it’s merely a typing mistake…or guess…on the part of the parts person who typed in the parts on the r.o…
In many dealers the oil changing techs are not connected to the repair order at all.
Here in my shop they use their terminal to print me a paper that they are performing an oil change, then I type in the info on my screen.
On a busy day I’ll be reading ahead in the r.o. sequence and typing in oil change info on an educated guess basis so as to remain ahead of the game. A customer who comes in only for an oil change can be in and out of the shop in 20 minutes if I can get to it as quickly amongst my other mechanics requests.
So I do a lot of guessing because the oil change coupons are all the same price and the customer is in and out in a flash. YET…I know for a fact that the techs are getting the correct amount, viscosity, and filter on every vehicle.

Check your dipstick. Clean ? level correct ?
No worries mate.

I’m more shocked at the 3-4,000 mile oil change.

Has anyone checked to see what frequency Dodge recommends for oil changes. A lot of people like to change the oil more often than recommended (likely something like 10.000 miles) Doing more often than recommended (by the owner’s manual will not likely damage anything, but it also is not likely to do anything better than the recommended frequency.

Note the dealer is NOT the authority the authority is the manufacturer. Don’t do oil changes any less than recommended by the manufacturer.

A lot of people like to change the oil more often than recommended (likely something like 10.000 miles) Doing more often than recommended (by the owner's manual will not likely damage anything

10k miles is a awfully long oil change interval. Doing an oil change more often then the owners manual will NOT DAMAGE ANYTHING. I agree probably won’t do much good…but there definitely no harm in doing more often.

Make sure to check the oil level on the dipstick before driving the car if you choose to continue to use this shop. Underfilling or overfilling can result in major engine repairs.

As above, I expect this is a simple clerical error though. Someone in the office is mis-reading what the tech has written down. If it happens again, don’t leave until you’ve spoken with the service manager and got their explanation.

I am puzzled by the variation in the amount of oil they charge you for. Ken’s probably right, but ask them why the amount varies and post back with their exp[lanation.

Here’s the rest of the story ;
Check the dip stick . if it’s right , it’s right.
If they’re over charging you, that’s another story. Yet if you’re paying a set, coupon, or one price oil change special…and the level’s right .no worries.
— here’s the unknown story ;
Comparing the repair orders for each oil change where the quarts are different…is the price different ?
A set price oil change doesn’t matter much but if they’re gouging your wallet with the extra quart charges, THEN you have an definite issue with the cashier and bosses.

Still it’s a good idea to bring up this oddity to the service mgr because many other customers may be concerned when reading their bill…even if the prices are all the same.

Might explain why computer inventory levels never match actual on hand totals.

I usually change oil at 50% OLM or about 3000 miles in my Pontiac. Interesting I noticed in several days it had gone from 60% to 51%. I checked the mileage and it was only 2275 since the last change. I had to drive 400 miles on the weekend and after that it was at 47% when I changed oil. So was either time or number of starts and short trips that really knocked the OLM down. Can’t imagine trying to go 10,000 miles.

I agree…anything less then 5 k oil changes for normal driving conditions is a major contribution to the college fund of the kids of the dealership owner.

Changing oil earlier than recommended interval is not a bad idea. It is a very cheap insurance to safeguard engine failures. As my mechanic told me once “where all the dirt is going to go?” Over time the filter becomes very inefficient. I have changed oil between 3-4k miles and all my cars have done over 200k miles with zero engine issues.

I agree that this is probably a clerical error. Check the oil level and appearance and see.

As for changing the oil more often than needed, you will not hurt anything by doing this. Keeping the oil changed and fresh is cheap insurance against engine problems. Both cars and the oil they use has gotten better, allowing for much longer changing intervals than in the old days.

Many of the tales of woe about a damaged engine are often created by the extended oil change regimen argument.

I have to respectfully disagree that an oil change is a money maker for anyone in the service chain. The reaction of most mechanics who are handed a simple oil change only repair order is “WTH?”

It’s not only not a money maker; it’s usually a money loser.

Jiffy Lube’s business model is based on two things essentially:

Moving the maximum number of cars through their bays in the least amount of time
"Upselling" their customers

In other words, even though they likely aren’t making any money on those oil changes, the large percentage of customers who buy cheap, “white box”, air filters from them (at inflated prices) and the percentage of customers who fall for other schemes like, “engine flushes”, trans flushes, and…God only know what other things that their kiddie employees are not qualified to do…do contribute to a decent profit margin for them.

@asecular, you’re correct about the Jiffy Lube scenarios but I’m referring to flat rate mechanics. Every place that I’ve worked, we got paid .2 hours for an oil change. Twelve minutes sum total form clocking in, finding the car in the lot, standing at the parts counter, flagging out, etc on top of the actual oil change operation itself makes it a bit tough to come out ahead… :slight_smile:

I also agree that the dealer’s billing clerk probably made the error and wrote down the wrong number. When I had a Chevrolet Uplander, the dealer had oil change specials and it cost very little more than if I did the job myself. The oil change was always less than my independent shop and the same brand and viscosity oil and the same brand filter was used. I don’t go to the dealer any more because GM, in its infinite wisdom, no longer builds a minivan and that is the type of vehicle that I need.

@ok4450: “It’s not only not a money maker; it’s usually a money loser.” You got that right.

You know, I was thinking recently about how everything else has gone up in price over the last 25 years but not oil changes. I remember as a kid getting my first job at the local Chevron station and doing oil changes on the weekends. Back in 1985 we were charging $8.95 for an oil filter, $8.95 for chassis lube and inspect, and $2.20 per quart of oil. Average oil change cost about $30. And people were lined up for the service. The hourly labor rate was a princely $38.

Now, labor rate is $90 but oil changes are still only $35. If we billed out oil changes at what they’re worth we’d be charging $80.

@asemaster, very true. Turn on the TV and there’s Mike Rowe advertising a Ford oil change for 39.95 which includes a tire rotation and 27 point inspection and I think they’re even throwing in a 10 dollar rebate on that now.

I’d like to see Rowe make a living doing that while mixing it in with 59.95 brake jobs and warranty labor operations. :wink: