Oil change

My dealer (who charges $45 for an oil change) tells me that going to Meineke for an oil change ($19.95) will ruin my car because Meineke uses a terrible kind of oil. Is this true

It is probably not true, but simultaneously, it is likely that you would never get out of Meineke without being strong-armed into various and sundry upgrades that would bump the final price to the same amount as the dealer’s price–and very possibly more.

Midas, Meineke, and their ilk are notorious for the following:

Using loss leader prices to get you in the door
Talking you into opting for better oil, or a better oil filter, or for some service procedures that you actually don’t need
Finding imaginary “serious problems” that have to be fixed immediately

The best compromise between a good price and good quality service will likely be found at an independent shop in your area. Whatever you do, DO NOT take the car to “Quicky Lube” or any of its clones.

You’d be better off getting a trustworthy independent, likely cheaper than the dealer, less likely to mess up your car or oversell you on unneeded work than a chain. While it might not be the cheapest oil change, you can establish a relationship with them so that they’re on the lookout for (actual) problems, and you have trust in their diagnosis. Use the car talk mechanic finder to get one in your area.

Not true.

I’m not a fan of Meineke because my impression is that they “find” things that need doing that don’t actually need doing in order to generate revenue. I’ve read that their techs paychecks are supplemented with commissions.

But I’m sure they use an SAE and API certified oil, probably the same ine your dealer uses.

Ask Meineke what oil they use.

Does your Mazda 3 require a special type of oil? If not, you can get your oil changed wherever you want. However, if you go to any national chain for service, you should expect them to try to sell you additional services you may or may not need. Some dishonest independent mechanics will also pull this kind of crap.

No matter where you go, you can improve your odds by having your owner’s manual with you and limiting the maintenance to items that are listed in the owner’s manual.

I change my own oil, but if I didn’t do it myself, I would take it to a local dealership that charges $25 per oil change. Not all dealerships charge $45 for a simple oil change. I would shop around at different Mazda dealerships. If you can’t find one to do it for a reasonable price, then it is time to consider alternatives like Meineke.

If you go to Meineke, you basically have two choices:

  1. If you regularly inspect your car’s fluids, belts, hoses, CV joints, air filter, etc., I would go in and say "change the oil and the oil filter, but don’t inspect or touch anything else on the car. This way, they shouldn’t try to up-sell you on things you don’t need, like “you need a new air filter” when you really don’t.

  2. If you don’t regularly inspect your car’s fluids, belts, hoses, CV joints, air filter, etc., let them inspect the vehicle, but you need to be able to tell when you are being lied to. If they say something needs to be repaired or replaced, ask them to show it to you so you can see for yourself. If they recommend a service that isn’t in your owner’s manual (like a transmission flush, power steering fluid flush, or fuel injector cleaning), check your owner’s manual to see if the maintenance is required and due. If the particular maintenance items they recommend aren’t due, don’t let them talk you into them.

The oil likely meets proper spec.

However my major concern would be:

  1. A very cheap and likely poorly made oil filter would be installed for $19.95.
  2. Meineke attempt to sell everything. However a new car this is a mute point.

I despise chains, I loathe a likely unskilled person disassembling my air filter box which requires a screw driver and MAF unplug to show me the slightly dirty filter I need to change for $40.

The person at the dealership who told you this was more than likely a service writer. He may have stated something like this due to sheer ignorance rather than this being a calculated attempt to BS you. No matter, the results are the same.

The vast majority of service writers have very little mechanical ability so always keep that in mind when conversing with one. Most try to meander through the day by BSing their way through things.

I wouldn’t have a problem with Meineke so long as the oif filter was a name branded one (no white or yellow box generic filters) and you don’t fall for any unneeded upselling of other parts and services. Odds are the oil they use is API certified and there is nothing wrong with it at all.

To be fair, most new cars don’t even have a transmission fluid change interval at all. My Mazda’s manual says nothing about changing the fluid, and even says to wait ten YEARS before changing out the fluid in the radiator, if it’s the FL-22 type fluid, then every 5 after that. If it’s the other type, change it after 4 years then every 2 afterwards. And that’s BOTH maintenance schedules, not just the normal one.