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Oil changing chains

why are oil changing chains (ie., Jiffy Lube) not good to use?

Because they remove steel drain plugs from aluminum oil pans while these components are still hot. This is an excellent way to strip out the threads in the oil pan.


The business model requires speed and it’s very easy to get ham-fisted or overlook something when doing a job in a hurry; especially if the employees are young and/or relatively inexperienced.

Rush any job no matter if it’s a home repair or whatever and odds are a mistake or two would be made.

First, let me qualify any following blanket statements by saying that no general statements apply to all people or all places.

But…in general, they tend to be staffed by people who don’t know very much about cars. This is a problem since their job is to work on the car’s vital components - normally oil and filter, but they always try to sell other things as well. You have a bunch of underpaid, but also undertrained people who not only often do the wrong things (use the wrong oil, filters, improper fill levels) but are also careless (crossthreaded oil pan plugs, loose pan plugs, forgetting to refill oil). There are also constant corporate pressures to “upsell” customers on services that they don’t need.

Let me rephrase your question: “Why is McDonalds not a good place to use for cooking my filet mignon?”

With that said, any car repair place is only as good as the people who work there. I once ended up at a brake/muffler chain out of emergency. It turned out to be staffed by a perfectly knowledgeable service manager with a few good wrench turners behind him. I used them for a few jobs.

Because their employees are not adequately trained, are pushed to get their work done unrealistically fast, and in many cases are not even automotively oriented.

The result–all too often–is mistakes that are fatal to (pick one or more):
Engines, transmissions, differentials, brake hydraulic systems.

Tester, could you elaborate on this?

I was always told to do all my oil changes when the oil’s hot, so that any accumulated sludge would be as fluid as possible. You’re saying it’s better to do cold?

Never thought about the dissimilar metals, though there should be a looser fit when warm, as Al’s coefficient of expansion exceeds Fe (primary constituent of steel).

As for chain lubes, what everyone else’s said: inexperienced workers, underpaid, undertrained, and made to work as fast as possible.

Because the people doing the work may or may not competent. It’s not difficult to perform an oil change, but the quick lube places manage to screw it up with alarming frequency. They also like to aggressively push other parts/services. Most quick lube places have a target amount that they try to get per car. Most of the time it’s around $50 or so. They make very little to no money on the standard oil change. So they try to sell you on fuel injection cleanings and transmission flushes.

You must check your car over after work by any level mechanic (or pay someone to check it) It should not be like this but such it is.

They push hard to upsell services. Also during an oil change there is a good opportunity for a real mechanic to check your vehicle for safety items that a oil change person would have no real idea about.

Lastly it gives you chance to establish a relationship with a new mechanic to see if they are a good fit. You don’t go to a oil change place in an emergency for repairs. At least you may know what to expect at your trusty independent.

As noted in another topic, they tell you you need a transmission flush on a manual transmission vehicle.

A NTB told me I needed to get this done ASAP once. I only go there because one of my jobs has a deal with them to get 20% off of their tires. I would never get other work done there.

There are several reasons:

-The oil change itself is a loss leader. In order to make money, they have to sell you things you might not need.

-Based on my experience, the employees are under-trained, and I am not referring specifically to the technicians. I am also referring to customer service training for the clerks/service advisers.

-The majority of horror stories we read here about someone forgetting an important step in the process happen at a Jiffy Lube type of business. These mistakes happen at dealerships and independent garages too, but they seem to happen at oil changing specialists more often.

-When we read about one of these businesses making a mistake, they seldom make good on it without a fight. If they forget to put oil in the car or forget to put in the drain plug, most will deny it, where a dealership or independent mechanic is more likely to admit the mistake and work it out.

-Most importantly, when someone works on my car, I want someone who takes pride in his skills and ensures the job is done right the first time. The people who work in the pit at the local Jiffy Lube, in comparison, are manual laborers who don’t understand particular issues. For example, years back, there was an issue with Honda CR-V oil filters. Some oil filters were leaving a part of the rubber gasket behind and the new oil filters were not sealing properly against the mating surface. This led to oil leaking from the filter, landing on the hot exhaust pipes, and catching on fire. A mechanic who takes pride in his work is more likely to make sure that mating surface is clean. He is also more likely to start the engine and check for leaks before the owner drives off. At Jiffy Lube, you won’t discover the error until the car is on fire.

Any place that treats an oil change and lube as if it were a car wash job can’t be the best place to maintain your car. The car wash warns you that things can get broken.

I am not a big fan of El Quicko Lube and their ilk. For many years I had company cars and managed reps with company cars. I used these quick lubes then because they were direct billed back to my company. I never had a problem with their service, but I did refuse many an air filter they would try to sell.

Since my reps were more clueless about cars than the techs at the lube centers I recommended they get their oil changed every 5,000 even if they had to use a quick lube service. This was better than not changing the oil at all. I also coached the reps to decline other services like trans. and coolant fluid flushes.

One quickie service center tried to sell me an air filter when it had been changed only 5,000 miles ago. They showed me the filter and a few bugs that were on it. I declined. I had other experiences where the center was honest and didn’t try to sell a filter when one was about 20,000 miles in service. If you don’t like the pushy people at one facility try another one.

If you need the convienience of these services they are better than no oil change at all! Just ignore the every 3,000 mile sticker they give you. Get on a 5,000 mile routine that is easy to keep track off.

I would add that that business model also requires selling unneeded add on services like the flush jobs.

There’s a jiffy lube near me. My daughter went to school with 3 of their workers…All 3 dropped out of high-school. That’s the kind of people they hire. In order for them to make a profit they must keep their costs low by paying minimum wage. I wouldn’t let them inflate my tires let alone change the most important fluid in your vehicle.

Besides the people…they’re parts aren’t the greatest quality either. Heard of several people who had filters blow OFF their vehicle right after an oil change (thus ruining their engine).

Third…Unless you actually see them open a brand new bottle of oil and pour it in your vehicles engine you’ll never no what they’re putting in there. They usually have large barrels of oil that they use. Many many years ago my brother had his oil change done there. I met him there before we went to a bb game. The guy in front of him asked for 10w-30 and my brother paid extra for 10w-40. It was a nice day so I was waited outside… I watched from the open door bays as the tech drew oil from the same barrel for BOTH cars.

Who do you want changing your oil…A 20yo hh drop-out…or a trusted ASE 40yo mechanic who’s been working on cars for over 20 years???

NO. I’m not saying to change the oil when the engine is cold. Running the engine for five minutes is long enough to heat up the oil to get the contaminates in suspension so they’re drained. But this doesn’t heat the pan/plug up enough to cause galling of the threads in the oil pan when removing the plug.

The coefficient of heat expansion effects a metal part in the way that part is shaped and it’s size. A steel drain plug is going to expand in all directions because of it’s shape and size. The aluminum oil pan however is going to try to expand in all directions except it can’t because it’s fastened to the engine. This then causes the oil pan to expand in the areas where it’s free to expand. And this is at the bottom and it’s sides. This then can cause distortion of the threads in the pan. If expanded steel drain plug is removed from the distorted aluminum threads in the pan, the steel drain plug acts as a cutting tool on the softer distorted aluminum threads and either galls or cuts the threads. Do this enough times and eventually the threads in the pan are destroyed.

The son used to work for one of these quick lube places. And when he got a vehicle in with an aluminum pan, and the drain plug started siezing in the threads as he attempted to remove it, he would stop and tell the manager that he refused to remove the plug because he knew the threads would be damaged. The manager would get PO’d and go down and twist the plug out and sure enough, there’d be aluminum threads on the plug. He would then tell the son to replace it with a Quick-Plug. There’s a proper oil change!

I have a vehicle in the shop now with an aluminum oil pan with the head of the drain plug all mangled up from numerous attempts to remove it. When I questioned the owner about it, I was told that the vehicle had always been taken to quick change places for oil changes, and when the owners father went to change the oil the plug wouldn’t budge, and the head got mangled. I hammered on a Bolt-Out socket, and with a half inch drive breaker bar I couldn’t budge the drain plug. So either the threads are galled or they have one of those Quick-Plugs installed, and now it’s a forever drain plug.


Everything bad mentioned by others is true, in in my city I trust only one fast oil change outlet; it’s not a Jiffy. The manager trains his staf well, the place is immaculate, the coffee good, and most of the staff are young ladies who take great pride in their work. Because they are so efficient, the service is speedy.

In the past a Shell fast lube wrecked my air duct for the emission controls, and a Woolco outlet forgot to put the oil in the car of my father-in-law’s colleague.

Everything bad mentioned by others is true, in in my city I trust only one fast oil change outlet; it’s not a Jiffy. The manager trains his staf well, the place is immaculate, the coffee good, and most of the staff are young ladies who take great pride in their work. Because they are so efficient, the service is speedy.

There is a oil change outfit I know of in NH (Goffstown). They’re NOT a chain. Locally owned. Just one shop that I know of. When I had knee surgery 15 years ago I couldn’t do my oil changes for a few months so I took my cars there. Great place. The owner will even get his hands dirty and do oil changes. They only do oil changes…tranny fluid changes and AC recharges. He’s still in business and doing well. You can have a profitable business model with this kind of business WITHOUT screwing the public.

Is that the shop in Pinardville across the street from Cheapo Depot?