Skip to main content

Fast Lube Type Service Center Warning for New and Used Cars

Here’s an important real-life video of what can happen to you and your car when you take your relatively new or used vehicle to one of those fast lube-type service centers.


I get it. We are all busy. Too busy in fact to be bothered with doing a lot of the little things in life that we sometimes hire out because it’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and saves us one of our most important and uncertain commodities of life---our time. A good example are those chain service centers specializing in changing the oil and filter in your new or used car that we pass by on our way home from work.

And it is understandable because very often those fast lube-type service centers that specialize in oil change jobs are cheaper than what we can do ourselves. Besides, it’s a simple job so what could go wrong?! Plenty as it turns out.

If you have ever used one of those fast service joints there’s a good chance that while waiting for your oil change you were approached by a service tech holding a clipboard and telling you that their mechanic “found a problem” that needs to be taken care of right away or risk wind up having a big repair bill.

And this is why that advertised oil change is so cheap: it’s bait to get you into their bay where once your vehicle is trapped on their lift, they become the guys who are about to save you from financial ruin by taking care of a problem before that problem exists. And it works.

So, now rather than just a simple oil change you are presented with a “transmission job” or a “cracking fan belt problem” or---and, if they are really adventurous---the dreaded “timing chain job” problem. The kinder ones will just try to sell you on changing your air filter.

Now, I am not trying to be disrespectful of fast lube-type service centers and the people who work there. Statistics would tell us that there is a chance you have had favorable service sometime in your life from one, and we all know that sometimes good people are pressured into doing questionable business practices if they want to keep their job. We all have to make a living. However, the point to all of this is that there are too many car service and repair horror stories out there, and that they need to be repeated and shared to raise the awareness of the unwary car owner.

That said, here is a recent video from the Toyota Maintenance YouTube channel that is a joy to watch and listen to as this mechanic warns what can happen when you agree to more than just having your oil changed at a fast lube-type service center.

Don't Let This Happen to You!

Look to Torque News for More

For more about car maintenance and repair, be sure to check out our past and future articles that covers both new and used vehicles (including Tesla and other Electric Vehicles) to help you have an enjoyable car experience and save money.

If you have a fast lube-type service center horror story, be sure to tell us about it in the comments section below.

Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.


Michael Anthony (not verified)    July 22, 2021 - 8:22PM

Yes a lot of crooks, I was owner of truck dealership, my shop was full, I promised a new oil change to buyer, cropped it off a junkie lube forgot name, just oil change period!! They put on a new drain plug 9 bucks. I made them remove it, they would not, so I did not pay, put up sign at my at my dealership, what happened, they closed a year later.

Timothy Boyer    July 23, 2021 - 8:34AM

In reply to by Michael Anthony (not verified)

Yep, doing a repair or replacement without owner's ok is one way of squeezing a few more dollars out of a customer. They are counting on that most would go ahead and pay for it, but if it's not okayed by the car owner ahead of time they cannot force you to pay.

Neil (not verified)    July 23, 2021 - 7:42AM

They did not fill with oil. I checked the oil a few weeks later and saw no oil on dipstick. I ended up putting in 5 quarts of oil ! Fortunately I had not driven much when I caught this. No oil leakage issue. They charged twice as much as going to my regular shop. Since my regular shop would require a drop off, or wait a few hours, I opted for convenience of pull in quick change. Will never use them, or any fast change operator, again.

Timothy Boyer    July 23, 2021 - 8:44AM

Another point is that you have to watch out for inflated pricing despite the advertised pricing of what looks like a good deal. Some will add in a ridiculously high environmental waste or parts disposal fee when one is not really warranted.

Jesse (not verified)    July 23, 2021 - 9:37AM

Find a good mechanic that works for himself. That may be easy or difficult depending on location. Years ago a friend of mine went to a quick lube business for an oil change. They changed the oil, forgot to replace the oil cap, and blew the oil out the oil fill hole in the valve cover. Blew oil over the engine compartment, including fiberglass sound shield attached to the underside of the hood. They made it right, but oh the stress!!

Timothy Boyer    July 23, 2021 - 4:16PM

Yep, that is a real mess. The one I hate is where they strip the threads on the oil pan plug and then don't say anything to you about it. A simple fix, but that's what you can expect at some of these service centers. Thanks for sharing.

Rj (not verified)    July 24, 2021 - 12:54AM

Once had a quick lube forget to properly tighten the oil filter - about five miles later the engine was empty, not of gas but of oil. Also have seen them fail to secure the under engine cover which soon drags the ground and rips off. Finally, they will sometimes overfill a Prius that uses 4.4 quarts. Not as bad as no oil but not good either since an overfill can increase blowby which ends up as carbon on your valves and in your cylinders. Almost forgot about excessive torque on filter canisters which can end up damaged when the next guy attempts removal. Now we are talking a trip to the dealer for a replacement using an uber.

Timothy Boyer    July 24, 2021 - 9:08AM

The horror...the horror if it all---especially since this is a continual problem. Yep, overtightened oil filters is a nightmare. I once had to drill a hole in the sides of a filter and run a metal rod through it in order to loosen it. I feel that regular oil filter wrenches place the torque away from the center in those extreme cases and running a rod through the filter is a safer option. Anyway, it works.

Thanks for sharing---good reminder of why "hand tighten only" really does mean hand tighten only!