Is My Car at Risk at the Auto Service Shop Near Me?

Oil drain bolt | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Oil drain bolt | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

As vehicle owners in America, we have a dizzying array of choices when it comes time to changing our oil. We can either opt to do it ourselves and control what filters and oil viscosity go into a car, choose to take the vehicle to the dealer, go to a locally owned repair shop, or swing by an “instant” oil change station. While some drivers may gravitate toward the first three options, an overwhelming amount of Americans still frequent quick oil change shops for a hassle-free experience before they rush back out into the fray.

In today’s busy world, the convenience of a quick thirty minute oil change is undeniably appealing, as it offers the consumer almost all of the same services a dealer would, but usually at a fraction of the cost. Oil changes, tune-ups, wiper blade installs, chassis lubrication, and radiator flushes are all obtainable at these establishments, as a team of trained technicians tends to your car’s every need.

To hardcore DIY guys, these shops are like the fast food chains of the auto world — inexpensive, lightning fast, and always in high demand. But like a greasy burger joint, reviews of these companies aren’t always favorable, as customers complain about the use of poor quality parts, the finished job being sub par at best, and customer service being downright discouraging at times, all courtesy of underpaid employees and misaligned management.

After unearthing complaint after complaint, we discovered that not just a few, but almost all of the major oil change shops in America had the equivalent of a one out of five star ranking from both consumers and former employees alike on the Consumer Affairs website. Granted, many of these shops are locally owned and managed, and only remain affiliated with a brand via a name, but if these reviews are indeed correct, then why are millions of Americans still going to these places?

If people aren’t okay with eating cheap food from a restaurant that has crappy reviews, or sleeping in a hotel that has the worst ratings around, why are they fine with  handing over the keys to their most expensive possession to a poorly rated business? In order to get some clarification, we called around to see what these big name service stations had to say about this issue, and more importantly, what they planned to do about it. Some of the answers received seemed genuinely outspoken — optimistic, even, while other responses appeared tailor-made to brush off curious journalists with as little effort as possible.

Don’t get us wrong, big business service stations are built around caring for a car owner’s needs, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way in real life. Having said that, our advice remains simple: Take the time and look up reviews of the shop before handing those keys over. After all, cars are an expensive asset, and a very vital one at that, so the last thing any of us needs is our engine locking up because a technician forgot to put enough oil back in the damn thing.

1. Valvoline Instant Oil Change

Valvoline Instant Oil Change | Valvoline via Facebook

Valvoline Instant Oil Change | Valvoline via Facebook

The first oil slick on our list is Valvoline Instant Oil Change, which has shops in almost every state in the U.S. Offering services like tire rotation, oil changes, fluid flushes, wiper installs, and air filter replacements, Valvoline sets itself apart from the competition by utilizing its own line of fluids that bear the same name.

While the corporate office was unable to comment on its abysmal ranking with car owners, it is worth noting that the nearest location to us had an outstanding 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Yelp.com after 31 reviews. Unfortunately, this confidence quickly turns sour, as Consumer Affairs gives Valavoline’s Instant Oil Change branch an overall rating of 1.1 of 5 stars after 273 reviews. Complaints range anywhere from cars receiving the wrong oil filter and missing drain plugs causing engines to seize up, to employees being disrespected by their managers and poorly executed transmission flushes ruining gearboxes.

Valvoline did not respond when asked to comment on these negative reviews nor any pending lawsuits.

2. Jiffy Lube

Jiffy Lube location | Jiffy Lube via Facebook

Jiffy Lube location | Jiffy Lube via Facebook

Up next is probably the most recognized name in the oil change business, and just as Jiffy Lube has become synonymous with oil changes, brake service, tire installation, and all manners of cooling maintenance, so too has it been slammed by angry motorists. While the nearest location to us has a 3 of 5 star rating on Yelp and always seems busy, the brand as a whole faces some serious accusations from the public.

With a one-star overall rating on Consumer Affairs‘ website after 779 reviews, things aren’t looking so hot on a broader scale for the reigning lubrication king. Complaints regarding impolite service managers trying to take advantage of clueless patrons and antifreeze being poured into an engine instead of oil top the list of insane offenses, with the most egregious offenses resulting in lawsuits. Engines have blown up due to not having any oil put back in them, and former employees claiming that service managers encouraged the substitution of cheap oil in place of synthetic to cut corners and rip-off unknowing drivers.

According to a response from Jiffy Lube’s corporate headquarters, the company “requires every service center technician to undergo training and achieve appropriate certifications prior to performing services on a vehicle.” Jiffy Lube also stated that this training “helps ensure customers receive quality service and a positive experience each and every time they visit Jiffy Lube, regardless of the Jiffy Lube service center they visit.” In closing, Jiffy Lube claims that as a company it is “evolving to better meet the needs of our customers while retaining our focus on convenience and speed of service.”

3. Midas

Midas sign | Midas via Facebook

Midas sign | Midas via Facebook

The company with the golden touch must have really lost its touch in recent years, as it only has an overall 1 out of 5 star rating from Consumer Affairs. Long known for its work with exhaust systems, electrical diagnostics, and all manners of suspension fix, this golden giant has a long way to go if it wants to earn the trust of the average consumer once more.

Luckily, a quick local Yelp search yielded far more favorable reviews, with Midas shops around us receiving numerous praiseworthy mentions. Sadly this cannot overturn the tide of nationwide complaints circling around poor customer service, overpriced parts, and customers being billed for services that they later discovered never took place.

Midas still has yet to respond to our inquiries regarding the matter.

4. Monro Muffler

Monro Muffler oil change | Monro Muffler via Facebook

Monro Muffler oil change | Monro Muffler via Facebook

Our next big-time oil specialist comes to us with more than 1,000 stores spread out across 25 states, and offers a fantastic $20 oil change that includes free tire rotation, brake inspection, tire pressure checks, and free wiper blades.

The nearest Monro Muffler location to us currently has a solid 3.8 of 5 star rating on Google, and it offers one of the better service times we’ve seen in this study. But this is just one shop among many, and like the rest of the companies on today’s cheats sheet, only has a single star after 112 reviews on Consumer Affairs‘ website. Issues with the company include everything from bolts snapping off, thus causing engines to lock up, to unexpected 33% increases in service fees and oil changes running way more than what was advertised.

Once approached, Monro’s corporate headquarters refused to answer questions on the matter, telling us that it “is not a quick oil change shop.”

5. Pep Boys

Classic Pep Boys storefront | Pep Boys via Facebook

Classic Pep Boys storefront | Pep Boys via Facebook

Last on the list is a company that has been around for 90 years and currently has over 800 stores spread out across America, with the closest location to us receiving 2.8 of 5 stars after 57 reviews on Google. One of the key advantages Pep Boys has over the competition is that its shops have auto parts stores attached to their service centers, so customers can shop around while they wait for their vehicle to be serviced. Sadly, when it comes to servicing, these guys are in the same boat as every other company on this list, landing them an overall score of 1.3 out of 5 stars, according to Consumer Affairs.

Out of 572 reviews, almost all motorists gave them a 1 star rating or lower, and for damn good reason. Pep Boys is accused of charging $90 to check a vehicle’s codes (which is free at most auto stores), charging customers for the wrong parts that were in turn ordered and installed on the car, and up-charging without notifying the customer until the bill arrived.

Pep Boys did not respond to inquiries, leaving us to wonder what the company is doing to boost consumer confidence.

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