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Food for thought on Dealer Oil changes...

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Hey guys, this is my first post, I'm very impressed by the 'community' you guys have here, I find auto enthusiastic forum crowds vary greatly in attitude, maturity etc. Anyways, as the new guy, I thought I would contribute something that might be of value to the forum. I'd like to talk a little about dealership oil changes....


I like to read more than post, so I've been back-tracking old posts and theres more than a few on experiences at the dealership, especially in terms of getting oil changed, routine maintance, etc. If your wondering why this interests me, I'll give you a little background.


I worked at a (non-subaru) dealership for almost 5 years. I worked in the body shop, and then changed oil, and finally started an apprenticeship (that I never finished, got my 'dream job' in a very different field instead), but spent a large quantity of time changing oil, doing basic car maintenance. When I left, I had done in the neighbourhood of 10000 oil change services, 4000 tire rotations, and countless other maintenance items (filters, lights, etc) I was very, very good at my job, and the large base of customers that requested me would also agree. I've changed oil on everything except for the most exotics (lambo, ferrari) but on pretty much everything underneath.


So let's break down what happens when you bring your car in for an oil change. Oil changes are done usually by 'oil-changers', not by licensed tech's. Reason being, is there is no money to be made in changing oil, as the time paid by the dealership would cause licensed techs to lose money (in a flat rate shop of course). So you bring your car in, it gets moved around either by a car mover, service writer or oil change tech and brought into the shop.


Now here's where the variable lies, what happens next to your car all depends on the individual who is working on it. If you're lucky, you'll get an aspiring technician, trying to work hard to do a quality job in order to earn himself an apprentice spot. This guy will change your oil, lube anything that needs to be done, inspect hoses, belts, diffs, basic undercarriage and ensure the oil level is filled to the proper level, without leaving your car with stains or any damage. The problem with these guys is that the usually don't stick around changing oil forever.


If you're unlucky, you'll get a smuck who simply got hired, does not care/is not smart enough to know, who will leave your drain plug loose, double seal your filters, not check anything, put the improper oil amount/type in your car, etc.


The reason people like this stay employed is that 90% of dealership clientelle are not enthusiasts, do not care if it is done properly as they will simply be trading the car in at the end of the warranty period. You have to realize as an enthusiast, you are a minority. Cheap labour for a routine job. Dealerships are not enthusiast orientated!!!


So, to sum up my post, to get the best/be satisfied out of a dealership oil change stick to the following steps:


1) Know who's changing your oil, if the shop allows, go back and meet the tech. If the shop doesn't, ask to speak with the tech (or find a new shop)Ask him a couple questions, in a non-investigative kind of way. I could tell you exactly what air pressure, type of oil, amount of oil, etc, that went int almost every vehicle in our dealership line-up. I never had a problem with people watching me, as long as they weren't trying to "help" me. Putting a face to a vehicle goes a long way.

2) If you have special requests, (tire pressure, filter checks, etc) ask the tech directly, not the service writer, and the message will most likely get lost in translation.

3)Use your own/bottled oil, dealership bulk oil is exactly that, bulk. I'm not going to get into syn vs dino now, but anything in a bottle is better quality.

4)A kind gesture goes a long way. A buck and a half for a coffee will guarantee you get good service in the future. Surely someone will say, "well I shouldn't have to tip", and hey, thats true, but believe me, a tip will go a long way.

5) If you're that anal, do it yourself or don't complain. There are always people that simply cannot be satisfied. In fact there were 2 customers who I refused, and my dealer backed me on it.


Building a positive relationship with the people that work on your car will make your experiences so much more positive, and will help get you the service you want.


So that's it, the reason I posted this is because it bugs me when I read about negative dealership experiences, I worked at one for 5 years, and I can say I worked with some of the finest techs around, and I was always proud of my work, even if it was just changing oil.



Disclaimer: These are my experiences only, I no longer work or have any association with a dealer, if you don't agree with me, that's fine I'd be happy to discuss. I worked at a medium sized place, with the larger places you will be just a RO#.

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i always take my suby to dealer cause there the only ones that know to replace the gasket/crush washer. at the dealer i had been using in mass the tech was a hugh suby fan, he had a definetly not stock sti, recomeneded i change my up pipe sence it's catted. and other suggestions.

History does not entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid

People sleep peacefully at night cause rough men stand ready to do violence on there behalf

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Welcome new member.



Yes, we do put a lot of faith in the dealership when we drop the car off in the morning.


Hopefully it comes back to us in one piece, with all the things done properly, and not having new dings and dents added to it in the process.

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I tip the tech's that take care of my pairs of skis and my ski boot fitter. Though I haven't let anyone touch my skis in a few years.


I do all my own car maintenance that I can. My car is out of warranty, It will never go back the dealer again. If I can't do it myself I have a local mechanic that I trust, something I can't say I have for any dealership.


Sorry that's my opinion.

305,600miles 5/2012 ej257 short block, 8/2011 installed VF52 turbo, @20.8psi, 280whp, 300ftlbs. (SOLD).  CHECK your oil, these cars use it.


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Good story, Russ...


FWIW, I have never changed the crush washer on any of the 3 vehicles (2 priors) that I have done oil changes on. None of these cars have ever leaked oil from the drain plug.

+1. I have never changed a crush washer on any car , nor had a leak:)

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