So the lesson we’ve all learned today is that you don’t take your S4 to a quick lube service place, because then they’ll cut a giant hole in the bottom of your car, drain your transmission fluid, pour oil over the top of your engine and then smile as they tell you how they didn’t have to unscrew anything as a bonus. You should be changing your oil by yourself because that’s what real drivers do, blah blah and such. I’m not going to say that changing your own oil is stupid, but as Jason Torchinsky himself points out, telling people that it’s their only alternative is stupid. Here’s why:
1. It’s a matter of time and convienience
This really shouldn’t have to be said, but it would be nice to be able to have relatively complicated maintenance issues be taken care of by trained professionals who know what they’re doing. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time because not everybody has a weekend to spare to get underneath a car and change oil, or even feel like it. The efficiency of a quick lube - when they know what they’re doing - is so game-changing people don’t appreciate just how so until they try to do it themselves.
See, it’s more or less the typical progress of society to evolve towards a greater degree of efficiency, and quick lubes are just an extension of that. At one time, being able to raise and slaughter your own livestock was a flat out necessity of life, but that tends to be considered exceptional for now. I don’t know about you but I for one like the idea of purchasing my dead cow in neatly wrapped, sanitary packages. I don’t understand why automotive maintenance suddenly has to have some sort of anti-convienience stigma.
2. When they know what they’re doing, they can do it much cleaner than you can
I know, for some of you, a dirty, sacrificial set of clothes is a proud uniform, but not for everyone. Not everyone is into scrubbing their hands clean of dirt and especially motor oil in futile fashion with Dial antibacterial soap instead of using, I don’t know, whatever oil dispersant Seventh Generation makes that you like to use. Now, again, this is just a matter of preference, but not wanting to get dirty and leaving it to trained professionals is a valid convienience concern, just like when you’re in a time bind.
3. Unless you’re a serious gearhead (or they’re that incompetent), chances are they can simply do it better than you, too
Now, the tradeoff to all that is that you, yourself, can do a better job they can. How’s the saying go, if you want something done right...?
So yes, no quick lube place on Earth can match the quality of the oil change you can do. After all, you’ve got all the equipment in your garage to do a proper system flush, properly dispose of the spent fluids in environmentally-friendly fashion, and a nice pit in your garage for you to comfortably work under your car, right?
Granted, many of you probably have some or even all of these things (maybe not a garage pit) but most of the people who take their cars into a quick lube simply don’t. Yes, a high school student can do it, given that student has the proper drive and motivation. A lot of people just simply lack that (apparently and unfortunately, including people who apparently literally have that as their job).
4. In the end, it’s actually cheaper
So you pay $25 bucks or so for 5 quarts of motor oil, plus the fees you’ll need to pay to dispose of that oil (you’re not actually thinking of just pouring it down the drain are you, Mr./Miss Eco-Terrorist?) Not to mention the labor and other “hidden” costs you’re giving to yourself free of charge. Already, that’s around the same price (or more!) you’re paying for a reputable shop or the dealership to do it for you anyway.
So yes, there are legitimate reasons to pay someone to change the oil in your car for you. How do you avoid getting ripped off like in our unfortunate Audi S4 owner’s example? Like Steve Lehto says, you find a reputable shop. We live in the age where the Internet is now legitimately “old,” there’s no excuse for not being able to find one. You’ve got Yelp, you’ve got Google reviews, get to it.
If nothing else, you’ve got the good old standard fallback of court litigation. Yeah it’s a much greater pain in the ass of doing an oil change yourself, but looking at the grander statistics - how many oil changes are actually catastrophically screwed up compared to the hundreds of thousands that are actually successful at reputable shops - I’d say I’m willing to take my chances. You’ve got just about the same statistical chance of contracting a foodborne illness at a typical eatery. So if you’re not afraid to go out once in a while, you shouldn’t be afraid of a trained and reputable professional pawing over the insides of your car.