Somebody once told me that time is precious and you shouldn't waste it changing your own oil. I know this sounds ludicrous, but at the time I could see the man's point. He had just beaten cancer back into remission for the fourth time, and after spending months in bed sick he had a lot of things he wanted to get out and do. Who could blame the guy for not wanting to spend an hour or so getting greasy under his truck and then trying to find a place to dispose of the old motor oil? Not me.
I used to think that any gearhead worth his salt wouldn't be caught dead paying someone else to change his truck's motor oil, but then I became a magazine editor, got married, and found that time isn't what it used to be. Time was somehow shrinking in some sort of cosmic joke that my mother played a part in. I no longer had time to lounge around the house on weekends in my boxers watching NHRA on Speedvision and eating Captain Crunch. My priorities in life changed, and these days I have less time than ever to play with my trucks, let alone perform routine maintenance.
I put about 2,500 miles a month on my trucks, so the ol' oil change comes up quite frequently. I've been slipping though and paying other guys to change my oil, and I've regretted every single time I've allowed another man and his tools near my ride. No matter how fast the shop is, I've yet to have an experience that saved me any time. Usually, paying someone else to do the job results in the whole experience costing me more time than it would had I done the work myself.
Here's a few good examples why you should make time to change your own oil:1. there's a quickie lube joint near my offi ce. i took my toyota tundra there because the oil change should have been quick, semicheap, and i could get it done on my lunch break. that's an idiot's train of thought that's sure to derail the first time a filter wrench comes near the truck. i waited about 20 minutes while the "technician" worked on my truck and his compadre tried to sell me new wipers, a radiator flush service for a truck that had 3,000 miles on it, and other crap i didn't need. i paid my bill and remarked about how quick the service was, as the "technician" fired up my truck to pull it out of the work bay. as soon as he fired up the engine, oil spewed everywhere. this brain surgeon drained the oil, removed the filter, and didn't install a new oil filter. i was almost speechless. I thought, how do you forget to put a new filter on the engine? i mean, the damn thing is sitting there right in front of you? it's not like the filter fairy put the new filter on for you. you took it off and you have to put a new one on!
To make matters worse, i had to convince the manager that it was a good idea to degrease the engine compartment of my new truck because dirt was going to stick to all the oil-soaked parts the next time i went four-wheeling. after arguing with me for a bit, he did finally clean the engine compartment. But, he forgot one important detail: he didn't clean the tire treads. as his coworker attempted to stop my truck after leaving the work bay again, the truck slid across the parking lot and into the street, right into oncoming traffi c. luckily the oncoming traffi c didn't have oil all over its tires because that would be crazy. i never took my truck there again. suffi ce it to say that i was late coming back from lunch and a bit stressed out because my truck almost got totaled thanks to a botched oil change.
2. I'm a glutton for punishment. after the incident with my tundra, i swore i'd change my own oil from then on. But my next oil change was due right as i was getting ready for a long trip in my dualie. i tempted fate and took it to a different quickie lube place to save time. the service was good and i had high hopes that the transaction would be a success. My hopes were crushed by a skinny 19-year-old kid "technician" who pulled my truck out of the work bay and without even glancing in the side mirror, cut the corner too sharp and wiped out my left side rear dually fender on the side of the bay door. the dude didn't even get the truck halfway out the door before cutting to the left to make the turn. he had no shot at making the turn. all i could do was watch in horror as fiberglass did battle with concrete and lost badly.
Clearly, this kid had never driven a long truck with a crappy turning radius before, or more to the point, any '88-'98 fullsize Chevy. Just as clearly, the guy who hired this kid to work on customers' pride and joys wasn't very thorough during the interview process. it took three weeks to get the shop to have my truck repaired, and now i've got an off-white colored truck with one gleaming white fender. nice.
3. i got a little bit smarter (just a little) and took my next truck to the same dealer i bought it from and abandoned the quickie lube joints altogether. sure, the oil change cost a bit more at the dealer, but with real factory-trained technicians working on my truck the job was sure to be done right. Well, the job did get done correctly, but the service manager locked the keys in my truck, stranding me for a few extra hours until a locksmith bailed them out. i was late for work again.
What does it all mean? Is changing your oil the right thing to do? Is it so wrong to trust others to do the work for you? Can't you have faith in your fellow man to operate a strap wrench and a 14mm socket? Does God really exist and is he in cahoots with my mom in a dastardly scheme to teach me a lesson and pay me back for all those weekends spent on the couch when I should have been cleaning my room or doing chores? Or is an $8-per-hour "technician" simply not qualified to drain and replace the lifeblood of your sport truck? Think about that while I think about something else to write for another column. See ya next month.