Three Oil Change Up-Sells to Watch For

How many times has your “standard” 3,000-mile oil change turned into a little something extra: a new hose, an alignment, a transmission flush?

And by the time you drive off, how many times have you thought, “What I really need is a winning lottery ticket”?

If you’re like me, the answer is “a lot.” It seems that during every oil change, a mechanic tells me I also need X, Y, and Z done. And the frustrating part is: I always grudgingly comply. After all, they’re the experts.

Last May, for example, my routine oil change suddenly turned into: “Did you know you need new struts?” And that quickly became: “Since we just replaced those struts, you’ll also have to get an alignment.” I started to wonder if my local mechanics were perhaps preying on my trusting, Midwestern nature. (Noooo, couldn’t be … could it?)

So this got me googling oil change scams and talking to friends who have had similar experiences. Turns out there are many other shady shops pushing oil change up-sells in order to make more money. And that’s not cool.

With my own sob story out of the way, I’m here to help you identify potential shady up-sells.

Red alert #1: “You need a new air filter with every oil change.”

Actually, you may not. You do need to change out your air filter every so often, but not every time you change your oil. It really depends on your car. I drive a 2005 Kia Sorento, and according to my owner’s manual, it’s a good idea to inspect my air filter every 7,000 miles and replace it every 30,000.

Red alert #2: “You’re due for a flush.”

When a quick oil change turns into a flush of some sort (power steering, coolant, transmission, etc.), you might be in Scamville. Check your mechanic’s advice against your owner’s manual. In some cases, you could get a good 100,000 miles in without needing one of these flushes.

You can also check under your oil-filter cap for any weird deposits. If you see a bunch of gunk and you have a ton of miles on your car, then an engine flush might not be such a bad idea — it will prevent that sludge from entering your engine.

Red alert #3: “Your fuel injector is dirty. Allow us to clean it for a mere $200.”

This could also be a scam. As long as your car is running like its usual stellar self and your “Check Engine” light hasn’t come on, you probably don’t need your fuel injectors cleaned.

Check your oil change number

Though your mechanic may tell you that a 3,000-mile oil change is necessary, it actually may be overkill. offers this handy tool to help you determine how often your specific car needs new oil.

Your owner’s manual = Your new BFF

At the end of the day, each car is different and, when it comes to routine car maintenance, your best ally is your owner’s manual.

And it’s worth clarifying that there are thousands and thousands of reliable, trustworthy mechanics who really do have your best interests in mind (in fact, we can help you find them).

Five-Step Guide to Handling an Accident with an Uninsured Driver

You’re driving along, minding your own business and grooving to Creedence Clearwater Revival. You stop at a stop sign (duh) and nobody else is waiting, so you go. All of a sudden, another car blasts through the 4-way stop and smashes into the side of your car.

You break your wrist and your car is severely damaged. Could be worse, you think. But then you learn that the other driver doesn’t have insurance — and that it-could-be-worse feeling dissolves into unbridled panic. What should you do in this situation?

How to handle an accident with an uninsured driver

Step 1: Call a police officer to the scene

With any car accident, it’s always a good idea to call the police. But it’s even more important when you’re in an accident involving an uninsured driver. Having a police record and an accident report will go a long way toward getting your expenses covered and will help smooth the claims process.

You’ll also want to take pictures of the damage, the location where the accident occurred, skid marks, and any other details of the scene.

Step 2: Exchange information

The police will certainly take the other driver’s information, but it’s important for you to do this too. In fact, this stage is where you might learn that the other driver doesn’t have any coverage at all. Be sure to get all the info you can regarding the other driver and their vehicle, as well as the contact information for any witnesses.

Step 3: Contact your insurer

What your insurance company will be able to do at this point depends on a few things, like how much damage was incurred and the specifics of your policy. If you already have uninsured motorist protection (both bodily injury and property damage), your insurance can do a lot for you when you report your claim. And if you don’t have this coverage, an agent can help you plan your next steps.

Step 4: Take care of yourself

If you’ve been injured, you’ll likely incur some medical expenses. Normally, the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage would take care of it. But, in this situation, the other driver dropped the ball. Your health insurance may take care of your medical bills, but you could be stuck paying your deductible out of pocket.

With uninsured motorist bodily injury protection, however, your insurer will be able to help you cover these expenses, including medical bills and lost wages — things that the other driver’s insurance should have covered.

Step 5: Take care of your car

Just like you would after any accident, talk to your insurer and see what you can do about getting your car fixed. If you have uninsured motorist property damage protection, your repairs will likely be covered as though the other driver’s insurance were taking care of it. If you don’t, your coverage won’t be sufficient to cover the full expense of your repairs, and you might have to seek compensation through other avenues (namely the courts, which could get tricky).

How uninsured motorist protection can help

Uninsured motorist protection makes so much sense that 21 states (and DC) require it. If you live in a state where this coverage is optional, uninsured motorist coverage will help make it that much easier to get back to normal after an accident.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage could also kick in to help cover your medical expenses and lost wages if you have to stay home from work. The property damage portion of that coverage would take care of fixing up your car.

What else can this coverage do for you? Find out by reading our uninsured coverage insight. And if you want stats on uninsured drivers, we have them right here.

An illustrated infographic showing uninsured drivers.

Crash Tests: the Series

There’s no denying that crash tests have come a long way. From the early days of relying on cadavers and hogs to recent advancements in virtual crash testing, researchers are finding increasingly advanced ways to keep us safe. (And of course, that’s music to our ears.) So we’ve researched everything you could ever want to know about crash tests and compiled it all right here for your reading pleasure.

Meet the Crash Test Family
It takes a village to raise a child and it takes an entire family to make sure a car is crashworthy. Meet the Crash Test Dummy Clan.

The Future of Crash Test Dummies
Learn about THOR, the newest generation of crash test dummy. And find out how he’s making cars safer for us all.

The Evolution of Crash Test Dummies
With bodies full of sensors and human-like structures, crash test dummies have come a long way since the days of using cadavers and human volunteers.

How Video Game Hardware Could Help Save Lives
The technology behind video games is now being used to determine crash safety. Find out how virtual crash test dummies are protecting us.

Crash Tests and Safety Ratings: What Does It All Mean?
Let’s start with the basics. Like how crash tests actually work. We break down the ways the NHTSA and IIHS conduct their crash tests and what the results mean to you.

IIHS Report: Some Luxury Cars Don’t Stack Up in Frontal Crashes
A pricey luxury car doesn’t necessarily buy you safety. Find out how some 2012 models stacked up in an IIHS crash test.