Calling Auto Mechanics about possible scam

My daughter just proudly messaged me that she had gotten her car ready for winter by taking it to a service station. She lives in WI, so I applaud her taking care of the vehicle. Something caught my eye, however.

She wrote that the mechanic had provided an “oil change with advanced protection that is good for 7000 miles instead of 3k, fluids checked and filled and some fuel line degreaser that gets rid of filament that gunks up your motor during the winter.”

This sent my radar up, as I’ve never heard of oil with “advanced protection”, and what the hell is fuel line degreaser, and how does “filament” get in there?

Now she says that the fuel additive was not for the fuel line but: “the gunk he was referring to is within the motor parts that the fuel ignites, that leaves small pieces of shrapnel within the motor.” I have no idea what the hell that even means.

The word “unscrupulous” comes to mind.

First of all : congratulations to you and your daughter. You have raised her well; demonstrated by her act of taking care of the car. Rather than criticize her effort, you may build on it.
The oil is legit. That’s the recommended oil change interval with Synthetic Oils. It is usually recommended that you stick to synthetic oils once you made the change.

Not sure about fuel line degreaser. All gasoline sold at the pump have detergents in them to keep the lines/injectors clean.

For the next time, use Angie’s list or cartalk mechanic finder to find a trustable mechanic. Someone who puts in real synthetic oil when he charges for it and not someone who just cheats you.

It’s borderline criminal if they charged anything significant for dumping a bottle of stuff into the gas tank. As for unscrupulous, the buzz words and the upsell of fuel detergent, throws up a few red flags.

Advice I always give in these threads is to read the manual of your car. The manual will tell you when to get service. Modern cars do not need 3,000 mile oil changes, even with conventional oils.

It’s been years since I’ve been to a Jiffy Lube, but they used to upsell adding fuel additive. No charge for the service, but an upcharge on the bottle of additive.

My WAG is that the ‘advanced protection…’ is probably just a line from the bottle of oil. It seems just about every bottle of oil other than the generic, store brand non-synthetic 10w30 has some type of line on it about protecting your engine. It’s also probably synthetic oil. I wouldn’t worry about it.

As for the fuel line ‘degreaser’, I’m not sure about the degreaser term, but I’d guess it’s some Seafoam or Marvel Mystery Oil. Both find for the engine, they may help, they’re not likely to hurt.
Ask her to see the bill, look up the service place’s website. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is their standard winterizing package for some set price and all those same taglines (‘advanced protection’ ‘fuel line degreaser’) are right there.

I concur that “advanced protection” is probably from the container the oil came in. And 7000 miles is likely to be about what the car’s owner’s manual recommends - the old standard of oil changes at 3000mi has pretty much disappeared.

This is, as you note, nonsense. Fuel lines are not prone to contamination with either grease or “filament”.

This is nonsense bordering on gibberish. Someone capable of uttering this should not be allowed within 20’ of a motor vehicle.

Giving this a bit more thought, I wonder if their saying it’s a degreaser (for the combustion chamber) delivered via the fuel line.

It’s the word shrapnel that’s throwing me.

But we have to remember, we’re reading what the OP typed, based on a message he read from his daughter, who got her info from an unknown [to us, at the moment] place (read off the bill? was told by a service writer/mechanic? advertisement?). It’s very possible that between what was originally stated and the message being typed here, something has been misunderstood, it’s at least third hand information.

I’m not trying to defend the service station if they’re doing something wrong, I just trying not to attack them and/or give them the benefit of the doubt until we have all the facts.

I suspect there are some things that have been lost in the translation.

As others have mentioned, the oil is probably a synthetic (or, more likely, a synthetic blend) oil that is marketed to provide "advanced protection for 7000 miles). Something like this.. Perfectly legit, but perhaps a bit misleading since any modern motor oil should be good for 7000 miles.

The “fuel line degreaser that gets rid of filament that gunks up your motor during the winter” I suspect has been garbled. It’s either fuel line deicer that gets rid of condensation that forms in your tank during the winter or, perhaps, an air intake cleaner that cleans the intake passages of deposits that can form, particularly during winter months both in the intake passages and combustion chambers (both being inside the engine and the deposits in the combustion chamber are deposits resulting from the combustion of the fuel–in a odd way of thinking, shrapnel). Both are bunk, IMO. The deicer is just alcohol, is present at 10% in nearly all gasoline sold today. Adding 12 ounces more per tankful isn’t going to hurt, but won’t help anything. The intake cleaning service is, perhaps, a bit more legit, but is still mostly snake oil. Perhaps it would increase the top speed of the car by 5 mph or cut a tenth of a second in the 0-60 time, but in normal driving it would make no difference.

The big thing is that she is taking interest in maintaining her vehicle. The more she does this, the more she will learn what is important and what is hype.

Thanks, folks. She’s not a technical person and is probably paraphrasing what she heard him say. I’m going to ask her what the charge sheet says about the fuel additive, but she gets defensive when she thinks I’m questioning her decisions.

Since Gasoline is just about the best degreaser possible, the idea that fuel lines need to be degreased is amusing.

If they used synthetic oil, they should have explicitly said “synthetic oil” since the customer needs to know that, and in fact the customer should approve it prior to the service. Even if they used synthetic oil and charged appropriately for it, it is wrong to just do it without the customer ordering it.

I am guessing the word “filament” is a mechanic’s brain fart for “sediment.”

And none given. When they do something proactive, I praise the effort. I’m always after my kids about preventive maintenance, but they pretty much tune it out. Apparently, my career in that field is meaningless to them. Or maybe they’re just lazy. Every time I visit them, I end up taking care of something that they can easily do themselves. Hell, I even buy them tools on occasion. Other than poverty, there’s no excuse for letting your biggest investment slide into disrepair.

The only place that you should believe as far as oil change interval is what the car’s manual or other service literature says. Pretty much zero cars recommend 3000, that’s been the case for at least 20-25 years.

I don’t think he used synthetic oil, the wording in the receipt might not be lying but to head off customers who insist on 3000.

For the second part, it’s hard to know since a game of telephone has been played, but if it’s just fuel injector cleaner than anyone can do that themselves. Anyone. It cleans up gunk building up, but most of that is carbon, not metal (that means your engine is eating itself!)

I’ve asked her to let me know what was actually put into the car.

What I know about car maintenance could be counted on two hands, maybe one, oil change at 3000, air filter change after X oil changes are two. My new car has countdown to oil change just before 3000, I expected it to say change now soon. Finally at 4500 the message came up. Since I have free oil changes for a few years with the dealership, I’ll just let them tell me what to change when.


So the thing is that for most Americans with cars, living in cities and frequently driving in short trips and stop-and-go traffic, the proper oil maintenance schedule is the “severe duty” schedule in the manual and it can be much shorter than one might expect. As an example, I offer the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder. Nissan does not indicate synthetic oil and the severe service interval is 3750 miles. Yes, technically more than 3000, but not by much. Would a synthetic last longer? Probably. How much longer? No idea. It wasn’t designed for or tested. Plus, the oil change interval also includes the filter’s expected lifetime. A larger filter would last longer but again, no idea how much longer. However, a 2005 VW, of most, if not all models calls for synthetics and is uniformly around 10,000 miles.

Anything that is enthusiastically pushed by a Jiffy lube front desk or dealership service advisor that is not in the owner’s manual and that he cannot show you physical evidence of in person i.e. “here are your brake pads, they’re done” is 100% snake oil. If it weren’t then there would not need to be a person whose full time job is to badger you into buying it. I have never encountered any case where this isn’t true.

There are definitely cars out there that are so shoddily built and incompetently designed (Chrysler, most German/Italian/British cars) that they require additional maintenance outside of what the owner’s manual requires. The chances that the guy behind the desk badgering you about fuel system cleaner would know what the specifics of this additional maintenance are is zero.

The best advice for someone who isn’t interested in becoming a car enthusiast is “ignore everything anyone behind a service desk is trying to sell you (see above)”, and “don’t buy a fucking Chrysler or VW”.

Well, my daughter won’t tell me what was on the invoice, and instead reverted to the “You don’t think I know anything, boo-hoo” ploy. ::shrug:: It’s her money.