Apples to Oranges: Pt I
This Month, we're going to be starting a series of discussions called Apples to Oranges. The intent is to give the inside scoop on automotive repair to help you sort through the confusion and large discrepancies when shopping auto repair. And it starts with the understanding that when you think you're comparing apples to apples with prices and services, 9 times out of 10, you're actually comparing apples to oranges.
Part I: Oil Changes
One of the most common calls we get at Ultimate European Repair is "How much is it for an oil change?" Great question! However, the truth is that prices vary significantly and we often need to see the vehicle ro provide an accurate price. What is more important is "Do you use a factory oil filter and the correct oil?" At Ultimate European, we unfortunately see several cars a month that have had the incorrect oil filter installed by a "cheap" oil change shop that is consequently leaking oil everywhere on their engine, or worse, actually causing a check engine light! That's right, an aftermarket oil filter can cause a check engine light. This is because the oil filter and how it seats inside the filter housing controls oil pressure which is used to control variable camshaft timing systems. On a BMW, when oil leaks from the filter housing excessively, it can ruin cooling hoses around the front of the engine and can even ruin your serpentine belt and cause it to break apart while driving leaving you with no power steering, electrical, or AC and requiring a tow. Don't let this be you and end up costing yourself dollars trying to save pennies!
The truth is, most reputable repair facilities have a price tag higher than oil change shops, but lower than or on par with the dealership. Oil changes are the most competitive service in the industry, so do not expect a huge cost savings for a quality service when it comes to maintenance specifically. On repair, however, you can always expect a huge cost savings compared to the dealership. This is because quality full synthetic oils that meet BMW, Audi and other's specifications all come from the same place and have a price tag. Yet it is imperative that the correct oil type and capacity is used. European cars often take a minimum of 7 quarts of oil, some up to 10 quarts. Where most Toyotas and Fords will take around 5 quarts and are often still using synthetic blends that will not hold up to the high wear and performance characteristics demanded by German engineering.
The third and most important factor to consider is who is doing your oil change?! Oil service shops and general service shops often have dedicated minimum wage untrained technicians doing your oil change. While this can certainly lead to the oil change being done incorrectly, what is more important is you leave with a false peace of mind from these unspecialized service facilities. Because they are untrained in your BMW specifically, they are unaware of what to inspect and make you aware of while your vehicle is on the lift, or while they may see something, they will not tell you because it is too complicated or unfamiliar. They are also unlikely to tell you of any worn or failing leaks, suspension, or cooling issues because they do not do this work, instead, they will attempt to upsell you fluid and filter services you likely do not need. At Ultimate European, you get peace of mind every time your vehicle is serviced that it was inspected by someone who knows it better than the back of their own hand and can make the appropriate recommendations to keep you safe and your vehicle running in its best condition if there are signs of worn or failing parts.
At Ultimate European, our oil services for BMWs average around $100. In Summary, always make sure you find a specialized service facility to perform your regular maintenance and oil changes if you own a BMW, Audi, or European vehicle. The price is not expensive, but fair, and worth every penny to make sure you're not causing yourself a bigger problem and more costly damage by having the incorrect oil or filter used, or the incorrect person being entrusted to inspect the safety and performance of your vehicle.