Skip to main content

If you own a car and have no idea how to maintain it yourself, you may be accustomed to taking it to the dealership for service. After all, if you own a Kia, you should take it to a Kia dealership because they know it best, right? Maybe, but the service techs and advisors that work at these places aren’t perfect at their jobs. As such, beware of the following scams.

Some service centers will create oil leaks

While many dealerships across the nation have honest service techs, there are bound to be some unscrupulous techs every now and then. Scotty Kilmer – a well-known YouTuber and mechanic – says that some techs will create oil leaks in your car’s engine bay in order to charge you more. This little scam happens at smaller service centers as well.

In order to get around the possibility of a service tech creating leaks that aren’t there, Kilmer recommends doing a walkaround of your car with your phone’s camera. The video will show what the car looked like before you handed your keys over, and you can prove that there were no oil leaks to begin with.

Change your car’s cabin filter yourself

Dirty and clean cabin filter
Dirty and clean cabin filter | Marijan Murat/picture alliance via Getty Images

One of the quickest and easiest parts that you can change in your car is its cabin filter. As an added plus, most cabin filters are cheap, as many only cost around $10 to $20 at your local auto parts store. However, dealership service centers will likely charge two to three times more, which is a complete rip-off.

Instead, check out a video on YouTube or look up how to replace the cabin filter in your car’s owner’s manual. Your car and your wallet will thank you.

Beware of engine flushes

A group of teens changes a car's oil.
A group of teens changes a car’s oil. | Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Some service technicians will tell you that your car is in need of an “engine flush.” This may sound legit, especially if your car has high mileage. However, Reader’s Digest notes that an engine flush isn’t always necessary if you have your car maintained regularly with routine fluid changes and only if there’s sludge forming in the oil pan.

If a shop says that your car needs an engine flush, ask them to show you the sludge first as proof.

One of the biggest dealership scams is adding work in addition to a warranty appointment

Have you ever brought your car to the dealership to have some warranty work done? If so, there’s a possibility that the service writer tried to sell you some additional services like fluid changes or other costly repairs. Kilmer advises not to buy into it and that this is one of the “biggest dealership service scams.”

Timing belts don’t need to be changed too often

timing belt
Timing belt | Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Most newer cars utilize timing chains instead of belts, which don’t need to be changed. However, if you have an older car with a timing belt, keep in mind that it only needs to be changed 50,000 to 60,000 miles or every five to six years. If the dealership or auto shop says that you need to replace it sooner, ask them why it needs to be changed sooner.

Say “no” to the complimentary car wash

Dealership employees wash a car.
Dealership employees wash a car. | Getty Images

Most dealerships offer a complimentary car wash after servicing your vehicle. It may sound like a nice gesture considering you’ll have a clean car after having it repaired. But the dealership staff aren’t always trained to properly detail a car, which could lead to scratches and other body damage after. If anything, say “no” to the complimentary car wash and have it professionally cleaned elsewhere.

Always get a second opinion

Ultimately, whether you take your car to a dealership service center or a smaller auto shop, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Service techs make mistakes too, and it would be a shame to spend your money when you don’t need to. Don’t fall for these scams, and take your car to more than one place for an accurate appraisal.